Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Sociology (1898)
Three volumes in One

Herbert Spencer (1820–1903)  
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[Updated: May 1, 2023 ]
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Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Sociology, in Three Volumes (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1898). Authorized third edition. http://davidmhart.com/liberty/davidmhart.com/liberty/EnglishClassicalLiberals/Spencer/1898-PrinciplesSociology/Spencer-Principles-3vols-in1.html

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The Principles of Sociology appeared in three volumes which were published between 1874 and 1896. The edition used here is the “authorized” 3rd edition of 1898.

  • Volume I (1874–75; enlarged 1876, 1885) – pp. 3-773; Sections 1-342 [see the facs . PDF; and eBook formats - HTML, PDF, and ePub]
    • Part I: Data of Sociology;
    • Part II: Inductions of Sociology;
    • Part III: Domestic Institutions -
  • Volume II (1879-1885) – pp. 3-667; Sections 343-582 [see the facs . PDF; and eBook formats - HTML, PDF, and ePub]
    • Part IV: Ceremonial Institutions (1879);
    • Part V: Political Institutions (1882);
    • Part VI Ecclesiastical Institutions (1885) -
  • Volume III (1885-1896) – pp. 3-611; Sections 583-853 [see the facs . PDF; and eBook formats - HTML, PDF, and ePub]
    • Part VI Ecclesiastical Institutions (1885);
    • Part VII: Professional Institutions (1896);
    • Part VIII: Industrial Institutions (1896)


This book is part of a collection of works by Herbert Spencer (1820–1903).



The Tables of Contents











Volume I



In this third edition of the Principles of Sociology, Vol. I, several improvements of importance have been made. The text has been revised; references to the works quoted and cited have been supplied; the appendices have been enlarged; and the work has now an index.

Each chapter has been carefully gone through for the purpose of removing defects of expression and with a view to condensation. By erasing superfluous words and phrases, I have reduced the text to the extent of forty pages, notwithstanding the incorporation here and there of a further illustration. This abridgment, however, has not diminished the bulk of the volume; since the additions above named occupy much more space than has been gained.

In the preface to the first edition, I explained how it happened that the reader was provided with no adequate means of verifying any of the multitudinous statements quoted; and with the explanation I joined the expression of a hope that I might eventually remove the defect. By great labour the defect has now been removed—almost though not absolutely. Some years ago I engaged a gentleman who had been with me as secretary, Mr. P. R. Smith, since deceased, to furnish references; and with the aid of the Descriptive Sociology where this availed, and where it did not by going to the works of the authors quoted, he succeeded in finding the great majority of the passages. Still, however, there remained numerous gaps. Two years since I arranged with a skilled bibliographer, Mr. Tedder, the librarian of the Athenæum Club, to go through afresh all [I-vi] the quotations, and to supply the missing references while checking the references Mr. Smith had given. By an unwearied labour which surprised me, Mr. Tedder discovered the greater part of the passages to which references had not been supplied. The number of those which continued undiscovered was reduced by a third search, aided by clues contained in the original MS., and by information I was able to give. There now remain less than 2 per cent. of unreferenced statements.

The supplying of references was not, however, the sole purpose to be achieved. Removal of inaccuracies was a further purpose. The Descriptive Sociology from which numerous quotations were made, had passed through stages each of which gave occasion for errors. In the extracts as copied by the compilers, mistakes, literal and verbal, were certain to be not uncommon. Proper names of persons, peoples, and places, not written with due care, were likely to be in many cases mis-spelled by the printers. Thus, believing that there were many defects which, though not diminishing the values of the extracts as pieces of evidence, rendered them inexact, I desired that while the references to them were furnished, comparisons of them with the originals should be made. This task has been executed by Mr. Tedder with scrupulous care; so that his corrections have extended even to additions and omissions of commas. Concerning the results of his examination, he has written me the following letter:—

July, 1885.

Dear Mr. Spencer,

In the second edition (1877) of the Principles of Sociology, Vol. I, placed in my hands, there were 2,192 references to the 379 works quoted. In the new edition there are about 2,500 references to 455 works. All of these references, with the exception of about 45, have been compared with the originals.

In the course of verification I have corrected numerous trifling errors. They were chiefly literal, and included [I-vii] paraphrases made by the compilers of the Descriptive Sociology which had been wrongly inserted within quotation marks. There was a small proportion of verbal errors, among which were instances of facts quoted with respect to particular tribes which the original authority had asserted generally of the whole cluster of tribes—facts, therefore, more widely true than you had alleged.

The only instances I can recall of changes affecting the value of the statements as evidence were (1) in a passage from the Iliad, originally taken from an inferior translation; (2) the deletion of the reference (on p. 298 of second edition) as to an avoidance by the Hindus of uttering the sacred name Om.

Among the 455 works quoted there are only six which are of questionable authority; but the citations from these are but few in number, and I see no reason to doubt the accuracy of the information for which they are specially responsible.

I am,
Faithfully yours,
Henry R. Tedder.

The statement above named as one withdrawn, was commented on by Prof. Max Müller in his Hibbert Lectures; in which he also alleged that I had erred in asserting that the Egyptians abstained from using the sacred name Osiris. This second alleged error I have dealt with in a note on page 274, where I think it is made manifest that Prof. Max Müller would have done well to examine the evidence more carefully before committing himself.

The mention of Prof. Max Müller reminds me of another matter concerning which a few words are called for. In an article on this volume in its first edition, published in the Pall Mall Gazette for February 21st, 1877, it was said that the doctrine propounded in Part I, in opposition to that of the comparative mythologists, “will shortly be taken up, as we understand, by persons specially competent in that department.” When there were at length, in 1878, announced Prof. Max Müller’s Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion, etc., etc., I concluded that my curiosity [I-viii] to see a reply would at last be gratified. But on turning over the published report of his lectures, I discovered no attempt to deal with the hypothesis that religion is evolved from the ghost-theory: the sole reference to it being, as Mr. Andrew Lang remarks, some thirteen lines describing “psycholatry” as exhibited in Africa. The work proved to be a superfluous polemic against the hypothesis that fetishism is the primitive form of religion—superfluous, I say, because this hypothesis had been, I think, effectually disposed of by me in the first edition of this volume. Why Prof. Max Müller should have expended so much labour in disproving a doctrine already disproved, is not clear. Still less clear is it why, having before him the volume, and adversely criticizing certain statements in it referred to above, he entirely ignored the chapter in which was already done that which his lectures proposed to do.

What was the indirect purpose of his lectures I do not understand. He could not himself have supposed that a refutation of the fetish-theory was a refutation of the theory now standing opposed to his own; though it is not improbable that many of his hearers and readers, supposed that it was.

Concerning the new matter, little needs to be said. To Appendix A, entitled “Further Illustrations of Primitive Thought,” the additions are such as practically to constitute it a second demonstration of the thesis demonstrated in Part I. To Appendix B, on “The Mythological Theory,” a section has been prefixed. And Appendix C, on “The Linguistic Method of the Mythologists,” is new.

Bayswater, July, 1885.



For the Science of Society, the name “Sociology” was introduced by M. Comte. Partly because it was in possession of the field, and partly because no other name sufficiently comprehensive existed, I adopted it. Though repeatedly blamed by those who condemn the word as “a barbarism,” I do not regret having done so. To use, as some have suggested, the word “Politics,” too narrow in its meaning as well as misleading in its connotations, would be deliberately to create confusion for the sake of avoiding a defect of no practical moment. The heterogeneity of our speech is already so great that nearly every thought is expressed in words taken from two or three languages. Already, too, it has many words formed in irregular ways from heterogeneous roots. Seeing this, I accept without much reluctance another such word: believing that the convenience and suggestiveness of our symbols are of more importance than the legitimacy of their derivation.

Probably some surprise will be felt that, containing as this work does multitudinous quotations from numerous authors, there are no references at the bottoms of pages. Some words of explanation seem needful. If foot-notes are referred to, the thread of the argument is completely broken; and even if they are not referred to, attention is disturbed by the consciousness that they are there to be looked at. Hence a loss of effect and a loss of time. As I intended to use as data for the conclusions set forth in this work, the compiled and classified facts forming the Descriptive Sociology, it occurred to me that since the arrangement of those [I-x] facts is such that the author’s name and the race referred to being given, the extract may in each case be found, and with it the reference, it was needless to waste space and hinder thought with these distracting foot-notes. I therefore decided to omit them. In so far as evidence furnished by the uncivilized races is concerned (which forms the greater part of the evidence contained in this volume), there exists this means of verification in nearly all cases. I found, however, that many facts from other sources had to be sought out and incorporated; and not liking to change the system I had commenced with, I left them in an unverifiable state. I recognize the defect, and hope hereafter to remedy it. In succeeding volumes I propose to adopt a method of reference which will give the reader the opportunity of consulting the authorities cited, while his attention to them will not be solicited.

The instalments of which this volume consists were issued to the subscribers at the following dates:—No. 35 (pp. 1—80) in June, 1874; No. 36 (pp. 81—160) in November, 1874; No. 37 (pp. 161—240) in February, 1875; No. 38 (pp. 241—320) in May, 1875; No. 39 (pp. 321—400) in September, 1875; No. 40 (pp. 401—462, with Appendices A & B) in December, 1875; No. 41 (pp. 465—544) in April, 1876; No. 42 (pp. 545—624) in July, 1876; and No. 43 (pp. 625—704) in December, 1876; an extra No. (44) issued in June, 1877, completing the volume.

With this No. 44, the issue of the System of Synthetic Philosophy to subscribers, ceases: the intention being to publish the remainder of it in volumes only. The next volume will, I hope, be completed in 1880.

London, December, 1876.



The Principles of Sociology, Vol. I






§ 1. Of the three broadly-distinguished kinds of Evolution outlined in First Principles, we come now to the third. The first kind, Inorganic Evolution, which, had it been dealt with, would have occupied two volumes, one dealing with Astrogeny and the other with Geogeny, was passed over because it seemed undesirable to postpone the more important applications of the doctrine for the purpose of elaborating those less important applications which logically precede them. The four volumes succeeding First Principles, have dealt with Organic Evolution: two of them with those physical phenomena presented by living aggregates, vegetal and animal, of all classes; and the other two with those more special phenomena distinguished as psychical, which the most evolved organic aggregates display. We now enter on the remaining division—Super-organic Evolution.

Although this word is descriptive, and although in First Principles, § 111, I used it with an explanatory sentence, it will be well here to exhibit its meaning more fully.

§ 2. While we are occupied with the facts displayed by an individual organism during its growth, maturity, and decay, we are studying Organic Evolution. If we take into account, as we must, the actions and reactions going on between this organism and organisms of other kinds which [I-4] its life puts it in relations with, we still do not go beyond the limits of Organic Evolution. Nor need we consider that we exceed these limits on passing to the phenomena that accompany the rearing of offspring; though here, we see the germ of a new order of phenomena. While recognizing the fact that parental co-operation foreshadows processes of a class beyond the simply organic; and while recognizing the fact that some of the products of parental co-operation, such as nests, foreshadow products of the super-organic class; we may fitly regard Super-organic Evolution as commencing only when there arises something more than the combined efforts of parents. Of course no absolute separation exists. If there has been Evolution, that form of it here distinguished as super-organic must have come by insensible steps out of the organic. But we may conveniently mark it off as including all those processes and products which imply the co-ordinated actions of many individuals.

There are various groups of super-organic phenomena, of which certain minor ones may be briefly noticed here by way of illustration.

§ 3. Of such the most familiar, and in some respects the most instructive, are furnished by the social insects.

All know that bees and wasps form communities such that the units and the aggregates stand in very definite relations. Between the individual organization of the hive-bee and the organization of the hive as an orderly aggregate of individuals with a regularly-formed habitation, there exists a fixed connexion. Just as the germ of a wasp evolves into a complete individual; so does the adult queen-wasp, the germ of a wasp-society, evolve into a multitude of individuals with definitely-adjusted arrangements and activities. As evidence that Evolution of this order has here arisen after the same manner as the simpler orders of Evolution, it may be added that, among both bees and wasps, different genera exhibit it in different degrees. From kinds [I-5] that are solitary in their habits, we pass through kinds that are social in small degrees to kinds that are social in great degrees.

Among some species of ants, Super-organic Evolution is carried much further—some species, I say; for here, also, we find that unlike stages have been reached by unlike species. The most advanced show us division of labour carried so far that different classes of individuals are structurally adapted to different functions. White ants, or termites (which, however, belong to a different order of insects), have, in addition to males and females, soldiers and workers; and there are in some cases two kinds of males and females, winged and unwinged: making six unlike forms. Of Saüba ants are found, besides the two developed sexual forms, three forms sexually undeveloped—one class of indoor workers and two classes of out-door workers. And then by some species, a further division of labour is achieved by making slaves of other ants. There is also a tending of alien insects, sometimes for the sake of their secretions, and sometimes for unknown purposes; so that, as Sir John Lubbock points out, some ants keep more domestic animals than are kept by mankind. Moreover, among members of these communities, there is a system of signalling equivalent to a rude language, and there are elaborate processes of mining, road-making, and building. In Congo, Tuckey “found a complete banza [village] of ant-hills, placed with more regularity than the native banzas”; and Schweinfurth says a volume would be required to describe the magazines, chambers, passages, bridges, contained in a termites-mound.

But, as hinted above, though social insects exhibit a kind of evolution much higher than the merely organic—though the aggregates they form simulate social aggregates in sundry ways; yet they are not true social aggregates. For each of them is in reality a large family. It is not a union among like individuals independent of one another in parentage, [I-6] and approximately equal in the capacities; but it is a union among the offspring of one mother, carried on, in some cases for a single generation, and in some cases for more; and from this community of parentage arises the possibility of classes having unlike structures and consequent unlike functions. Instead of being allied to the specialization which arises in a society, properly so called, the specialization which arises in one of these large and complicated insect-families, is allied to that which arises between the sexes. Instead of two kinds of individuals descending from the same parents, there are several kinds of individuals descending from the same parents; and instead of a simple co-operation between two differentiated individuals in the rearing of offspring, there is an involved co-operation among sundry differentiated classes of individuals in the rearing of offspring.

§ 4. True rudimentary forms of Super-organic Evolution are displayed only by some of the higher vertebrata.

Certain birds form communities in which there is a small amount of co-ordination. Among rooks we see such integration as is implied by the keeping-together of the same families from generation to generation, and by the exclusion of strangers. There is some vague control, some recognition of proprietorship, some punishment of offenders, and occasionally expulsion of them. A slight specialization is shown in the stationing of sentinels while the flock feeds. And usually we see an orderly action of the whole community in respect of going and coming. There has been reached a co-operation comparable to that exhibited by those small assemblages of the lowest human beings, in which there exist no governments.

Gregarious mammals of most kinds display little more than the union of mere association. In the supremacy of the strongest male in the herd, we do, indeed, see a trace of governmental organization. Some co-operation is shown, [I-7] for offensive purposes, by animals that hunt in packs, and for defensive purposes by animals that are hunted; as, according to Ross, by the North American buffaloes, the bulls of which assemble to guard the cows during the calving-season against wolves and bears. Certain gregarious mammals, however, as the beavers, carry social co-operation to a considerable extent in building habitations. Finally, among sundry of the Primates, gregariousness is joined with some subordination, some combination, some display of the social sentiments. There is obedience to leaders; there is union of efforts; there are sentinels and signals; there is an idea of property; there is exchange of services; there is adoption of orphans; and the community makes efforts on behalf of endangered members.

§ 5. These classes of truths, which might be enlarged upon to much purpose, I have here indicated for several reasons. Partly, it seemed needful to show that above organic evolution there tends to arise in various directions a further evolution. Partly, my object has been to give a comprehensive idea of this Super-organic Evolution, as not of one kind but of various kinds, determined by the characters of the various species of organisms among which it shows itself. And partly, there has been the wish to suggest that Super-organic Evolution of the highest order, arises out of an order no higher than that variously displayed in the animal world at large.

Having observed this much, we may henceforth restrict ourselves to that form of Super-organic Evolution which so immensely transcends all others in extent, in complication, in importance, as to make them relatively insignificant. I refer to the form of it which human societies exhibit in their growths, structures, functions, products. To the phenomena comprised in these, and grouped under the general title of Sociology, we now pass.






§ 6. The behaviour of a single inanimate object depends on the co-operation between its own forces and the forces to which it is exposed: instance a piece of metal, the molecules of which keep the solid state or assume the liquid state, according partly to their natures and partly to the heat-waves falling on them. Similarly with any group of inanimate objects. Be it a cart-load of bricks shot down, a barrowful of gravel turned over, or a boy’s bag of marbles emptied, the behaviour of the assembled masses—here standing in a heap with steep sides, here forming one with sides much less inclined, and here spreading out and rolling in all directions—is in each case determined partly by the properties of the individual members of the group, and partly by the forces of gravitation, impact, and friction, they are subjected to.

It is equally so when the discrete aggregate consists of organic bodies, such as the members of a species. For a species increases or decreases in numbers, widens or contracts its habitat, migrates or remains stationary, continues an old mode of life or falls into a new one, under the combined influences of its intrinsic nature and the environing actions, inorganic and organic.

It is thus, too, with aggregates of men. Be it rudimentary or be it advanced, every society displays phenomena that are ascribable to the characters of its units and to the [I-9] conditions under which they exist. Here, then, are the factors as primarily divided.

§ 7. These factors are re-divisible. Within each there are groups of factors that stand in marked contrasts.

Beginning with the extrinsic factors, we see that from the outset several kinds of them are variously operative. We have climate; hot, cold, or temperate, moist or dry, constant or variable. We have surface; much or little of which is available, and the available part of which is fertile in greater or less degree; and we have configuration of surface, as uniform or multiform. Next we have the vegetal productions; here abundant in quantities and kinds, and there deficient in one or both. And besides the Flora of the region we have its Fauna, which is influential in many ways; not only by the numbers of its species and individuals, but by the proportion between those that are useful and those that are injurious. On these sets of conditions, inorganic and organic, characterizing the environment, primarily depends the possibility of social evolution.

When we turn to the intrinsic factors we have to note first, that, considered as a social unit, the individual man has physical traits, such as degrees of strength, activity, endurance, which affect the growth and structure of the society. He is in every case distinguished by emotional traits which aid, or hinder, or modify, the activities of the society, and its developments. Always, too, his degree of intelligence and the tendencies of thought peculiar to him, become co-operating causes of social quiescence or social change.

Such being the original sets of factors, we have now to note the secondary or derived sets of factors, which social evolution itself brings into play.

§ 8. First may be set down the progressive modifications of the environment, inorganic and organic, which societies effect.


Among these are the alterations of climate caused by clearing and by drainage. Such alterations may be favourable to social growth, as where a rainy region is made less rainy by cutting down forests, or a swampy surface rendered more salubrious and fertile by carrying off water [*] ; or they may be unfavourable, as where, by destroying the forests, a region already dry is made arid: witness the seat of the old Semitic civilizations, and, in a less degree, Spain.

Next come the changes wrought in the kinds and quantities of plant-life over the surface occupied. These changes are three-fold. There is the increasing culture of plants conducive to social growth, replacing plants not conducive to it; there is the gradual production of better varieties of these useful plants, causing, in time, great divergences from their originals; and there is, eventually, the introduction of new useful plants.

Simultaneously go on the kindred changes which social progress works in the Fauna of the region. We have the diminution or destruction of some or many injurious species. We have the fostering of useful species, which has the double effect of increasing their numbers and making their qualities more advantageous to society. Further, we have the naturalization of desirable species brought from abroad.

It needs but to think of the immense contrast between a wolf-haunted forest or a boggy moor peopled with wild birds, and the fields covered with crops and flocks which [I-11] eventually occupy the same area, to be reminded that the environment, inorganic and organic, of a society, undergoes a continuous transformation during the progress of the society; and that this transformation becomes an all-important secondary factor in social evolution.

§ 9. Another secondary factor is the increasing size of the social aggregate, accompanied, generally, by increasing density.

Apart from social changes otherwise produced, there are social changes produced by simple growth. Mass is both a condition to, and a result of, organization. It is clear that heterogeneity of structure is made possible only by multiplicity of units. Division of labour cannot be carried far where there are but few to divide the labour among them. Complex co-operations, governmental and industrial, are impossible without a population large enough to supply many kinds and gradations of agents. And sundry developed forms of activity, both predatory and peaceful, are made practicable only by the power which large masses of men furnish.

Hence, then, a derivative factor which, like the rest, is at once a consequence and a cause of social progress, is social growth. Other factors co-operate to produce this; and this joins other factors in working further changes.

§ 10. Among derived factors we may next note the reciprocal influence of the society and its units—the influence of the whole on the parts, and of the parts on the whole.

As soon as a combination of men acquires permanence, there begin actions and reactions between the community and each member of it, such that either affects the other in nature. The control exercised by the aggregate over its units, tends ever to mould their activities and sentiments and ideas into congruity with social requirements; and these activities, sentiments, and ideas, in so far as they are [I-12] changed by changing circumstances, tend to re-mould the society into congruity with themselves.

In addition, therefore, to the original nature of the individuals and the original nature of the society they form, we have to take into account the induced natures of the two. Eventually, mutual modification becomes a potent cause of transformation in both.

§ 11. Yet a further derivative factor of extreme importance remains. I mean the influence of the super-organic environment—the action and reaction between a society and neighbouring societies.

While there exist only small, wandering, unorganized hordes, the conflicts of these with one another work no permanent changes of arrangement in them. But when there have arisen the definite chieftainships which frequent conflicts tend to initiate, and especially when the conflicts have ended in subjugations, there arise the rudiments of political organization; and, as at first, so afterwards, the wars of societies with one another have all-important effects in developing social structures, or rather, certain of them. For I may here, in passing, indicate the truth to be hereafter exhibited in full, that while the industrial organization of a society is mainly determined by its inorganic and organic environments, its governmental organization is mainly determined by its super-organic environment—by the actions of those adjacent societies with which it carries on the struggle for existence.

§ 12. There remains in the group of derived factors one more, the potency of which can scarcely be over-estimated. I mean that accumulation of super-organic products which we commonly distinguish as artificial, but which, philosophically considered, are no less natural than all other products of evolution. There are several orders of these.

First come the material appliances, which, beginning with roughly-chipped flints, end in the complex automatic [I-13] tools of an engine-factory driven by steam; which from boomerangs rise to eighty-ton guns; which from huts of branches and grass grow to cities with their palaces and cathedrals. Then we have language, able at first only to eke out gestures in communicating simple ideas, but eventually becoming capable of expressing involved conceptions with precision. While from that stage in which it conveys thoughts only by sounds to one or a few persons, we pass through picture-writing up to steam-printing: multiplying indefinitely the numbers communicated with, and making accessible in voluminous literatures the ideas and feelings of countless men in various places and times. Concomitantly there goes on the development of knowledge, ending in science. Numeration on the fingers grows into far-reaching mathematics; observation of the moon’s changes leads in time to a theory of the solar system; and there successively arise sciences of which not even the germs could at first be detected. Meanwhile the once few and simple customs, becoming more numerous, definite, and fixed, end in systems of laws. Rude superstitions initiate elaborate mythologies, theologies, cosmogonies. Opinion getting embodied in creeds, gets embodied, too, in accepted codes of ceremony and conduct, and in established social sentiments. And then there slowly evolve also the products we call æsthetic; which of themselves form a highly-complex group. From necklaces of fishbones we advance to dresses elaborate, gorgeous, and infinitely varied; out of discordant war-chants come symphonies and operas; cairns develop into magnificent temples; in place of caves with rude markings there arise at length galleries of paintings; and the recital of a chief’s deeds with mimetic accompaniment gives origin to epics, dramas, lyrics, and the vast mass of poetry, fiction, biography, and history.

These various orders of super-organic products, each developing within itself new genera and species while growing [I-14] into a larger whole, and each acting on the other orders while reacted on by them, constitute an immensely-voluminous, immensely-complicated, and immensely-powerful set of influences. During social evolution they are ever modifying individuals and modifying society, while being modified by both. They gradually form what we may consider either as a non-vital part of the society itself, or else as a secondary environment, which eventually becomes more important than the primary environments—so much more important that there arises the possibility of carrying on a high kind of social life under inorganic and organic conditions which originally would have prevented it.

§ 13. Such are the factors in outline. Even when presented under this most general form, the combination of them is seen to be of an involved kind.

Recognizing the primary truth that social phenomena depend in part on the natures of the individuals and in part on the forces the individuals are subject to, we see that these two fundamentally-distinct sets of factors, with which social changes commence, give origin to other sets as social changes advance. The pre-established environing influences, inorganic and organic, which are at first almost unalterable, become more and more altered by the actions of the evolving society. Simple growth of population brings into play fresh causes of transformation that are increasingly important. The influences which the society exerts on the natures of its units, and those which the units exert on the nature of the society, incessantly co-operate in creating new elements. As societies progress in size and structure, they work on one another, now by their war-struggles and now by their industrial intercourse, profound metamorphoses. And the ever-accumulating, ever-complicating super-organic products, material and mental, constitute a further set of factors which become more and more influential causes of change. So that, involved as the factors are at the beginning, each step [I-15] in advance increases the involution, by adding factors which themselves grow more complex while they grow more powerful.

But now having glanced at the factors of all orders, original and derived, we must neglect for the present those which are derived, and attend exclusively, or almost exclusively, to those which are original. The Data of Sociology, here to be dealt with, we must, as far as possible, restrict to those primary data common to social phenomena in general, and most readily distinguished in the simplest societies. Adhering to the broad division made at the outset between the extrinsic and intrinsic co-operating causes, we will consider first the extrinsic.






§ 14. A complete outline of the original external factors implies a knowledge of the past which we have not got, and are not likely to get. Now that geologists and archæologists are uniting to prove that human existence goes back to a time so remote that “pre-historic” scarcely expresses it, we are shown that the effects of external conditions on social evolution cannot be fully traced. Remembering that the 20,000 years, or so, during which man has lived in the Nile-valley, is made to seem a relatively-small period by the evidence that he coexisted with the extinct mammals of the drift—remembering that England had human inhabitants at an epoch which good judges think was glacial—remembering that in America, along with the bones of a Mastodon imbedded in the alluvium of the Bourbense, were found arrow-heads and other traces of the savages who had killed this member of an order no longer represented in that part of the world—remembering that, judging from the evidence as interpreted by Professor Huxley, those vast subsidences which changed a continent into the Eastern Archipelago, took place after the Negro-race was established as a distinct variety of man; we must infer that it is hopeless to trace back the external factors of social phenomena to anything like their first forms.

One important truth only, implied by the evidence thus glanced at, must be noted. Geological changes and meteorological changes, as well as the consequent changes of Floras [I-17] and Faunas, must have been causing, over all parts of the Earth, perpetual emigrations and immigrations. From each locality made less habitable by increasing inclemency, a wave of diffusion must have spread; into each locality made more favourable to human existence by amelioration of climate, or increase of indigenous food, or both, a wave of concentration must have been set up; and by great geological changes, here sinking areas of land and there raising areas, other redistributions of mankind must have been produced. Accumulating facts show that these enforced ebbings and flowings have, in some localities, and probably in most, taken place time after time. And such waves of emigration and immigration must have been ever bringing the dispersed groups of the race into contact with conditions more or less new.

Carrying with us this conception of the way in which the external factors, original in the widest sense, have co-operated throughout all past time, we must limit our attention to such effects of them as we have now before us.

§ 15. Life in general is possible only between certain limits of temperature; and life of the higher kinds is possible only within a comparatively-narrow range of temperature, maintained artificially if not naturally. Hence social life, pre-supposing as it does not only human life but that life vegetal and animal on which human life depends, is restricted by certain extremes of cold and heat.

Cold, though great, does not rigorously exclude warm-blooded creatures, if the locality supplies adequate means of generating heat. The arctic regions contain various marine and terrestrial mammals, large and small; but the existence of these depends, directly or indirectly, on the existence of the inferior marine creatures, vertebrate and invertebrate, which would cease to live there did not the warm currents from the tropics check the formation of ice. Hence such human life as we find in the far north, dependent as it is [I-18] mainly on the life of these mammals, is also remotely dependent on the same source of heat. But where, as in such places, the temperature which man’s vital functions require can be maintained with difficulty, social evolution is not possible. There can be neither a sufficient surplus-power in each individual nor a sufficient number of individuals. Not only are the energies of an Esquimaux expended mainly in guarding against loss of heat, but his bodily functions are greatly modified to the same end. Without fuel, and, indeed, unable to burn within his snow-hut anything more than an oil-lamp, lest the walls should melt, he has to keep up that warmth which even his thick fur-dress fails to retain, by devouring vast quantities of blubber and oil; and his digestive system, heavily taxed in providing the wherewith to meet excessive loss by radiation, supplies less material for other vital purposes. This great physiological cost of individual life, indirectly checking the multiplication of individuals, arrests social evolution. A kindred relation of cause and effect is shown us in the Southern hemisphere by the still-more-miserable Fuegians. Living nearly unclothed in a region of storms, which their wretched dwellings of sticks and grass do not exclude, and having little food but fish and mollusks, these beings, described as scarcely human in appearance, have such difficulty in preserving the vital balance in face of the rapid escape of heat, that the surplus for individual development is narrowly restricted, and, consequently, the surplus for producing and rearing new individuals. Hence the numbers remain too small for exhibiting anything beyond incipient social existence.

Though, in some tropical regions, an opposite extreme of temperature so far impedes the vital actions as to impede social development, yet hindrance from this cause seems exceptional and relatively unimportant. Life in general, and mammalian life along with it, is great in quantity as well as individually high, in localities that are among the [I-19] hottest. The silence of the forests during the noontide glare in such localities, does, indeed, furnish evidence of enervation; but in cooler parts of the twenty-four hours there is a compensating energy. And if varieties of the human race adapted to these localities, show, in comparison with ourselves, some indolence, this does not seem greater than, or even equal to, the indolence of the primitive man in temperate climates. Contemplated in the mass, facts do not countenance the current idea that great heat hinders progress. All the earliest recorded civilizations belonged to regions which, if not tropical, almost equal the tropics in height of temperature. India and Southern China, as still existing, show us great social evolutions within the tropics. The vast architectural remains of Java and of Cambodia yield proofs of other tropical civilizations in the East; while the extinct societies of Central America, Mexico, and Peru, need but be named to make it manifest that in the New World also, there were in past times great advances in hot regions. It is thus, too, if we compare societies of ruder types that have developed in warm climates, with allied societies belonging to colder climates. Tahiti, the Tonga Islands, and the Sandwich Islands, are within the tropics; and in them, when first discovered, there had been reached stages of evolution which were remarkable considering the absence of metals.

I do not ignore the fact that in recent times societies have evolved most, both in size and complexity, in temperate regions. I simply join with this the fact that the first considerable societies arose, and the primary stages of social development were reached, in hot climates. The truth would seem to be that the earlier phases of progress had to be passed through where the resistances offered by inorganic conditions were least; that when the arts of life had been advanced, it became possible for societies to develop in regions where the resistances were greater; and that further developments in the arts of life, with the further discipline [I-20] in co-operation accompanying them, enabled subsequent societies to take root and grow in regions which, by climatic and other conditions, offered relatively-great resistances.

We must therefore say that solar radiation, being the source of those forces by which life, vegetal and animal, is carried on; and being, by implication, the source of the forces displayed in human life, and consequently in social life; it results that there can be no considerable social evolution on tracts of the Earth’s surface where solar radiation is very feeble. Though, contrariwise, there is on some tracts a solar radiation in excess of the degree most favourable to vital actions; yet the consequent hindrance to social evolution is relatively small. Further, we conclude that an abundant supply of light and heat is especially requisite during those first stages of progress in which social vitality is small.

§ 16. Passing over such traits of climate as variability and equability, whether diurnal, annual, or irregular, all of which have their effects on human activities, and therefore on social phenomena, I will name one other climatic trait that appears to be an important factor. I refer to the quality of the air in respect of dryness or moisture.

Either extreme brings indirect impediments to civilization, which we may note before observing the direct effects. That great dryness of the air, causing a parched surface and a scanty vegetation, negatives the multiplication needed for advanced social life, is a familar fact. And it is a fact, though not a familiar one, that extreme humidity, especially when joined with great heat, may raise unexpected obstacles to progress; as, for example, in parts of East Africa, where “the springs of powder-flasks exposed to the damp snap like toasted quills; . . . paper, becoming soft and soppy by the loss of glazing, acts as a blotter; . . . metals are ever rusty; . . . and gunpowder, if not kept from the air, refuses to ignite.”


But it is the direct effects of different hygrometric states, which are most noteworthy—the effects on the vital processes, and, therefore, on the individual activities, and, through them, on the social activities. Bodily functions are facilitated by atmospheric conditions which make evaporation from the skin and lungs rapid. That weak persons, whose variations of health furnish good tests, are worse when the air is surcharged with water, and are better when the weather is fine; and that commonly such persons are enervated by residence in moist localities but invigorated by residence in dry ones, are facts generally recognized. And this relation of cause and effect, manifest in individuals, doubtless holds in races. Throughout temperate regions, differences of constitutional activity due to differences of atmospheric humidity, are less traceable than in torrid regions: the reason being that all the inhabitants are subject to a tolerably quick escape of water from their surfaces; since the air, though well charged with water, will take up more when its temperature, previously low, is raised by contact with the body. But it is otherwise in tropical regions where the body and the air bathing it differ much less in temperature; and where, indeed, the air is sometimes higher in temperature than the body. Here the rate of evaporation depends almost wholly on the quantity of surrounding vapour. If the air is hot and moist, the escape of water through the skin and lungs is greatly hindered; while it is greatly facilitated if the air is hot and dry. Hence in the torrid zone, we may expect constitutional differences between the inhabitants of low steaming tracts and the inhabitants of tracts parched with heat. Needful as are cutaneous and pulmonary evaporation for maintaining the movement of fluids through the tissues and thus furthering molecular changes, it is to be inferred that, other things equal, there will be more bodily activity in the people of hot and dry localities than in the people of hot and humid localities.


The evidence justifies this inference. The earliest-recorded civilization grew up in a hot and dry region—Egypt; and in hot and dry regions also arose the Babylonian, Assyrian, and Phœnician civilizations. But the facts when stated in terms of nations are far less striking than when stated in terms of races. On glancing over a general rain-map, there will be seen an almost-continuous area marked “rainless district,” extending across North Africa, Arabia, Persia, and on through Thibet into Mongolia; and from within, or from the borders of, this district, have come all the conquering races of the Old World. We have the Tartar race, which, passing the Southern mountain-boundary of this rainless district, peopled China and the regions between it and India—thrusting the aborigines of these areas into the hilly tracts; and which has sent successive waves of invaders not into these regions only, but into the West. We have the Aryan race, overspreading India and making its way through Europe. We have the Semitic race, becoming dominant in North Africa, and, spurred on by Mahommedan fanaticism, subduing parts of Europe. That is to say, besides the Egyptian race, which became powerful in the hot and dry valley, of the Nile, we have three races widely unlike in type, which, from different parts of the rainless district have spread over regions relatively humid. Original superiority of type was not the common trait of these peoples: the Tartar type is inferior, as was the Egyptian. But the common trait, as proved by subjugation of other peoples, was energy. And when we see that this common trait in kinds of men otherwise unlike, had for its concomitant their long-continued subjection to these special climatic conditions—when we find, further, that from the region characterized by these conditions, the earlier waves of conquering emigrants, losing in moister countries their ancestral energy, were over-run by later waves of the same kind of men, or of other kinds, coming from this region; we get strong reason for inferring a relation [I-23] between constitutional vigour and the presence of an air which, by its warmth and dryness, facilitates the vital actions. A striking verification is at hand. The rain-map of the New World shows that the largest of the parts distinguished as almost rainless, is that Central-American and Mexican region in which indigenous civilizations developed; and that the only other rainless district is that part of the ancient Peruvian territory, in which the pre-Ynca civilization has left its most conspicuous traces. Inductively, then, the evidence justifies in a remarkable manner the physiological deduction. Nor are there wanting minor verifications. Speaking of the varieties of negroes, Livingstone says—“Heat alone does not produce blackness of skin, but heat with moisture seems to insure the deepest hue”; and Schweinfurth remarks on the relative blackness of the Denka and other tribes living on the alluvial plains, and contrasts them with “the less swarthy and more robust races who inhabit the rocky hills of the interior”: differences with which there go differences of energy. But I note this fact for the purpose of suggesting its probable connexion with the fact that the lighter-skinned races are habitually the dominant races. We see it to have been so in Egypt. It was so with the races spreading south from Central Asia. Traditions imply that it was so in Central America and Peru. Speke says:—“I have always found the lighter-coloured savages more boisterous and warlike than those of a dingier hue.” And if, heat being the same, darkness of skin accompanies humidity of the air, while lightness of skin accompanies dryness of the air, then, in this habitual predominance of the fair varieties of men, we find further evidence that constitutional activity, and in so far social development, is favoured by a climate conducing to rapid evaporation.

I do not mean that the energy thus resulting determines, of itself, higher social development: this is neither implied deductively nor shown inductively. But greater energy, [I-24] making easy the conquest of less active races and the usurpation of their richer and more varied habitats, also makes possible a better utilization of such habitats.

§ 17. On passing from climate to surface, we have to note, first, the effects of its configuration, as favouring or hindering social integration.

That the habits of hunters or nomads may be changed into those required for settled life, the surface occupied must be one within which coercion is easy, and beyond which the difficulties of existence are great. The unconquerableness of mountain tribes, difficult to get at, has been in many times and in many places exemplified. Instance the Illyrians, who remained independent of the adjacent Greeks, gave trouble to the Macedonians, and mostly recovered their independence after the death of Alexander; instance the Montenegrins; instance the Swiss; instance the people of the Caucasus. The inhabitants of desert-tracts, as well as those of mountain-tracts, are difficult to consolidate: facility of escape, joined with ability to live in sterile regions, greatly hinder social subordination. Within our own island, surfaces otherwise widely unlike have similarly hindered political integration, when their physical traits have made it difficult to reach their occupants. The history of Wales shows us how, within that mountainous district itself, subordination to one ruler was hard to establish; and still more how hard it was to bring the whole under the central power: from the Old-English period down to 1400, eight centuries of resistance passed before the subjugation was complete, and a further interval before the final incorporation with England. The Fens, in the earliest times a haunt of marauders and of those who escaped from established power, became, at the time of the Conquest, the last refuge of the still-resisting English; who, for many years, maintained their freedom in this tract, made almost inaccessible by morasses. The prolonged independence of the [I-25] Highland clans, who were subjugated only after General Wade’s roads put their refuges within reach, yields a later proof. Conversely, social integration is easy within a territory which, while able to support a large population, affords facilities for coercing the units of that population: especially if it is bounded by regions offering little sustenance, or peopled by enemies, or both. Egypt fulfilled these conditions in a high degree. Governmental force was unimpeded by physical obstacles within the occupied area; and escape from it into the adjacent desert involved either starvation or robbery and enslavement by wandering hordes. Then in small areas surrounded by the sea, such as the Sandwich Islands, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa, where a barrier to flight is formed by a desert of water instead of a desert of sand, the requirements are equally well fulfilled. Thus we may figuratively say that social integration is a process of welding, which can be effected only when there are both pressure and difficulty in evading that pressure. And here, indeed, we are reminded how, in extreme cases, the nature of the surface permanently determines the type of social life it bears. From the earliest recorded times, arid tracts in the East have been peopled by Semitic tribes having an adapted social type. The description given by Herodotus of the Scythian’s mode of life and social organization, is substantially the same as that given of the Kalmucks by Pallas. Even were regions fitted for nomads to have their inhabitants exterminated, they would be re-peopled by refugees from neighbouring settled societies; who would similarly be compelled to wander, and would similarly acquire fit forms of union. There is, indeed, a modern instance in point: not exactly of a re-genesis of an adapted social type, but of a genesis de novo. Since the colonization of South America, some of the pampas have become the homes of robber-tribes like Bedouins.

Another trait of the inhabited area to be noted as influential, is its degree of heterogeneity. Other things equal, [I-26] localities that are uniform in structure are unfavourable to social progress. Leaving out for the present its effects on the Flora and Fauna, sameness of surface implies absence of varied inorganic materials, absence of varied experiences, absence of varied habits, and, therefore, puts obstacles to industrial development and the arts of life. Neither Central Asia, nor Central Africa, nor the central region of either American continent, has been the seat of an indigenous civilization of any height. Regions like the Russian steppes, however possible it may be to carry into them civilization elsewhere developed, are regions within which civilization is not likely to be initiated; because the differentiating agencies are insufficient. When quite otherwise caused, uniformity of habitat has still the like effect. As Professor Dana asks respecting a coral-island:—

“How many of the various arts of civilized life could exist in a land where shells are the only cutting instruments . . . fresh water barely enough for household purposes,—no streams, nor mountains, nor hills? How much of the poetry and literature of Europe would be intelligible to persons whose ideas had expanded only to the limits of a coral-island, who had never conceived of a surface of land above half a mile in breadth—of a slope higher than a beach, or of a change in seasons beyond a variation in the prevalence of rain?”

Contrariwise, the influences of geological and geographical heterogeneity in furthering social development, are conspicuous. Though, considered absolutely, the Nile-valley is not physically multiform, yet it is multiform in comparison with surrounding tracts; and it presents that which seems the most constant antecedent to civilization—the juxtaposition of land and water. Though the Babylonians and Assyrians had habitats that were not specially varied, yet they were more varied than the riverless regions lying East and West. The strip of territory in which the Phœnician society arose, had a relatively-extensive coast; many rivers furnishing at their mouths sites for the chief cities; plains and valleys running inland, with hills between them and [I-27] mountains beyond them. Still more does heterogeneity distinguish the area in which the Greek society evolved: it is varied in its multitudinous and complex distributions of land and sea, in its contour of surface, in its soil. “No part of Europe—perhaps it would not be too much to say no part of the world—presents so great a variety of natural features within the same area as Greece.” The Greeks themselves, indeed, observed the effects of local circumstances in so far as unlikeness between coast and interior goes. As says Mr. Grote:—

“The ancient philosophers and legislators were deeply impressed with the contrast between an inland and a maritime city: in the former simplicity and uniformity of life, tenacity of ancient habits and dislike of what is new and foreign, great force of exclusive sympathy and narrow range both of objects and ideas: in the latter, variety and novelty of sensations, expansive imagination, toleration and occasional preference for extraneous customs, greater activity of the individual and corresponding mutability of the state.”

Though the differences here described are mainly due to absence and presence of foreign intercourse; yet, since this itself is dependent on the local relations of land and sea, these relations must be recognized as primary causes of the differences. Just observing that in Italy likewise, civilization found a seat of considerable complexity, geological and geographical, we may pass to the New World, where we see the same thing. Central America, which was the source of its indigenous civilizations, is characterized by comparative multiformity. So, too, with Mexico and with Peru. The Mexican tableland, surrounded by mountains, contained many lakes: that of Tezcuco, with its islands and shores, being the seat of Government; and through Peru, varied in surface, the Ynca-power spread from the mountainous islands of the large, irregular, elevated lake, Titicaca.

How soil affects progress remains to be observed. The belief that easy obtainment of food is unfavourable to social evolution, while not without an element of truth, is by no [I-28] means true as currently accepted. The semi-civilized peoples of the Pacific—the Sandwich Islanders, Tahitians, Tongans, Samoans, Fijians—show us considerable advances made in places where great productiveness renders life unlaborious. In Sumatra, where rice yields 80 to 140 fold, and in Madagascar, where it yields 50 to 100 fold, social development has not been insignificant. Kaffirs, inhabiting a tract having rich and extensive pasturage, contrast favourably, both individually and socially, with neighbouring races occupying regions that are relatively unproductive; and those parts of Central Africa in which the indigenes have made most social progress, as Ashantee and Dahomey, have luxuriant vegetations. Indeed, if we call to mind the Nile-valley, and the exceptionally-fertilizing process it is subject to, we see that the most ancient social development known to us, began in a region which, fulfilling other requirements, was also characterized by great natural productiveness.

And here, with respect to fertility, we may recognize a truth allied to that which we recognized in respect to climate; namely, that the earlier stages of social evolution are possible only where the resistances to be overcome are small. As those arts of life by which loss of heat is prevented, must be considerably advanced before relatively-inclement regions can be well peopled; so, the agricultural arts must be considerably advanced before the less fertile tracts can support populations large enough for civilization. And since arts of every kind develop only as societies progress in size and structure, it follows that there must be societies having habitats where abundant food can be procured by inferior arts, before there can arise the arts required for dealing with less productive habitats. While yet low and feeble, societies can survive only where the circumstances are least trying. The ability to survive where circumstances are more trying can be possessed only by the higher and stronger societies descending from these; and inheriting [I-29] their acquired organization, appliances, and knowledge.

It should be added that variety of soil is a factor of importance; since this helps to cause that multiplicity of vegetal products which largely aids social progress. In sandy Damara-land, where four kinds of mimosas exclude nearly every other kind of tree or bush, it is clear that, apart from further obstacles to progress, paucity of materials must be a great one. But here we verge upon another order of factors.

§ 18. The character of its Flora affects in a variety of ways the fitness of a habitat for supporting a society. At the chief of these we must glance.

Some of the Esquimaux have no wood at all; while others have only that which comes to them as ocean-drift. By using snow or ice to build their houses, and by the shifts they are put to in making cups of seal-skin, fishing-lines and nets of whalebone, and even bows of bone or horn, these people show us how greatly advance in the arts of life is hindered by lack of fit vegetal products. With this Arctic race, too, as also with the nearly Antarctic Fuegians, we see that the absence or extreme scarcity of useful plants is an insurmountable impediment to social progress. Evidence better than that furnished by these regions (where extreme cold is a coexisting hindrance) comes from Australia; where, in a climate that is on the whole favourable, the paucity of plants available for the purposes of life has been a part-cause of continued arrest at the lowest stage of barbarism. Large tracts of it, supporting but one inhabitant to sixty square miles, admit of no approach to that populousness which is a needful antecedent to civilization.

Conversely, after observing how growth of population, making social advance possible, is furthered by abundance of vegetal products, we may observe how variety of vegetal products conduces to the same effect. Not only in the cases [I-30] of the slightly-developed societies occupying regions covered by a heterogeneous Flora, do we see that dependence on many kinds of roots, fruits, cereals, etc., is a safeguard against the famines caused by failure of any single crop; but we see that the materials furnished by a heterogeneous Flora, make possible a multiplication of appliances, a consequent advance of the arts, and an accompanying development of skill and intelligence. The Tahitians have on their islands, fit woods for the frameworks and roofs of houses, with palm-leaves for thatch; there are plants yielding fibres out of which to twist cords, fishing-lines, matting, etc.; the tapa-bark, duly prepared, furnishes a cloth for their various articles of dress; they have cocoa-nuts for cups, etc., materials for baskets, sieves, and various domestic implements; they have plants giving them scents for their unguents, flowers for their wreaths and necklaces; they have dyes for stamping patterns on their dresses—all besides the various foods, bread-fruit, taro, yams, sweet-potatoes, arrow-root, fern-root, cocoa-nuts, plantains, bananas, jambo, ti-root, sugar-cane, etc.: enabling them to produce numerous made dishes. And the utilization of all these materials implies a culture which in various ways furthers social advance. Kindred results from like causes have arisen among an adjacent people, widely unlike in character and political organization. In a habitat characterized by a like variety of vegetal products, those ferocious cannibals the Fijians, have developed their arts to a degree comparable with that of the Tahitians, and have a division of labour and a commercial organization that are even superior. Among the thousand species of indigenous plants in the Fiji Islands, there are such as furnish materials for all purposes, from the building of war-canoes carrying 300 men down to the making of dyes and perfumes. It may, indeed, be urged that the New Zealanders, exhibiting a social development akin to that reached in Tahiti and Fiji, had a habitat of which the indigenous Flora was not varied. But the reply is that [I-31] both by their language and their mythology, the New Zealanders are shown to have separated from other Malayo-Polynesians after the arts of life had been considerably advanced; and that they brought these arts (as well as some cultivated plants) to a region which, though poor in edible plants, supplied in abundance plants otherwise useful.

As above hinted, mere luxuriance of vegetation is in some cases a hindrance to progress. Even that inclement region inhabited by the Fuegians, is, strange to say, made worse by the dense growth of useless underwood which clothes the rocky hills. Living though they do under conditions otherwise so different, the Andamanese, too, are restricted to the borders of the sea, by the impenetrable thickets which cover the land. Indeed various equatorial regions, made almost useless even to the semi-civilized by jungle and tangled forest, were utterly useless to the aborigines, who had no tools for clearing the ground. The primitive man, possessing rude stone implements only, found but few parts of the Earth’s surface which, neither too barren nor bearing too luxuriant a vegetation, were available: so again reminding us that rudimentary societies are at the mercy of environing conditions.

§ 19. There remains to be treated the Fauna of the region inhabited. Evidently this affects greatly both the degree of social growth and the type of that growth.

The presence or absence of wild animals fit for food, influential as it is in determining the kind of individual life, is therefore influential in determining the kind of social organization. Where, as in North America, there existed game enough to support the aboriginal races, hunting continued the dominant activity; and a partially-nomadic habit being entailed by migrations after game, there was a persistent impediment to agriculture, to increase of population, and to industrial development. We have but to consider the antithetical case of the various Polynesian races, and to [I-32] observe how, in the absence of a considerable land-Fauna, they have been forced into agriculture with its concomitant settled life, larger population, and advanced arts, to see how great an effect the kind and amount of utilizable animal-life has on civilization. When we glance at that pastoral type of society which, still existing, has played in past times an important part in human progress, we again see that over wide regions the indigenous Fauna has been chiefly influential in fixing the form of social union. On the one hand, in the absence of herbivores admitting of domestication—horses, camels, oxen, sheep, goats—the pastoral life followed by the three great conquering races in their original habitats, would have been impossible; and, on the other hand, this kind of life was inconsistent with that formation of larger settled unions which is needed for the higher social relations. On recalling the cases of the Laplanders with their reindeer and dogs, the Tartars with their horses and cattle, and the South Americans with their llamas and guinea-pigs, it becomes obvious, too, that in various cases this nature of the Fauna, joined with that of the surface, still continues to be a cause of arrest at a certain stage of evolution.

While the Fauna as containing an abundance or scarcity of creatures useful to man is an important factor, it is also an important factor as containing an abundance or scarcity of injurious creatures. The presence of the larger carnivores is, in some places, a serious impediment to social life; as in Sumatra, where villages are not uncommonly depopulated by tigers; as in India, where “a single tigress caused the destruction of 13 villages, and 250 square miles of country were thrown out of cultivation,” and where “in 1869 one tigress killed 127 people, and stopped a public road for many weeks.” Indeed we need but recall the evils once suffered in England from wolves, and those still suffered in some parts of Europe, to see that freedom to carry on out-door occupations and intercourse, which is among the conditions [I-33] to social advance, may be hindered by predatory animals. Nor must we forget how greatly agriculture is occasionally interfered with by reptiles; as, again, in India, where over 25,000 persons die of snake-bite annually. To which evils directly inflicted by the higher animals, must be added the indirect evils which they join insects in inflicting, by destroying crops. Sometimes injuries of this last kind considerably affect the mode of individual life and consequently of social life; as in Kaffirland, where crops are subject to great depredations from mammals, birds, and insects, and where the transformation of the pastoral state into a higher state is thus discouraged; or as in the Bechuana-country, which, while “peopled with countless herds of game, is sometimes devastated by swarms of locusts.” Clearly, where the industrial tendencies are feeble, uncertainty in getting a return for labour must hinder the development of them, and cause reversion to older modes of life, if these can still be pursued.

Many other mischiefs, caused especially by insects, seriously interfere with social progress. Even familiar experiences in Scotland, where the midges sometimes drive one indoors, show how greatly “the plague of flies” must, in tropical regions, impede outdoor labour. Where, as on the Orinoco, the morning salutation is—“How are we to-day for the mosquitos?” and where the torment is such that a priest could not believe Humboldt voluntarily submitted to it merely that he might see the country, the desire for relief must often out-balance the already-feeble motive to work. Even the effects of flies on cattle indirectly modify social life; as among the Kirghiz, who, in May, when the steppes are covered with rich pasture, are obliged by the swarms of flies to take their herds to the mountains; or as in Africa, where the tsetse negatives the pastoral occupation in some localities. And then, in other cases, great discouragement results from the termites, which, in parts of East Africa, consume dress, furniture, beds, etc. “A man may be rich to-day [I-34] and poor to-morrow, from the ravages of the white ants,” said a Portuguese merchant to Livingstone. Nor is this all. Humboldt remarks that where the termites destroy all documents, there can be no advanced civilization.

Thus there is a close relation between the type of social life indigenous in a locality, and the character of the indigenous Fauna. The presence or absence of useful species, and the presence or absence of injurious species, have their favouring and hindering effects. And there is not only so produced a furtherance or retardation of social progress, generally considered, but there is produced more or less speciality in the structures and activities of the community.

§ 20. To describe fully these original external factors is out of the question. An approximately-complete account of the classes characterized above, would be a work of years; and there would have to be added many environing conditions not yet indicated.

Effects of differences in degree and distribution of light, as illustrated by the domesticity and culture which the Arctic night causes among the Icelanders, would have to be treated; as also the minor effects due to greater or less brilliancy of ordinary daylight in sunny and cloudy climates on the mental states, and therefore on the actions, of the inhabitants. The familiar fact that habitual fineness of weather and habitual inclemency, lead respectively to outdoor social intercourse and in-door family-life, and so influence the characters of citizens, would have to be taken into account. So, too, would the modifications of ideas and feelings wrought by imposing meteorologic and geologic phenomena. And beyond the effects, made much of by Mr. Buckle, which these produce on men’s imaginations, and consequently on their behaviour, there would have to be noted their effects of other orders: as, for instance, those which frequent earthquakes have on the type of architecture—causing a preference for houses that are low and [I-35] slight; and so modifying both the domestic arrangements and the æsthetic culture. Again, the character of the fuel which a locality yields has consequences that ramify in various directions; as we see in the contrast between our own coal-burning London, with its blackened gloomy streets, and the wood-burning cities of the continent, where general lightness and bright colours induce a different state of feeling having different results. How the mineralogy of a region acts, scarcely needs pointing out. Entire absence of metals may cause local persistence of the stone-age; presence of copper may initiate advance; presence or proximity of tin, rendering bronze possible, may cause a further step; and if there are iron-ores, a still further step may presently be taken. So, too, the supply or lack of lime for mortar, affects the sizes and types of buildings, private and public; and thus influences domestic and social habits, as well as art-progress. Even down to such a minor peculiarity as the presence of hot springs, which in ancient Central America initiated a local manufacture of pottery, there would have to be traced the influence of each physical condition in determining the prevailing industry, and therefore, in part, the social organization.

But a detailed account of the original external factors, whether of the more important kinds outlined in the preceding pages or of the less important kinds just exemplified, pertains to Special Sociology. Any one who, carrying with him the general principles of the science, undertook to interpret the evolution of each society, would have to describe completely these many local causes in their various kinds and degrees. Such an undertaking must be left for the sociologists of the future.

§ 21. Here my purpose has been to give general ideas of the original external factors, in their different classes and orders; so as to impress on the reader the truth, barely enunciated in the preceding chapter, that the characters of [I-36] the environment co-operate with the characters of human beings in determining social phenomena.

One result of enumerating these original external factors and observing the parts they play, has been that of bringing into view the fact, that the earlier stages of social evolution are far more dependent on local conditions than the later stages. Though societies such as we are now most familiar with, highly organized, rich in appliances, advanced in knowledge, can, by the help of various artifices, thrive in unfavorable habitats; yet feeble, unorganized societies cannot do so. They are at the mercy of their surroundings.

Moreover we thus find answers to the questions sometimes raised in opposition to the doctrine of social evolution—How does it happen that so many tribes of savages have made no manifest progress during the long period over which human records extend? And if it is true that the human race existed during the later geologic periods, why, for 100,000 years or more, did no traceable civilization result? To these questions, I say, adequate replies are furnished. When, glancing over the classes and orders of original external factors above set down, we observe how rare is that combination of favourable ones joined with absence of unfavourable ones, by which alone the germs of societies can be fostered—when we remember that in proportion as the appliances are few and rude, the knowledge small, and the co-operation feeble, the establishment of any improvement in face of surrounding difficulties must take a long time—when we remember that this helplessness of primitive social groups left them exposed to each adverse change, and so caused repeated losses of such advances as were made; it becomes easy to understand why, for an enormous period, no considerable societies were evolved.

But now having made this general survey of the original external factors, and drawn these general inferences, we may leave all detailed consideration of them as not further concerning us. For in dealing with the Principles of Sociology, [I-37] we have to deal with facts of structure and function displayed by societies in general, dissociated, so far as may be, from special facts due to special circumstances. Henceforth we shall occupy ourselves with those characters of societies which depend mainly on the intrinsic natures of their units, rather than with the characters determined by particular extrinsic influences.






§ 22. As with the original external factors, so with the original internal factors—an adequate account of them supposes a far greater knowledge of the past than we can get. On the one hand, from men’s bones, and objects betraying men’s actions, found in recent strata and in cave-deposits, dating back to periods since which there have been great changes of climate and re-distributions of land and sea, we must infer that the habitats of tribes have been ever undergoing modifications; though what modifications we can but vaguely guess. On the other hand, alterations of habitats imply in the races subject to them adaptive changes of function and structure; respecting most of which we can know little more than their occurrence.

Such fragmentary evidence as we have does not warrant definite conclusions respecting the ways and degrees in which men of the remote past differed from men now existing. There are, indeed, remains which, taken alone, indicate inferiority of type in ancestral races. The Neanderthal-skull and others like it, with their enormous supra-orbital ridges so simian in character, are among these. There is also the skull lately found by Mr. Gillman, in a mound on the Detroit river, Michigan, and described by him as chimpanzee-like in the largeness of the areas over which the temporal muscles were inserted. But as this remarkable skull was found along with others that were not remarkable, and [I-39] as such skulls as that from the cave in the Neanderthal are not proved to be of more ancient date than skulls which deviate little from common forms, no decisive inferences can be drawn. A kindred, but perhaps a more positive, statement, may be made respecting that compression of the tibiæ in certain ancient races, which is expressed by the epithet “platycnemic.” First pointed out by Prof. Busk and Dr. Falconer, as characterizing the men who left their bones in the caves of Gibraltar, this peculiarity, shortly afterwards discovered by M. Broca in the remains of cavemen in France, was observed afresh by Mr. Busk in remains from caves in Denbighshire; and more recently Mr. Gillman has shown that it is a trait of tibiæ found along with the rudest stone-implements in mounds on the St. Claire river, Michigan. As this trait is not known to distinguish any races now living, while it existed in races which lived in localities so far apart as Gibraltar, France, Wales, and North America, we must infer that an ancient race, distributed over a wide area, was in so far unlike races which have survived.

Two general conclusions only seem warranted by the facts at present known. The first is that in remote epochs there were, as there are now, varieties of men distinguished by differences of osseous structure considerable in degree, and probably by other differences; and the second is, that some traits of brutality and inferiority exhibited in certain of these ancient varieties, have either disappeared or now occur only as unusual variations.

§ 23. So that about the original internal factors, taken in that comprehensive sense which includes the traits of prehistoric man, we can ascertain little that helps us. Still we may fairly draw from the researches of geologists and archæologists the important general inferences that throughout long-past periods, as since the commencement of history, there has been going on a continuous differentiation [I-40] of races, a continuous over-running of the less powerful or less adapted by the more powerful or more adapted, a driving of inferior varieties into undesirable habitats, and, occasionally, an extermination of inferior varieties.

And now, carrying with us this dim conception of primitive man and his history, we must be content to give it what definition we may, by studying those existing races of men which, as judged by their visible characters and their implements, approach most nearly to primitive man. Instead of including in one chapter all the classes and sub-classes of traits to be set down, it will be most convenient to group them into three chapters. We will take first the physical, then the emotional, lastly the intellectual.






§ 24. In face of the fact that the uncivilized races include the Patagonians, who reach some six to seven feet in height, while in Africa there still exist remnants of the barbarous people referred to by Herodotus as pygmies, we cannot say that there is any direct relation between social state and stature. Among the North-American Indians there are hunting races decidedly tall; while, elsewhere, there are stunted hunting races, as the Bushmen. Of pastoral peoples, too, some are short, like the Kirghiz, and some are well-grown, like the Kaffirs. And there are kindred differences among races of agricultural habits.

Still, the evidence taken in the mass implies some connexion between barbarism and inferiority of size. In North America the Chinooks and sundry neighbouring tribes, are described as low in stature; and the Shoshones are said to be of “a diminutive stature.” Of the South American races it is asserted that the Guiana Indian is mostly much below 5 ft. 5 in.; that the Arawâks are seldom more than 5 ft. 4 in.; and that the Guaranis rarely reach 5 ft. So, too, is it with the uncivilized peoples of Northern Asia. The Kirghiz average 5 ft. 3 or 4 in.; and the Kamschadales “are in general of low stature.” In Southern Asia it is the same. One authority describes, generally, the Tamulian aborigines of India as smaller than the Hindus. Another, writing of [I-42] the Hill-tribes, says of the Puttooas that the men do not exceed 5 ft. 2 in., nor the women 4 ft. 4 in. Another estimates the Lepchas as averaging about 5 ft. And the Juángs, perhaps the most degraded of these tribes, are set down as, males less than 5 ft., and women 4 ft. 8 in. But this connexion is most clearly seen on grouping the very lowest races. Of the Fuegians we read that some tribes are “not more than 5 ft. high;” of the Andamanese, that the men vary from 4 ft. 10 in. to nearly 5 ft.; of the Veddahs, that the range is from 4 ft. 1 in. to 5 ft. 3 in.—the common height being 4 ft. 9 in. Again, the ordinary height of the Bushmen is 4 ft. 4½ in., or, according to Barrow, 4 ft. 6 in. for the average man, and 4 ft. for the average woman. While their allies, the Akka, are said by Schweinfurth to vary from 4 ft. 1 in. to 4 ft. 10 in.: the women, whom he did not see, being presumably still smaller.

How far is this an original trait of inferior races, and how far is it a trait superinduced by the unfavourable habitats into which superior races have driven them? The dwarfishness of Esquimaux and Laplanders may be due partly, if not wholly, to the great physiological cost of living entailed by the rigorous climate they have to bear; and it no more shows the dwarfishness of primitive men than does the small size of Shetland ponies show that primitive horses were small. So, too, in the case of the Bushmen, who are wanderers in a territory “of so barren and arid a character, that by far the greater portion of it is not permanently habitable by any class of human beings,” it is supposable that chronic innutrition has produced a lower standard of growth. Manifestly, as the weaker were always thrust by the stronger into the worst localities, there must ever have been a tendency to make greater any original differences of stature and strength. Hence the smallness of these most degraded men, may have been original; or it may have been acquired; or it may have been partly original and partly acquired. In one case, however, I learn on good [I-43] authority that the low stature was most likely original. Facts do not justify the belief that the Bushmen, the Akka, and kindred races found in Africa, are dwarfed varieties of the Negro race; but suggest the belief that they are remnants of a race which the Negroes dispossessed. And this conclusion, warranted by the physical differences, is countenanced by general probability and by analogy. Without making much of the rumoured dwarf-race in the central parts of Madagascar, or of that in the interior of Borneo, it suffices to recall the Hill-tribes of India, which are surviving groups of the indigenes islanded by the flood of Aryans, or the tribes further east, similarly islanded by the invading Mongols, or the Mantras of the Malay-peninsula, to see that this process has probably occurred in Africa; and that these tribes of diminutive people are scattered fragments of a people originally small, and not dwarfed by conditions.

Still, other evidence may be cited to show that we are not justified in conceiving primitive man as decidedly less than man of developed type. The Australians who, both individually and socially, are very inferior, reach a moderate stature; as did also the now-extinct Tasmanians. Nor do the bones of races which have disappeared, yield manifest proof that pre-historic man was, on the average, much smaller than historic man.

We shall probably be safe in concluding that with the human race, as with other races, size is but one trait of higher evolution, which may or may not coexist with other traits; and that, within certain limits, it is determined by local conditions, which here favour preservation of the larger, and elsewhere, when nothing is gained by size, conduce to the spread of a smaller variety relatively more prolific. But we may further conclude that since, in the conflicts between races, superiority of size gives advantages, there has been a survival of the larger, which has told where other conditions have allowed: implying that the average [I-44] primitive man was somewhat less than is the average civilized man.

§ 25. As of stature, so of structure, we must say that the contrast is not marked. Passing over smaller distinctive traits of inferior human races, such as the deviation in the form of the pelvis, and the existence of solid bone where, in the civilized, the frontal sinus exists, we may limit ourselves to traits which have a meaning for us.

Men of rude types are generally characterized by relatively small lower limbs. Pallas describes the Ostyaks as having “thin and slender legs.” I find two authorities mentioning the “short legs” and “slender legs” of the Kamschadales. So, among the Hill-tribes of India, Stewart says the Kookies have legs “short in comparison to the length of their bodies, and their arms long.” Of sundry American races the like is remarked. We read of the Chinooks that they have “small and crooked” legs; of the Guaranis, that their “arms and legs are relatively short and thick;” and even of the gigantic Patagonians it is asserted that “their limbs are neither so muscular nor so large-boned as their height and apparent bulk would induce one to suppose.” This truth holds in Australia, too. Even if the leg-bones of Australians are equal in length to those of Europeans, it is unquestionable that their legs are inferior in massiveness. Though I find no direct statement respecting the Fuegians under this head, yet since, while said to be short, they are said to have bodies comparable in bulk to those of higher races, it is inferable that their deficiency of height results from the shortness of their legs. Lastly, the Akka not only have “short, bandy legs,” but, though agile, their powers of locomotion are defective: “every step they take is accompanied by a lurch;” and Schweinfurth describes the one who was with him for many months, as never able to carry a full dish without spilling. Those remains of extinct races lately referred to, seem also to countenance the [I-45] belief that the primitive man was characterized by lower limbs inferior to our own: the platycnemic tibiæ once characterizing tribes of mankind which were so widely dispersed, seem to imply this. While recognizing differences, we may fairly say that this trait of relatively-inferior legs is sufficiently marked; and it is a trait which, remotely simian, is also repeated by the child of the civilized man.

That the balance of power between legs and arms, originally adapted to climbing habits, is likely to have been changed in the course of progress, is manifest. During the conflicts between races, an advantage must have been gained by those having legs somewhat more developed at the expense of the body at large. I do not mean chiefly an advantage in swiftness or agility; I mean in trials of strength at close quarters. In combat, the force exerted by arms and trunk is limited by the ability of the legs to withstand the strain thrown on them. Hence, apart from advantages in locomotion, the stronger-legged races have tended to become, other things equal, dominant races.

Among other structural traits of the primitive man which we have to note, the most marked is the larger size of the jaws and teeth. This is shown not simply in that prognathous form characterizing various inferior races, and, to an extreme degree, the Akka, but it is shown also in races otherwise characterized: even ancient British skulls have relatively-massive jaws. That this trait is connected with the eating of coarse food, hard, tough, and often uncooked, and perhaps also with the greater use of the teeth in place of tools, as we see our own boys use them, is fairly inferable. Diminution of function has brought diminution of size, both of the jaws and of the attached muscles. Whence, too, as a remoter sequence, that diminution of the zygomatic arches through which these muscles pass: producing an additional difference of outline in the civilized face.

These changes are noteworthy as illustrating, unmistakably, the reaction which social development, with all the [I-46] appliances it brings, has on the structure of the social unit. And recognizing the externally-visible changes arising from this cause, we can the less doubt the occurrence of internal changes, as of brain, arising from the same cause.

§ 26. One further morphological trait may be dealt with in immediate connexion with physiological traits. I refer to the size of the digestive organs.

Here we have little beyond indirect evidence. In the absence of some conspicuous modification of figure caused by large stomach and intestines, this character is one not likely to have been noticed by travellers. Still, we have some facts to the point. The Kamschadales are described as having “a hanging belly, slender legs and arms.” Of the Bushmen, Barrow writes, “their bellies are uncommonly protuberant.” Schweinfurth speaks of the “large, bloated belly and short, bandy legs” of the Akka; and elsewhere, describing the structure of this degraded type of man, he says—“The superior region of the chest is flat, and much contracted, but it widens out below to support the huge hanging belly.” Indirect evidence is supplied by the young, alike of civilized and savage peoples. Doubtless, the relatively-large abdomen in the child of the civilized man, is in the main an embryonic trait. But as the children of inferior races are more distinguished in this way than our own children, we get indirect reason for thinking that the less-developed man was thus distinguished from the more-developed. Schweinfurth refers to the children of the African Arabs as like the Akka in this respect. Describing the Veddahs, Tennant mentions the protuberant stomachs of the children. Galton says of the Damara children, that “all have dreadfully swelled stomachs.” And from Dr. Hooker I learn that the like trait holds throughout Bengal.

The possession of a relatively-larger alimentary system is, indeed, a character of the lowest races inferable from their immense capacities for containing and digesting food. [I-47] Wrangel says each of the Yakuts ate in a day six times as many fish as he could eat. Cochrane describes a five-year-old child of this race as devouring three candles, several pounds of sour frozen butter, and a large piece of yellow soap; and adds—“I have repeatedly seen a Yakut, or a Tongouse, devour forty pounds of meat in a day.” Of the Comanches, Schoolcraft says—“After long abstinence they eat voraciously, and without apparent inconvenience.” Thompson remarks that the Bushmen have “powers of stomach similar to the beasts of prey, both in voracity and in supporting hunger.” And no less clear is the implication of the stories of gluttony told by Captain Lyon about the Esquimaux, and by Sir G. Grey about the Australians.

Such traits are necessary. A digestive apparatus large enough for a European, feeding at short and regular intervals, would not be large enough for a savage whose meals, sometimes scanty, sometimes abundant, follow one another, now quickly, and now after the lapse of days. A man who depends on the chances of the chase, will profit by the ability to digest a great quantity when it is obtainable, to compensate for intervals of semi-starvation. A stomach able to deal only with a moderate meal, must leave its possessor at a disadvantage in comparison with one whose stomach is able, by immense meals, to make up for many meals missed. Beyond the need hence arising for a large alimentary system, there is the need arising from the low quality of the food. Wild fruits, nuts, roots, shoots, etc., must be eaten in great masses to yield the required supplies of nitrogenous compounds, fats, and carbo-hydrates; and of animal food, the insects, larvæ, worms, vermin, consumed in default of larger prey, contain much useless matter. Indeed, the worn teeth of savages suffice of themselves to prove that much indigestible matter is masticated and swallowed. Hence, such an abdominal development as the Akka show in a degree almost ape-like, is a trait of primitive man necessitated by primitive conditions.


Just noting that some waste of force results from carrying about relatively-larger stomach and intestines, let us observe, chiefly, the physiological effects accompanying such a structure adapted to such circumstances. At times when enormous meals have to be digested, repletion must produce inertness; and at times when, from lack of food, the energies flag, there can be none to spare for any activities save those prompted by hunger. Clearly, the irregular feeding entailed on the primitive man, prevents continuous labour: so hindering, in yet another way, the actions required to lead him out of his primitive state.

§ 27. There is evidence that, apart from stature and apart even from muscular development, the uncivilized man is less powerful than the civilized man. He is unable to expend suddenly as great an amount of force, and he is unable to continue the expenditure of force for so long a time.

Of the Tasmanians, now no longer existing, Péron said that, though they were vigorous-looking, the dynamometer proved them to be inferior in strength. Their allies by race, the Papuans, “although well made,” are described as being “our inferiors in muscular power.” Respecting the aborigines of India, the evidence is not quite consistent. Mason asserts of other Hill-tribes, as of the Karens, that their strength soon flags; while Stewart describes the Kookie boys as very enduring: the anomaly being, as we shall presently see, possibly due to the fact that he did not test their endurance over successive days. While saying that the Damaras have “immense muscular development,” Galton says—“I never found one who was anything like a match for the average of my own men” in trials of strength; and Andersson makes a like remark. Galton further observes that “in a long, steady journey the savages [Damaras] quickly knock up unless they adopt some of our usages.” Similarly with American races. King found the Esquimaux [I-49] relatively weak; and Burton remarks of the Dakotahs that, “like all savages, they are deficient in corporeal strength.”

There are probably two causes for this contrast between savage and civilized—relative innutrition, and a relatively-smaller nervous system. The fact that a horse out at grass gains in bulk while losing his fitness for continued exertion, makes credible the statement that a savage may have fleshy limbs and be comparatively weak; and that his weakness may be still more marked when his muscles, fed by a blood of low quality, are, at the same time, small. Men in training find that it takes months to raise muscles to their highest powers, whether of sudden exertion or prolonged exertion. Whence we may infer that from food poor in kind and irregularly supplied, deficiency of strength, under both its forms, will result. The other cause, less obvious, is one which must not be overlooked. As was shown in the Principles of Psychology, Ch. I., it is the nervous system rather than the muscular system, which measures the force evolved. In all animals the initiator of motion, the nervous system varies in size partly as the quantity of motion generated and partly as the complexity of that motion. On remembering the failure of muscular power which comes along with flagging emotions, or desires lapsing into indifference, and, contrariwise, the immense power given by intense passion, we shall see how immediate is the dependence of strength upon feeling. And, seeing this, we shall understand why, other things equal, the savage with a smaller brain, generating less feeling, is not so strong.

§ 28. Among the physiological traits which distinguish man in his primitive state from man in his advanced state, we may, with certainty, set down relative hardiness. Contrast the trial of constitution which child-bearing brings on the civilized woman, with that which it brings on the savage woman. Ask what would happen to both mother and child, [I-50] under the conditions of savage life, had they no greater toughness of physique than is possessed by the civilized mother and child. Both the existence of this trait and its necessity will then be obvious.

Survival of the fittest must ever have tended to produce and maintain a constitution capable of enduring the pains, hardships, injuries, necessarily accompanying a life at the mercy of surrounding actions. The Fuegian who quietly lets the falling sleet melt on his naked body, must be the product of a discipline which has killed off all who were not extremely tenacious of life. When we read that the Yakuts, who from their ability to bear cold are called “iron men,” sometimes sleep “completely exposed to the heavens, with scarcely any clothing on, and their bodies covered with a thick coat of rime,” we must infer that their adaptation to the severities of their climate has resulted from the habitual destruction of all but the most resisting. Similarly with respect to another detrimental influence. Mr. Hodgson remarks that a “capacity to breathe malaria as though it were common air, characterizes nearly all the Tamulian aborigines of India;” and the ability of some Negro-races to live in pestilential regions, shows that elsewhere there has been produced a power to withstand deleterious vapours. So, too, is it with the bearing of bodily injuries. The recuperative powers of the Australians, and of other low races, are notorious. Wounds which would be fatal to Europeans they readily recover from.

Whether this gain entails loss in other directions, we have no direct evidence. It is known that the hardier breeds of domestic animals are smaller than the less hardy breeds; and it may be that a human body adapted to extreme perturbations, gains its adaptation at the expense, perhaps of size, perhaps of energy. And if so, this fitness for primitive conditions entails yet a further impediment to the establishment of higher conditions.


§ 29. A closely-related physiological trait must be added. Along with this greater ability to bear injurious actions, there is a comparative indifference to the disagreeable or painful sensations those actions cause; or rather, the sensations they cause are not so acute. According to Lichtenstein, the Bushmen do not “appear to have any feeling of even the most striking changes in the temperature of the atmosphere.” Gardiner says the Zulus “are perfect salamanders”—arranging the burning faggots with their feet, and dipping their hands into the boiling contents of cooking-vessels. The Abipones, again, are “extremely tolerant of the inclemencies of the sky.” So is it with the feelings caused by bodily injuries. Many travellers express surprise at the calmness with which men of inferior types undergo serious operations. Evidently the sufferings produced are much less than would be produced in men of higher types.

Here we have a further characteristic which might have been inferred à priori. Pain of every kind, down even to the irritation produced by discomfort, entails physiological waste of a detrimental kind. No less certain than the fact that continued agony is followed by exhaustion, which in feeble persons may be fatal, is the fact that minor sufferings, including the disagreeable sensations caused by cold and hunger, undermine the energies, and may, when the vital balance is difficult to maintain, destroy it. Among primitive races the most callous must have had the advantage when irremediable evils had to be borne; and thus relative callousness must have been made, by survival of the fittest, constitutional.

This physiological trait of primitive man has a meaning for us. Positive and negative discomforts—the sufferings which come from over-excited nerves, and the cravings originated by parts of the nervous system debarred from their normal actions—being the stimuli to exertion, it results that the constitutionally callous are less readily spurred into [I-52] activity. A physical evil which prompts a relatively-sensitive man to provide a remedy, leaves a relatively-insensitive man almost or quite inert: either he submits passively, or he is content with some make-shift remedy.

So that beyond positive obstacles to advance, there exists at the outset this negative obstacle, that the feelings which prompt efforts and cause improvements are weak.

§ 30. As preliminary to the summing up of these physical characters, I must name a most general one—early arrival at maturity. Other things equal, the less evolved types of organisms take shorter times to reach their complete forms than do the more evolved; and this contrast, conspicuous between men and most inferior creatures, is perceptible among varieties of men. There is reason for associating this difference with the difference in cerebral development. The greater costliness of the larger brain, which so long delays human maturity as compared with mammalian maturity generally, delays also the maturity of the civilized as compared with that of the savage. Causation apart, however, the fact is that (climate and other conditions being equal) the inferior races reach puberty sooner than the superior races. Everywhere the remark is made that the women early bloom and early fade; and a corresponding trait of course holds in the men. This completion of growth and structure in a shorter period, implies less plasticity of nature: the rigidity of adult life sooner makes modification difficult. This trait has noteworthy consequences: one being that it tends to increase those obstacles to progress arising from the characters above described; which, on now re-enumerating them, we shall see are already great.

If the primitive man was on the average less than man as we now know him, there must have existed, during early stages when also the groups of men were small and their weapons ineffective, far greater difficulties than afterwards in dealing with the larger animals, both enemies and prey. [I-53] Inferiority of the lower limbs, alike in size and structure, must also have made primitive men less able to cope with powerful and swift creatures; whether they had to be escaped from or mastered. His larger alimentary system, adapted to an irregular supply of food, mostly inferior in quality, dirty, and uncooked, besides entailing mechanical loss, gave to the primitive man only an irregular supply of nervous power, smaller in average amount than that which follows good feeding. Constitutional callousness, even of itself adverse to progress, must, when coexisting with this lack of persistent energy, have hindered still further any change for the better. So that in three ways the impediments due to physical constitution were at first greater than afterwards. By his structure man was not so well fitted for dealing with his difficulties; the energies required for overcoming them were smaller as well as more irregular in flow; and he was less sensitive to the evils he had to bear. At the time when his environment was entirely unsubjugated, he was least able and least anxious to subjugate it. While the resistances to progress were greatest, the ability to overcome them and the stimulus to overcome them were smallest.






§ 31. A measure of evolution in living things, is the degree of correspondence between changes in the organism and coexistences and sequences in the environment. In the Principles of Psychology (§§ 139—176), it was shown that mental development is “an adjustment of inner to outer relations that gradually extends in Space and Time, that becomes increasingly special and complex, and that has its elements ever more precisely co-ordinated and more completely integrated.” Though in that place chiefly exemplified as the law of intellectual progress, this is equally the law of emotional progress. The emotions are compounded out of simple feelings, or rather, out of the ideas of them; the higher emotions are compounded out of the lower emotions; and thus there is progressing integration. For the same reason there is progressing complexity: each larger aggregate of ideal feelings contains more varied, as well as more numerous, clusters of components. Extension of the correspondence in Space, too, though less manifest, is visible: witness the difference between the proprietary feeling in the savage, responding only to a few adjacent objects—food, weapons, decorations, place of shelter—and the proprietary feeling in the civilized man, who owns land in Canada, shares in an Australian mine, Egyptian stock, and mortgage-bonds on an Indian railway. And that a kindred extension of the correspondence in Time occurs, will be [I-55] manifest on remembering how, in ourselves, the sentiment of possession prompts acts of which the fruition can come only after many years, and is even gratified by an ideal power over bequeathed property.

As was pointed out in a later division of the Principles of Psychology (§§ 479—483), a more special measure of mental development is the degree of representativeness in the states of consciousness. Cognitions and feelings were both classified in the ascending order of presentative, presentative-representative, representative, and re-representative. It was shown that this more special standard harmonizes with the more general standard; since higher representativeness is implied by the more extensive integrations of ideas, by the increased definiteness with which ideas are formed, by the greater complexity of the integrated groups, as well as by the greater heterogeneity among their elements; and here it may be added that higher representativeness is also shown by the wider range in Space and in Time reached by the representations.

There is a further measure which may be serviceably used along with the other two. In the Principles of Psychology, § 253, we saw that—

“Mental evolution, both intellectual and emotional, may be measured by the degree of remoteness from primitive reflex action. The formation of sudden, irreversible conclusions on the slenderest evidence, is less distant from reflex action than is the formation of deliberate and modifiable conclusions after much evidence has been collected. And similarly, the quick passage of simple emotions into the particular kinds of conduct they prompt, is less distant from reflex action than is the comparatively-hesitating passage of compound emotions into kinds of conduct determined by the joint instigation of their components.”

Here, then, are our guides in studying the emotional nature of primitive man. Being less evolved, we must expect to find him deficient in those complex emotions which respond to multitudinous and remote probabilities and contingencies. His consciousness differs from that of the civilized [I-56] man, by consisting more of sensations and the simple representative feelings directly associated with them, and less of the involved representative feelings. And the relatively-simple emotional consciousness thus characterized, we may expect to be consequently characterized by more of that irregularity which results when each desire as it arises discharges itself in action before counter-desires have been awakened.

§ 32. On turning from these deductions to examine the facts with a view to induction, we meet difficulties like those met in the last chapter. As in size and structure, the inferior races differ from one another enough to produce some indefiniteness in our conception of the primitive man—physical; so in their passions and sentiments, the inferior races present contrasts which obscure the essential traits of the primitive man—emotional.

This last difficulty, like the first, is indeed one that might have been anticipated. Widely-contrasted habitats, entailing widely-unlike modes of life, have necessarily caused emotional specialization as well as physical specialization. Further, the inferior varieties of men have been made to differ by the degrees and durations of social discipline they have been subject to. Referring to such unlikenesses, Mr. Wallace remarks that “there is, in fact, almost as much difference between the various races of savage as of civilized peoples.”

To conceive the primitive man, therefore, as he existed when social aggregation commenced, we must generalize as well as we can this entangled and partially-conflicting evidence: led mainly by the traits common to the very lowest, and finding what guidance we may in the à priori conclusions set down above.

§ 33. The fundamental trait of impulsiveness is not everywhere conspicuous. Taken in the mass, the aborigines [I-57] of the New World seem impassive in comparison with those of the Old World: some of them, indeed, exceeding the civilized peoples of Europe in ability to control their emotions. The Dakotahs suffer with patience both physical and moral pains. The Creeks display “phlegmatic coldness and indifference.” According to Bernau, the Guiana Indian, though “strong in his affections, . . . is never seen to weep, but will bear the most excruciating pains and the loss of his dearest relations with apparent stoical insensibility;” and Humboldt speaks of his “resignation.” Wallace comments on “the apathy of the Indian, who scarcely ever exhibits any feelings of regret on parting or of pleasure on his return.” And that a character of this kind was widespread, seems implied by accounts of the ancient Mexicans, Peruvians, and peoples of Central America. Nevertheless, there are among these races traits of a contrary kind, more congruous with those of the uncivilized at large. Spite of their usually unimpassioned behaviour, the Dakotahs rise into frightful states of bloody fury when killing buffaloes; and among the phlegmatic Creeks, there are “very frequent suicides” caused by “trifling disappointments.” Some of the American indigenes, too, do not show this apathy; as, in the North, the Chinook Indian, who is said to be “a mere child, irritated by, and pleased with, a trifle;” and as, in the South, the Brazilian, of whom we read that “if a savage struck a foot against a stone, he raged over it, and bit it like a dog.” Such non-impulsiveness as exists in the American races, may possibly be due to constitutional inertness. Among ourselves, there are people whose equanimity results from want of vitality: being but half alive, the emotions roused in them by irritations have less than the usual intensities. That apathy thus caused may account for this peculiarity, seems, in South America, implied by the alleged sexual coldness.

Recognizing what anomaly there may be in these facts, we find, throughout the rest of the world, a general congruity. [I-58] Passing from North America to Asia, we come to the Kamschadales, who are “excitable, not to say (for men) hysterical. A light matter sent them mad, or made them commit suicide;” and we come to the Kirghiz, who are said to be “fickle and uncertain.” Turning to Southern Asiatics, we find Burton asserting of the Bedouin that his valour is “fitful and uncertain.” And while, of the Arabs, Denham remarks that “their common conversational intercourse appears to be a continual strife and quarrel,” Palgrave says they will “chaffer half a day about a penny, while they will throw away the worth of pounds on the first asker.” In Africa like traits occur. Premising that the East-African is, “like all other barbarians, a strange mixture of good and evil,” Burton describes him thus:—

“He is at once very good-tempered and hard-hearted, combative and cautious; kind at one moment, cruel, pitiless, and violent at another; sociable and unaffectionate; superstitious and grossly irreverent; brave and cowardly; servile and oppressive; obstinate, yet fickle and fond of change; with points of honour, but without a trace of honesty in word or deed; a lover of life, yet addicted to suicide; covetous and parsimonious, yet thoughtless and improvident.”

With the exception of the Bechuanas, the like is true of the races further south. Thus, in the Damara, the feeling of revenge is very transient—“gives way to admiration of the oppressor.” Burchell describes the Hottentots as passing from extreme laziness to extreme eagerness for action. And the Bushman is quick, generous, headstrong, vindictive—very noisy quarrels are of daily occurrence: father and son will attempt to kill each other. Of the scattered societies inhabiting the Eastern Archipelago, those in which the Malay-blood predominates, do not exhibit this trait. The Malagasy are said to have “passions never violently excited;” and the pure Malay is described as not demonstrative. The rest, however, have the ordinary variability. Among the Negritos, the Papuan is “impetuous, excitable noisy;” the Fijians have “emotions easily roused, but transient,” and “are extremely changeable in their disposition;” [I-59] the Andamanese “are all frightfully passionate and revengeful;” and of the Tasmanians we read that, “like all savages, they quickly changed from smiles to tears.” So, too, of the other lowest races: there are the Fuegians, who “have hasty tempers,” and “are loud and furious talkers;” there are the Australians, whose impulsiveness Haygarth implies by saying that the angry Australian jin exceeds the European scold, and that a man remarkable for haughtiness and reserve sobbed long when his nephew was taken from him. Bearing in mind that such non-impulsiveness as is shown by the Malays occurs in a partially-civilized race, and that the lowest races, as the Andamanese, Tasmanians, Fuegians, Australians, betray impulsiveness in a very decided manner; we may safely assert it to be a trait of primitive man. What the earliest character was, is well suggested by the following vivid description of a Bushman. Indicating his simian appearance, Lichtenstein continues:—

“What gives the more verity to such a comparison was the vivacity of his eyes, and the flexibility of his eyebrows, which he worked up and down with every change of countenance. Even his nostrils and the corners of his mouth, nay, his very ears, moved involuntarily, expressing his hasty transitions from eager desire to watchful distrust. . . . When a piece of meat was given him, and half-rising he stretched out a distrustful arm to take it, he snatched it hastily, and stuck it immediately into the fire, peering around with his little keen eyes, as if fearing that some one should take it away again:—all this was done with such looks and gestures, that anyone must have been ready to swear he had taken the example of them entirely from an ape.”

Evidence that early human nature differed from later human nature by having this extreme emotional variability, is yielded by the contrast between the child and the adult among ourselves. For on the hypothesis of evolution, the civilized man, passing through phases representing phases passed through by the race, will, early in life, betray this impulsiveness which the early race had. The saying that the savage has the mind of a child with the passions of a man (or, rather, has adult passions which act in a childish [I-60] manner) possesses a deeper meaning than appears. There is a relationship between the two natures such that, allowing for differences of kind and degree in the emotions, we may regard the co-ordination of them in the child as analogous to the co-ordination in the primitive man.

§ 34. The more special emotional traits are in large part dependent on, and further illustrative of, this general trait. This relative impulsiveness, this smaller departure from primitive reflex action, this lack of the re-representative emotions which hold the simpler ones in check, is accompanied by improvidence.

The Australians are “incapable of anything like persevering labour, the reward of which is in futurity;” the Hottentots are “the laziest people under the sun;” and with the Bushmen it is “always either a feast or a famine.” Passing to the indigenes of India, we read of the Todas that they are “indolent and slothful;” of the Bhils, that they have “a contempt and dislike to labour”—will half starve rather than work; of the Santals, that they have not “the unconquerable laziness of the very old Hill-tribes.” So, from Northern Asia, the Kirghiz may be taken as exemplifying idleness. In America, we have the fact that none of the aboriginal peoples, if uncoerced, show capacity for industry: in the North, cut off from his hunting life, the Indian, capable of no other, decays and disappears; and in the South, the tribes disciplined by the Jesuits lapsed into their original state, or a worse, when the stimuli and restraints ceased. All which facts are in part ascribable to inadequate consciousness of the future. Where, as in sundry Malayo-Polynesian societies, we find considerable industry, it goes along with a social state implying discipline throughout a long past. It is true that perseverance with a view to remote benefit occurs among savages. They bestow much time and pains on their weapons, etc.: six months to make as many arrows, a year in hollowing out a bowl, and many [I-61] years in drilling a hole through a stone. But in these cases little muscular effort is required, and the activity is thrown on perceptive faculties which are constitutionally active. [*]

A trait which naturally goes along with inability so to conceive the future as to be influenced by the conception, is a childish mirthfulness. Though sundry races of the New World, along with their general impassiveness, are little inclined to gaiety, and though among the Malay races and the Dyaks gravity is a characteristic, yet, generally, it is otherwise. Of the New Caledonians, Fijians, Tahitians, New Zealanders, we read that they are always laughing and joking. Throughout Africa the Negro has the same trait; and of other races, in other lands, the descriptions of various travellers are—“full of fun and merriment,” “full of life and spirits,” “merry and talkative,” “sky-larking in all ways,” “boisterous gaiety,” “laughing immoderately at trifles.” Even the Esquimaux, notwithstanding all their privations, are described as “a happy people.” We have but to remember how greatly anxiety about coming events moderates the spirits—we have but to contrast the lively but improvident Irishman with the grave but provident Scot—to see that there is a relation between these traits in the uncivilized man. Thoughtless absorption in the present causes at the same time these excesses of gaiety and this inattention to threatened evils.

Along with improvidence there goes, both as cause and consequence, an undeveloped proprietary sentiment. Under [I-62] his conditions it is impossible for the savage to have an extended consciousness of individual possession. Established, as the sentiment can be, only by experiences of the gratifications which possession brings, continued through successive generations, it cannot arise where the circumstances do not permit many such experiences. Beyond the few rude appliances ministering to bodily wants and decorations, the primitive man has nothing to accumulate. Where he has grown into a pastoral life, there arises a possibility of benefits from increased possessions: he profits by multiplying his flocks. Still, while he remains nomadic, it is difficult to supply his flocks with unfailing food when they are large, and he has increased losses from enemies and wild animals; so that the benefits of accumulation are kept within narrow limits. Only as the agricultural state is reached, and only as the tenure of land passes from the tribal form, through the family form, to the individual form, is there a widening of the sphere for the proprietary sentiment.

Distinguished by improvidence, and by deficiency of that desire to own which checks improvidence, the savage is thus debarred from experiences which develop this desire and diminish the improvidence.

§ 35. Let us turn now to those emotional traits which directly affect the formation of social groups. Varieties of mankind are social in different degrees; and, further, are here tolerant of restraint and there intolerant of it. Clearly, the proportions between these two characteristics must greatly affect social unions.

Describing the Mantras, indigenes of the Malay-peninsula, père Bourien says—“liberty seems to be to them a necessity of their very existence;” “every individual lives as if there were no other person in the world but himself;” they separate if they dispute. So is it with the wild men in the interior of Borneo, “who do not associate with each other;” and whose children, when “old enough to shift [I-63] for themselves, usually separate, neither one afterwards thinking of the other.” A nature of this kind shows its effects in the solitary families of the wood-Veddahs, or those of the Bushmen, whom Arbousset describes as “independent and poor beyond measure, as if they had sworn to remain always free and without possessions.” Of sundry races that remain in a low state, this trait is remarked; as of Brazilian Indians, who, tractable when quite young, begin to display “impatience of all restraint” at puberty; as of the Caribs, who are “impatient under the least infringement” of their independence. Among Indian Hill-tribes the savage Bhils have “a natural spirit of independence;” the Bodo and Dhimál “resist injunctions injudiciously urged, with dogged obstinacy;” and the Lepchas “undergo great privations rather than submit to oppression.” This trait we meet with again among some nomadic races. “A Bedouin,” says Burckhardt, “will not summit to any command, but readily yields to persuasion;” and he is said by Palgrave to have “a high appreciation of national and personal liberty.” That this moral trait is injurious during early stages of social progress, is in some cases observed by travellers, as by Earl, who says of the New Guinea people that their “impatience of control” precludes organization. Not, indeed, that absence of independence will of itself cause an opposite result. The Kamschadales exhibit “slavishness to people who use them hard,” and “contempt of those who treat them with gentleness;” and while the Damaras have “no independence,” they “court slavery: admiration and fear” being their only strong sentiments. A certain ratio between the feelings prompting obedience and prompting resistance, seems required. The Malays, who have evolved into several semi-civilized societies, are said to be submissive to authority; and yet each is “sensitive to . . . any interference with the personal liberty of himself or another.” Clearly, however, be the cause of subordination what it may, a relatively-subordinate nature [I-64] is everywhere shown by men composing social aggregates of considerable sizes. In such semi-civilized communities as tropical Africa contains, it is conspicuous; and it characterized the peoples who formed the extinct oriental nations, as also those who formed the extinct nations of the New World.

If, as among the Mantras above named, intolerance of restraint is joined with want of sociality, there is a double obstacle to social union: a cause of dispersion is not checked by a cause of aggregation. If, as among the Todas, a man will sit inactive for hours, “seeking no companionship,” he is under less temptation to tolerate restrictions than if solitude is unbearable. Clearly, the ferocious Fijian in whom, strange as it seems, “the sentiment of friendship is strongly developed,” is impelled by this sentiment, as well as by his extreme loyalty, to continue in a society in which despotism based on cannabalism is without check.

Induction thus sufficiently verifies the deduction that primitive men, who, before any arts of life were developed, necessarily lived on wild food, implying wide dispersion of small numbers, were, on the one hand, not much habituated to associated life, and were, on the other hand, habituated to that uncontrolled following of immediate desires which goes along with separateness. So that while the attractive force was small the repulsive force was great. Only as they were led into greater gregariousness by local conditions which furthered the maintenance of many persons on a small area, could there come that increase of sociality required to check unrestrained action. And here we see yet a further difficulty which stood in the way of social evolution at the outset.

§ 36. Led as we thus are from emotions of an exclusively egoistic kind to emotions which imply the presence of other individuals, let us take first the ego-altruistic. (Prin. of Psy., §§ 519—23.) Before there exist in considerable [I-65] degrees the sentiments which find satisfaction in the happiness of others, there exist in considerable degrees the sentiments which find satisfaction in the admiration given by others. Even animals show themselves gratified by applause after achievement; and in men the gregarious life early opens and enlarges this source of pleasure.

Great as is the vanity of the civilized, it is exceeded by that of the uncivilized. The red pigment and the sea-shells pierced for suspension, found with other traces of men in the Dordogne caves, prove that in that remote past when the rein-deer and the mammoth inhabited southern France, men drew to themselves admiring glances by colours and ornaments. Self-decoration occupies the savage chief even more than it does the fashionable lady among ourselves. The painting of the skin, about which so much trouble is taken before clothes are used, shows this. It is shown again by submission to prolonged and repeated tortures while being tattooed; and by tolerance of those pains and inconveniences which accompany the distension of the under-lip by a block of wood, the wearing of stones in holes made through the cheeks, or of quills through the nose. The strength of the desire to gain approbation is, in these cases, proved by the universality of the fashion in each tribe. When the age comes, there is no escape for the young savage from the ordained mutilation. Fear of the frowns and taunts of his fellows is so great that dissent is almost unknown.

It is thus, too, with the regulation of conduct. The precepts of the religion of enmity are, in early stages of social development, enforced mainly by the aid of this ego-altruistic sentiment. The duty of blood-revenge is made imperative by tribal opinion. Approval comes to the man who, having lost a relative, never ceases his pursuit of the supposed murderer; while scowls and gibes make intolerable the life of one who fails. Similarly with the fulfilment of various usages that have become established. In some uncivilized societies it is not uncommon for a man to ruin himself [I-66] by a funeral feast; and in some semi-civilized societies, one motive for killing a female infant is avoidance of the future cost of a marriage festival—a cost made great by the prevailing love of display.

This ego-altruistic sentiment, increasing in strength as social aggregation advances, is, during early stages, an important controlling agency; as, indeed, it continues still to be. Joined with sociality, it has ever been a power helping to bind together the units of each group, and tending to cultivate a conduct furthering the general welfare. Probably a kind of subordination was produced by it before there was any political subordination; and in some cases it secures social order even now. Mr. Wallace says:—

“I have lived with communities of savages in South America and in the East, who have no laws or law courts but the public opinion of the village freely expressed. Each man scrupulously respects the rights of his fellow, and any infraction of those rights rarely or never takes place. In such a community all are nearly equal.”

§ 37. Traits of the primitive nature due to presence or absence of the altruistic sentiments, remain to be glanced at. Having sympathy for their root, these must, on the hypothesis of evolution, develop in proportion as circumstances make sympathy active; that is—in proportion as they foster the domestic relations, in proportion as they conduce to sociality, and in proportion as they do not cultivate aggressiveness.

Evidence for and against this a priori inference is difficult to disentangle and to generalize. Many causes conspire to mislead us. We assume that there will be tolerably uniform manifestations of character in each race; but we are wrong. Both the individuals and the groups differ considerably; as in Australia, where one tribe “is decidedly quiet,” and another “decidedly disorderly.” We assume that the traits shown will be similar on successive occasions, which they are not: the behaviour to one traveller is unlike the behaviour to another; probably because their own behaviours are unlike. Commonly, too, the displays of character [I-67] by an aboriginal race revisited, depend on the treatment received from previous visitors: being changed from friendliness to enmity by painful experiences. Thus, of Australian travellers, it is remarked that the earlier speak more favourably of the natives than the later; and Earl says of the Java people, that those inhabiting parts little used by Europeans “are much superior in point of morality to the natives of the north coast,” whose intercourse with Europeans has been greater. When, led by his experiences in the Pacific, Erskine remarks, “nor is it at all beyond the range of probability that habits of honesty and decorum may yet be forced upon the foreign trader by those whom he has hitherto been accustomed to consider as the treacherous and irreclaimable savages of the sandal-wood islands;” when we learn that in Vate, the native name for a white man is a “sailing profligate;” and when we remember that worse names are justified by recent doings in those regions; we shall understand how conflicting statements about native characters may result.

Beyond the difficulty hence arising, is the difficulty arising from that primitive impulsiveness, which itself causes a variability perplexing to one who would form a conception of the average nature. As Livingstone says of the Makololo—“It would not be difficult to make these people appear excessively good or uncommonly bad;” and the inconsistent traits above quoted from Captain Burton, imply a parallel experience. Hence we have to strike an average among manifestations naturally chaotic, which are further distorted by the varying relations to those who witness them.

We may best guide ourselves by taking, first, not the altruistic sentiments, but the feeling which habitually co-operates with them—the parental instinct, the love of the helpless. (Prin. of Psy., § 532.) Of necessity the lowest human races, in common with inferior animals, have large endowments of this. Those only can survive in posterity in whom the love of offspring prompts due care of offspring; [I-68] and among the savage, the self-sacrifice required is as great as among the civilized. Hence the fondness for children which even the lowest of mankind display; though, with their habitual impulsiveness, they often join with it great cruelty. The Fuegians, described as “very fond” of their children, nevertheless sell them to the Patagonians for slaves. Great love of offspring is ascribed to the New Guinea people; and yet a man will “barter one or two” with a trader for something he wants. The Australians, credited by Eyre with strong parental affection, are said to desert sick children; and Angas asserts of them that on the Murray they sometimes kill a boy to bait their hooks with his fat. Though among the Tasmanians the parental instinct is described as strong, yet they practised infanticide; and though, among the Bushmen, the rearing of offspring under great difficulties implies much devotion, yet Moffat says they “kill their children without remorse on various occasions.” Omitting further proofs of parental love on the one hand, qualified on the other by examples of a violence which will slay a child for letting fall something it was carrying, we may safely say of the primitive man that his philoprogenitiveness is strong, but its action, like that of his emotions in general, irregular.

Keeping this in mind, we shall be aided in reconciling the conflicting accounts of his excessive egoism and his fellow feeling—his cruelty and his kindness. The Fuegians are affectionate towards each other; and yet in times of scarcity they kill the old women for food. Mouat, who describes the Andamanese as a merciless race, nevertheless says that the one he took to Calcutta had a “very kind and amiable character.” Many and extreme cruelties are proved against the Australians. Yet Eyre testifies to their kindness, their self-sacrifice, and even their chivalry. So, too, of the Bushmen. Lichtenstein thinks that in no savage is there “so high a degree of brutal ferocity;” but Moffat was “deeply affected by the sympathy of these poor Bushmen,” [I-69] and Burchell says that they show to each other “hospitality and generosity often in an extraordinary degree.” When we come to races higher in social state, the testimonies to good feeling are abundant. The New Caledonians are said to be “of a mild and good-natured temper;” the Tannese are “ready to do any service that lies in their power;” the New Guinea people are “good-natured,” “of a mild disposition.” Passing from Negritos to Malayo-Polynesians, we meet with like characteristics. The epithets applied to the Sandwich Islanders are “mild, docile;” to the Tahitians, “cheerful and good-natured;” to the Dyaks, “genial;” to the Sea-Dyaks, “sociable and amiable;” to the Javans, “mild,” “cheerful and good-humoured;” to the Malays of Northern Celebes, “quiet and gentle.” We have, indeed, in other cases, quite opposite descriptions. In the native Brazilians, revenge is said to be the predominant passion: a trapped animal they kill with little wounds that it may “suffer as much as possible.” A leading trait ascribed to the Fijians is “intense and vengeful malignity.” Galton condemns the Damaras as “worthless, thieving, and murderous,” and Andersson as “unmitigated scoundrels.” In some cases adjacent tribes show us these opposite natures; as among the aborigines of India. While the Bhils are reputed to be cruel, revengeful, and ready to play the assassin for a trifling recompense, the Nagas are described as “good-natured and honest;” the Bodo and Dhimál as “full of amiable qualities,” “honest and truthful,” “totally free from arrogance, revenge, cruelty;” and of the Lepcha, Dr. Hooker says his disposition is “amiable,” “peaceful and no brawler:” thus “contrasting strongly with his neighbours to the east and west.”

Manifestly, then, uncivilized man, if he has but little active benevolence, is not, as often supposed, distinguished by active malevolence. Indeed, a glance over the facts tends rather to show that while wanton cruelty is not common among the least civilized, it is common among the more [I-70] civilized. The sanguinary Fijians have reached a considerable social development. Burton says of the Fan that “cruelty seems to be with him a necessary of life;” and yet the Fans have advanced arts and appliances, and live in villages having, some of them, four thousand inhabitants. In Dahomey, where a large population considerably organized exists, the love for bloodshed leads to frequent horrible sacrifices; and the social system of the ancient Mexicans, rooted as it was in cannibalism, and yet highly evolved in many ways, shows us that it is not the lowest races which are the most inhuman.

Help in judging the moral nature of savages is furnished by the remark of Mr. Bates, that “the goodness of these Indians, like that of most others amongst whom I lived, consisted perhaps more in the absence of active bad qualities, than in the possession of good ones; in other words, it was negative rather than positive. . . . The good-fellowship of our Cucámas seemed to arise, not from warm sympathy, but simply from the absence of eager selfishness in small matters.” And we shall derive further help in reconciling what seem contradictory traits, by observing how the dog unites great affectionateness, sociality, and even sympathy, with habitual egoism and bursts of ferocity—how he passes readily from playful friendliness to fighting, and while at one time robbing a fellow dog of his food will at another succour him in distress.

One kind of evidence, however, there is which amid all these conflicting testimonies, affords tolerably-safe guidance. The habitual behaviour to women among any people, indicates with approximate truth, the average power of the altruistic sentiments; and the indication thus yielded tells against the character of the primitive man. The actions of the stronger sex to the weaker among the uncivilized are frequently brutal; and even at best the conduct is unsympathetic. That slavery of women, often joined with cruelty to them, should be normal among savages, accepted as right [I-71] not by men only but by women themselves, proves that whatever occasional displays of altruism there may be, the ordinary flow of altruistic feeling is small.

§ 38. A summary of these leading emotional traits must be prefaced by one which affects all the others—the fixity of habit: a trait connected with that of early arrival at maturity, added at the close of the last chapter. The primitive man is conservative in an extreme degree. Even on contrasting higher races with one another, and even on contrasting different classes in the same society, it is observable that the least developed are the most averse to change. Among the common people an improved method is difficult to introduce; and even a new kind of food is usually disliked. The uncivilized man is thus characterized in yet a greater degree. His simpler nervous system, sooner losing its plasticity, is still less able to take on a modified mode of action. Hence both an unconscious adhesion, and an avowed adhesion, to that which is established. “Because same ting do for my father, same ting do for me,” say the Houssa negroes. The Creek Indians laughed at those who suggested that they should “alter their long-established customs and habits of living.” Of some Africans Livingstone says—“I often presented my friends with iron spoons, and it was curious to observe how the habit of hand-eating prevailed, though they were delighted with the spoons. They lifted out a little [milk] with the utensil, then put it on the left hand, and ate it out of that.” How this tendency leads to unchangeable social usuages, is well shown by the Dyaks; who, as Mr. Tylor says, “marked their disgust at the innovation by levying a fine on any of their own people who should be caught chopping in the European fashion.”

Recapitulating the emotional traits, severally made more marked by this relative fixity of habit, we have first to note the impulsiveness which, pervading the conduct of primitive [I-72] men, so greatly impedes co-operation. That “wavering and inconstant disposition,” which commonly makes it “impossible to put any dependence on their promises,” negatives that mutual trust required for social progress. Governed as he is by despotic emotions that successively depose one another, instead of by a council of the emotions shared in by all, the primitive man has an explosive, chaotic, incalculable behaviour, which makes combined action very difficult. One of the more special traits, partly resulting from this general trait, is his improvidence. Immediate desire, be it for personal gratification or for the applause which generosity brings, excludes fear of future evils; while pains and pleasures to come, not being vividly conceived, give no adequate spur to exertion: leaving a light-hearted, careless absorption in the present. Sociality, strong in the civilized man, is less strong in the savage man. Among the lowest types the groups are small, and the bonds holding their units together are relatively feeble. Along with a tendency to disruption produced by the ill-controlled passions of the individuals, there goes comparatively little of the sentiment causing cohesion. So that, among men carried from one extreme to another by gusts of feeling—men often made very irritable by hunger, which, as Livingstone remarks, “has a powerful effect on the temper”—there exists at once a smaller tendency to cohere from mutual liking, and a greater tendency to resist an authority otherwise causing cohesion. Though, before there is much sociality, there cannot be much love of approbation; yet, with a moderate progress in social grouping, there develops this simplest of the higher sentiments. The great and immediate benefits brought by the approval of fellow-savages, and the serious evils following their anger or contempt, are experiences which foster this ego-altruistic sentiment into predominance. And by it some subordination to tribal opinion is secured, and some consequent regulation of conduct, even before there arises a rudiment of [I-73] political control. In social groups once permanently formed, the bond of union—here love of society, there obedience caused by awe of power, elsewhere a dread of penalties, and in most places a combination of these—may go along with a very variable amount of altruistic feeling. Though sociality fosters sympathy, yet the daily doings of the primitive man repress sympathy. Active fellow-feeling, ever awake and ever holding egoism in check, does not characterize him; as we see conclusively shown by the treatment of women. And that highest form of altruistic sentiment distinguished by us as a sense of justice, is very little developed.

These emotional traits harmonize with those which we anticipated—a less extended and less varied correspondence with the environment, less representativeness, less remoteness from reflex action. The cardinal trait of impulsiveness implies the sudden, or approximately-reflex, passing of a single passion into the conduct it prompts; implies, by the absence of opposing feelings, that the consciousness is formed of fewer representations; and implies that the adjustment of internal actions to external actions does not take account of consequences so distant in space and time. So with the accompanying improvidence: desire goes at once to gratification; there is feeble imagination of secondary results; remote needs are not met. The love of approbation which grows as gregariousness increases, involves increased representativeness: instead of immediate results it contemplates results a stage further off; instead of actions prompted by single desires, there come actions checked and modified by secondary desires. But though the emotional nature in which this ego-altruistic sentiment becomes dominant, is made by its presence less reflex, more representative, and is adjusted to wider and more varied requirements, it is still, in these respects, below that developed emotional nature of the civilized man, marked by activity of the altruistic sentiments. Lacking these, the primitive man lacks the benevolence [I-74] which adjusts conduct for the benefit of others distant in space and time, the equity which implies representation of highly complex and abstract relations among human actions, the sense of duty which curbs selfishness when there are none present to applaud.






§ 39. The three measures of mental evolution which, in the last chapter, helped us to delineate the emotional nature of the primitive man, will, in this chapter, help us to delineate his intellectual nature. And further to aid ourselves we must recall, in connexion with these measures, those traits of thought which, in the Principles of Psychology (§§ 484—93), were shown to characterize a lower evolution as compared with a higher.

Conceptions of general facts being derived from experiences of particular facts and coming later, are deficient in the primitive man. Consciousness of a general truth implies more heterogeneous correspondence than does consciousness of any included particular truth; it implies higher representativeness, since it colligates more numerous and varied ideas; and it is more remote from reflex action—will not, indeed, of itself, excite action at all. Having no records, man, in his uncivilized state, cannot recognize long sequences. Hence prevision of distant results, such as is possible in a settled society having measures and written language, is impossible to him: correspondence in time comes within narrow limits. The representations include few successions of phenomena, and these not comprehensive ones. And there is but a moderate departure from the reflex life in which stimulus and act stand in immediate connexion. Ignorant of localities outside his own, the [I-76] associations of ideas the primitive man forms are little liable to be changed. As experiences (multiplying in number, gathered from a wider area, and added to by those which other men record) become more heterogeneous, the narrow notions first framed are shaken and made more plastic—there comes greater modifiability of belief. In his relative rigidity of belief we see a smaller correspondence with an environment containing adverse facts; less of that representativeness which simultaneously grasps and averages much evidence; and a smaller divergence from those lowest actions in which impressions cause, irresistibly, the appropriate motions. Conditioned as he is, the savage lacks abstract ideas. Drawn from many concrete ideas, an abstract idea becomes detachable from them only as fast as their variety leads to mutual cancellings of differences, and leaves outstanding that which they have in common. This implies growth of the correspondence in range and heterogeneity; wider representation of the concretes whence the idea is abstracted; and greater remoteness from reflex action. Such abstract ideas as those of property and cause, belong to a still higher stage. For only after many special properties and many special causes have been abstracted, can there arise the re-abstracted ideas of property in general and cause in general. The conception of uniformity in the order of phenomena, develops simultaneously. Only along with the use of measures does there grow up the means of ascertaining uniformity; and only after a great accumulation of measured results does the idea of law become possible. Here, again, the indices of mental evolution serve. The conception of natural order presupposes an advanced correspondence; it involves re-representativeness in a high degree; and the implied divergence from reflex action is extreme. Until the notion of uniformity has developed along with the use of measures, thought cannot have much definiteness. In primitive life, there is little to yield the idea of agreement; and so long [I-77] as there are few experiences of exact equality between objects, or perfect conformity between statements and facts, or complete fulfilment of anticipations by results, the notion of truth cannot become clear. Once more our general tests answer. The conception of truth, being the conception of correspondence between Thoughts and Things, implies advance of that correspondence; it involves representations which are higher, as being better adjusted to realities; and its growth causes a decrease of the primitive credulity allied to reflex action—allied, since it shows us single suggestions producing sudden beliefs which forthwith issue in conduct. Add that only as this conception of truth advances, and therefore the correlative conception of untruth, can scepticism and criticism grow common. Lastly, such imagination as the primitive man has, small in range and heterogeneity, is reminiscent only, not constructive. An imagination which invents, shows extension of the correspondence from the region of the actual into that of the potential; implies a representativeness not limited to combinations which have been, or are, in the environment, but including non-existing combinations thereafter made to exist; and exhibits the greatest remoteness from reflex action, since the stimulus issuing in movement is unlike any that ever before acted.

And now, having enumerated these leading traits of intellectual evolution in its latter stages, as deduced from psychological principles, we are prepared to observe the significance of the facts as described by travellers.

§ 40. Testimonies to the acute senses and quick perceptions of the uncivilized, are given by nearly everyone who describes them.

Lichtenstein says the vision of the Bushman is telescopic; and Barrow speaks of his “keen eye always in motion.” Of Asiatics may be named the Karens, who see as far with naked eyes as we do with opera-glasses; and the inhabitants [I-78] of the Siberian steppes are celebrated for their “distant and perfect sight.” Of the Brazilians, Herndon writes—“The Indians have very keen senses, and see and hear things that are inaudible and invisible to us;” and the like is remarked of the Tupis. The Abipones, “like apes, are always in motion;” and Dobrizhoffer asserts that they discern things which escape “the most quick-sighted European.” Respecting hearing, too, there is similar, if less abundant, evidence. All have read of the feats of North American Indians in detecting faint sounds; and the acute hearing of the Veddahs is shown by their habit of finding bees’ nests by the hum.

Still more abundant are the testimonies respecting their active and minute observation. “Excellent superficial observers,” is the characterization Palgrave gives of the Bedouins. Burton refers to the “high organization of the perceptive faculties” among them; and Petherick proved, by a test, their marvellous powers of tracking. In South Africa the Hottentots show astonishing quickness “in everything relating to cattle;” and Galton says the Damaras “have a wonderful faculty of recollecting any ox that they have once seen.” It is the same in America. Burton, speaking of the Prairie Indians, comments on the “development of the perceptions which is produced by the constant and minute observations of a limited number of objects.” Instances are given showing what exact topographers the Chippewayans are; and the like is alleged of the Dakotahs. Bates notices the extraordinary “sense of locality” of the Brazilian Indians. Concerning the Arawaks, Hillhouse says—“Where an European can discover no indication whatever, an Indian will point out the footsteps of any number of negroes, and will state the precise day on which they have passed; and if on the same day he will state the hour.” A member of a Guiana tribe “will tell how many men, women, and children have passed, where a stranger could only see faint and confused marks on the path.” [I-79] “Here passes one who does not belong to our village,” said a native of Guiana searching for tracks; and Schomburgh adds that their power “borders on the magical.”

Along with this acuteness of perception there naturally goes great skill in those actions depending on immediate guidance of perception. The Esquimaux show great dexterity in all manual works. Kolben asserts that the Hottentots are very dexterous in the use of their weapons. Of the Fuegians it is said that “their dexterity with the sling is extraordinary.” The skill of the Andamanese is shown in their unerring shots with arrows at forty or fifty yards. Tongans “are great adepts in managing their canoes.” The accuracy with which an Australian propels a spear with his throwing-stick, is remarkable; while all have heard of his feats with the boomerang. And from the Hill-tribes of India, the Santals may be singled out as so “very expert with the bow and arrow” that they kill birds on the wing, and knock over hares at full speed.

Recognizing some exceptions to this expertness, as among the now-extinct Tasmanians and the Veddahs of Ceylon; and observing that survival of the fittest must ever have tended to establish these traits among men whose lives from hour to hour depended on their keen senses, quick observations, and efficient uses of their weapons; we have here to note this trait as significant in its implications. For in virtue of a general antagonism between the activities of simple faculties and the activities of complex faculties, this dominance of the lower intellectual life hinders the higher intellectual life. In proportion as the mental energies go out in restless perception, they cannot go out in deliberate thought. This truth we will contemplate from another point of view.

§ 41. Not having special senses by which to discriminate, the worm swallows bodily the mould containing vegetal matter partially decayed: leaving its alimentary canal to [I-80] absorb what nutriment it can, and to eject, in the shape of worm-cast, the 95 per cent. or so that is innutritive. Conversely, the higher annulose creature, with special senses, as the bee, selects from plants concentrated nutritive matters wherewith to feed its larvæ, or, as the spider, sucks the ready-prepared juices from the flies it entraps. The progress from the less intelligent to the more intelligent and the most intelligent among the Vertebrata, is similarly accompanied by increasing ability in the selection of food. By herbivorous mammals the comparatively innutritive parts of plants have to be devoured in great quantities, that the requisite amounts of nutriment may be obtained; while carnivorous animals, which are mostly more sagacious, live on concentrated foods of which small quantities suffice. Though the monkey and the elephant are not carnivorous, yet both have powers which, certainly by the one and probably by the other, are used in choosing the nutritive parts of plants when these are to be had. Coming to mankind, we observe that the diet is of the most concentrated kind obtainable; but that the uncivilized man is less choice in his diet than the civilized. And then among the highly civilized the most nutritive food is carefully separated from the rest: even to the extent that at table fragments of inferior quality are uneaten.

My purpose in naming these seemingly-irrelevant contrasts, is to point out the analogy between progress in bodily nutrition and progress in mental nutrition. The psychically higher, like the physically higher, have greater powers of selecting materials fit for assimilation. Just as by appearance, texture, and odour, the superior animal is guided in choosing food, and swallows only things which contain much organizable matter; so the superior mind, aided by what we may figuratively call intellectual scent, passes by multitudes of unorganizable facts, but quickly detects facts full of significance, and takes them in as materials out of which cardinal truths may be elaborated. The less-developed intelligences, [I-81] unable to decompose these more complex facts and assimilate their components, and having therefore no appetites for them, devour with avidity facts which are mostly valueless; and out of the vast mass absorb very little that helps to form general conceptions. Concentrated diet furnished by the experiments of the physicist, the investigations of the political economist, the analyses of the psychologist, is intolerable to them, indigestible by them; but instead, they swallow with greediness the trivial details of table-talk, the personalities of fashionable life, the garbage of the police and divorce courts; while their reading, in addition to trashy novels, includes memoirs of mediocrities, volumes of gossiping correspondence, with an occasional history, from which they carry away a few facts about battles and the doings of conspicuous men. By such minds, this kind of intellectual provender is alone available; and to feed them on a higher kind would be as impracticable as to feed a cow on meat.

Suppose this contrast exaggerated—suppose the descent from the higher to the lower intellects among ourselves, to be continued by a second descent of like kind, and we get to the intellect of the primitive man. A still greater attention to meaningless details, and a still smaller ability to select facts from which conclusions may be drawn, characterize the savage. Multitudes of simple observations are incessantly made by him; but such few as have significance, lost in the mass of insignificant ones, pass through his mind without leaving behind any data for thoughts, worthy to be so called. Already in a foregoing section, the extreme perceptive activity of the lowest races has been illustrated; and here may be added a few illustrations showing the reflective inactivity going along with it. Of the Brazilian Indian Mr. Bates remarks—“I believe he thinks of nothing except the matters that immediately concern his daily material wants.” “He observes well, but he can deduce nothing profitable from his perceptions,” says Burton, describing the East [I-82] African; and he adds that the African’s mind “will not, and apparently cannot, escape from the circle of sense, nor will it occupy itself with aught but the present.” Still more definite testimony is there respecting the Damara, “who never generalizes.” Mr. Galton states that one “who knew the road perfectly from A to B and again from B to C would have no idea of a straight cut from A to C: he has no map of the country in his mind, but an infinity of local details.” Even the Bedouin, as Mr. Palgrave remarks, “judges of things as he sees them present before him, not in their causes or consequences.” Some semi-civilized peoples, as the Tahitians, Sandwich-Islanders, Javans, Sumatrans, Malagasy, do, indeed, manifest “quickness of apprehension, . . . penetration and sagacity.” But it is in respect of simple things that their powers are shown; as witness the assertion of Mr. Ellis concerning the Malagasy, that “facts, anecdotes, occurrences, metaphors, or fables, relating to or derived from sensible and visible objects, appear to form the basis of most of their mental exercises.” And how general is this trait of unreflectiveness among inferior races, is implied by Dr. Pickering’s statement that, in the course of much travel, the Fijians were the only savage people he had met with who could give reasons, and with whom it was possible to hold a connected conversation.

§ 42. “The eccentricity of genius” is a current phrase implying the experience that men of original powers are prone to act in ways unlike ordinary ways. To do what the world does, is to guide behaviour by imitation. Deviating from ordinary usages is declining to imitate. And the noticeable fact is that a smaller tendency to imitate goes along with a greater tendency to evolve new ideas. Under its converse aspect we may trace this relationship back through early stages of civilization. There was but little originality in the middle ages; and there was but little tendency to deviate from the modes of living established for [I-83] the various ranks. Still more was it so in the extinct societies of the East. Ideas were fixed; and prescription was irresistible.

Among the partially-civilized races, we find imitativeness a marked trait. Everyone has heard of the ways in which Negroes, when they have opportunities, dress and swagger in grotesque mimicry of the whites. A characteristic of the New Zealanders is an aptitude for imitation. The Dyaks, too, show “love of imitation;” and of other Malayo-Polynesians the like is alleged. Mason says that “while the Karens originate nothing they show as great a capability to imitate as the Chinese.” We read that the Kamschadales have a “peculiar talent of mimicking men and animals;” that the Nootka-Sound people “are very ingenious in imitating;” that the Mountain Snake Indians imitate animal sounds “to the utmost perfection.” South America yields like evidence. Herndon was astonished at the mimetic powers of the Brazilian Indians. Wilkes speaks of the Patagonians as “admirable mimics.” And Dobrizhoffer joins with his remark that the Guaranis can imitate exactly, the further remark that they bungle stupidly if you leave anything to their intelligence. But it is among the lowest races that proneness to mimicry is most conspicuous. Several travellers have commented on the “extraordinary tendency to imitate” shown by the Fuegians. They will repeat with perfect correctness each word in any sentence addressed to them—mimicking the manner and attitude of the speaker. So, too, according to Mouat, the Andamanese show high imitative powers; and, like the Fuegians, repeat a question instead of answering it. Sturt gives a kindred account of the South Australians, who, he says, “evinced a strange perversity” “in repeating words” which “they knew were meant as questions.”

In this imitativeness, shown least by the highest members of civilized races and most by the lowest savages, we see again the antagonism between perceptive activity and [I-84] reflective activity. Among inferior gregarious creatures, as rooks that rise in a flock when one rises, or as sheep that follow a leader in leaping, we see an almost automatic repetition of actions witnessed in others; and this peculiarity, common to the lowest human types—this tendency to “ape” others, as we significantly call it—implies a smaller departure from the brute type of mind. It shows us a mental action which is, from moment to moment, chiefly determined by outer incidents; and is therefore but little determined by causes involving excursiveness of thought, imagination, and original idea.

§ 43. Our conception of the primitive man—intellectual, will grow clearer when, with the above inductions, we join illustrations of his feeble grasp of thought.

Common speech fails to distinguish between mental activities of different grades. A boy is called clever who takes in simple ideas rapidly, though he may prove incapable of taking in complex ideas; and a boy is condemned as stupid because he is slow in rote-learning, though he may apprehend abstract truths more quickly than his teacher. Contrasts of this nature must be recognized, if we would interpret the conflicting evidence respecting the capacities of the uncivilized. Even of the Fuegians we read that they “are not usually deficient in intellect;” even the Andamanese are described as “excessively quick and clever;” and the Australians are said to be as intelligent as our own peasants. But the ability thus referred to as possessed by men of the lowest types, is one for which the simpler faculties suffice; and goes along with inability when any demand is made on the complex faculties. A passage which Sir John Lubbock quotes from Mr. Sproat’s account of the Ahts may be taken as descriptive of the average state:—

“The native mind, to an educated man, seems generally to be asleep. . . . On his attention being fully aroused, he often shows much quickness in reply and ingenuity in argument. But a short [I-85] conversation wearies him, particularly if questions are asked that require efforts of thought or memory on his part. The mind of the savage then appears to rock to and fro out of mere weakness.”

Spix and Martius tell us of the Brazilian Indian that “scarcely has one begun to question him about his language, when he grows impatient, complains of headache, and shows that he is unable to bear the exertion;” and according to Mr. Bates, “it is difficult to get at their notions on subjects that require a little abstract thought.” When the Abipones “are unable to comprehend anything at first sight, they soon grow weary of examining it, and cry—‘What is it after all?’ ” It is the same with Negroes. Burton says of the East Africans, “ten minutes sufficed to weary out the most intellectual” when questioned about their system of numbers. And even of so comparatively superior a race as the Malagasy, it is remarked that they “do not seem to possess the qualities of mind requisite for close and continued thought.”

On observing that to frame the idea of a species, say trout, it is needful to think of the characters common to trout of different sizes, and that to conceive of fish as a class, we must imagine various kinds of fish, and see mentally the likenesses which unite them notwithstanding their unlikenesses; we perceive that, rising from the consciousness of individual objects to the consciousness of species, and again to the consciousness of genera, and orders, and classes, each further step implies more power of mentally grouping numerous things with approximate simultaneity. And perceiving this, we may understand why, lacking the needful representativeness, the mind of the savage is soon exhausted with any thought above the simplest. Excluding those referring to individual objects, our most familiar propositions, such even as “Plants are green,” or “Animals grow,” are propositions never definitely framed in his consciousness; because he has no idea of a plant or an animal, apart from kind. And of course until he has become familiar with general [I-86] ideas and abstract ideas of the lowest grades, those a grade higher in generality and abstractness are inconceivable by him. This will be elucidated by an illustration taken from Mr. Galton’s account of the Damaras, showing how the concrete, made to serve in place of the abstract as far as possible, soon fails, and leaves the mind incapable of higher thought:—

“They puzzle very much after five [in counting], because no spare hand remains to grasp and secure the fingers that are required for units. Yet they seldom lose oxen; the way in which they discover the loss of one is not by the number of the herd being diminished, but by the absence of a face they know. When bartering is going on, each sheep must be paid for separately. Thus, suppose two sticks of tobacco to be the rate of exchange for one sheep, it would sorely puzzle a Damara to take two sheep and give him four sticks.”

This mental state is, in another direction, exemplified by the statement of Mr. Hodgson concerning the Hill-tribes of India. “Light,” he says, “is a high abstraction which none of my informants can grasp, though they readily give equivalents for sunshine and candle or fire-flame.” And Spix and Martius further exemplify it when they say that it would be vain to seek in the language of the Brazilian Indians “words for the abstract ideas of plant, animal, and the still more abstract notions, colour, tone, sex, species, etc.; such a generalization of ideas is found among them only in the frequently used infinitive of the verbs to walk, to eat, to drink, to dance, to sing, to hear, etc.”

§ 44. Not until there is formed a general idea, by colligating many special ideas which have a common trait amid their differences—not until there follows the possibility of connecting in thought this common trait with some other trait also possessed in common, can there arise the idea of a causal relation; and not until many different causal relations have been observed, can there result the conception of causal relation in the abstract. By the primitive man, therefore, such distinction as we make between natural and [I-87] unnatural cannot be made. Just as the child, ignorant of the course of things, gives credence to an impossible fiction as readily as to a familiar fact; so the savage, similarly without classified and systematized knowledge, feels no incongruity between any absurd falsehood propounded to him and some general truth which we class as established: there being, for him, no such established general truth.

Hence his credulity. If the young Indian takes as his totem, and thereafter regards as sacred, the first animal he dreams about during a fast—if the Negro, when bent on an important undertaking, chooses for a god to help him the first object he sees on going out, and sacrifices to it and prays to it—if the Veddah, failing in a shot with his arrow, ascribes the failure not to a bad aim but to insufficient propitiation of his deity; we must regard the implied convictions as normal accompaniments of a mental state in which the organization of experiences has not gone far enough to evolve the idea of natural causation.

§ 45. Absence of the idea of natural causation, implies absence of rational surprise.

Until there has been reached the belief that certain connexions in things are constant, there can be no astonishment on meeting with cases seemingly at variance with this belief. The behaviour of the uncultivated among ourselves teaches us this. Show to a rustic a remarkable experiment, such as the rise of liquid in a capillary tube, or the spontaneous boiling of warm water in an exhausted receiver, and instead of the amazement you expected he shows a vacant indifference. That which struck you with wonder when first you saw it, because apparently irreconcilable with your general ideas of physical processes, does not seem wonderful to him, because he is without those general ideas. And now if we suppose the rustic divested of what general ideas he has, and the causes of surprise thus made still fewer, we get the mental state of the primitive man.


Of the lowest races, disregard of novelties is almost uniformly alleged. According to Cook, the Fuegians showed utter indifference in presence of things that were entirely new to them. The same voyager observed in the Australians a like peculiarity; and Dampier says those he had on board “did not notice anything else in the ship” than what they had to eat. So, too, the Tasmanians were characterized by Cook’s surgeon as exhibiting no surprise. Wallis asserts of the Patagonians, that they showed the most “unaccountable indifference” to everything around them on shipboard; even the looking-glass, though it afforded great diversion, excited no astonishment; and Wilkes describes like conduct. I also find it stated of the village Veddahs that two of them “showed no surprise at a looking-glass.” And of the Samoiedes we read that “nothing but the looking-glasses caused any surprise in them for an instant; again a moment and this ceased to draw their attention.”

§ 46. Along with absence of surprise there goes absence of curiosity; and where there is least faculty of thought, even astonishment may be excited without causing inquiry. Illustrating this trait in the Bushmen, Burchell says—“I showed them a looking-glass; at this they laughed, and stared with vacant surprise and wonder to see their own faces; but expressed not the least curiosity about it.” Where curiosity exists we find it among races of not so low a grade. That of the New Caledonians was remarked by Cook; and that of the New Guinea people by Earl and by Jukes. Still more decided is an inquiring nature among the relatively-advanced Malayo-Polynesians. According to Boyle, the Dyaks have an insatiable curiosity. The Samoans, too, “are usually very inquisitive;” and the Tahitians “are remarkably curious and inquisitive.”

Evidently this absence of desire for information about new things, which characterizes the lowest mental state, prevents the growth of that generalized knowledge which makes [I-89] rational surprise, and consequent rational inquisitiveness, possible. If his “want of curiosity is extreme,” as Mr. Bates says of the Cucáma Indian, the implication is that he “troubles himself very little concerning the causes of the natural phenomena around him.” Lacking ability to think, and the accompanying desire to know, the savage is without tendency to speculate. Even when there is raised such a question as that often put by Park to the Negroes—“What became of the sun during the night, and whether we should see the same sun, or a different one, in the morning,” no reply is forthcoming. “I found that they considered the question as very childish: . . . they had never indulged a conjecture, nor formed any hypothesis, about the matter.”

The general fact thus exemplified is one quite at variance with current ideas respecting the thoughts of the primitive man. He is commonly pictured as theorizing about surrounding appearances; whereas, in fact, the need for explanations of them does not occur to him.

§ 47. One more general trait must be named—I mean the lack of constructive imagination. This lack naturally goes along with a life of simple perception, of imitativeness, of concrete ideas, and of incapacity for abstract ideas.

The collection of implements and weapons arranged by General Pitt-Rivers, to show their relationships to a common original, suggests that primitive men are not to be credited with such inventiveness as even their simple appliances seem to indicate. These have arisen by small modifications; and the natural selection of such modifications has led unobtrusively to various kinds of appliances, without any distinct devising of them.

Evidence of another kind, but of like meaning, is furnished by Sir Samuel Baker’s paper on the “Races of the Nile Basin,” in which he points out that the huts of the respective tribes are as constant in their types as are the nests of birds: each tribe of the one, like each species of the other, [I-90] having a peculiarity. The like permanent differences he says hold among their head-dresses; and he further asserts of head-dresses, as of huts, that they have diverged from one another in proportion as the languages have diverged. All which facts show us that in these races the thoughts, restrained within narrow established courses, have not the freedom required for entering into new combinations, and so initiating new modes of action and new forms of product.

Where we find ingenuity ascribed, it is to races such as the Tahitians, Javans, etc., who have risen some stages in civilization, who have considerable stocks of abstract words and ideas, who show rational surprise and curiosity, and who thus evince higher intellectual development.

§ 48. Here we come to a general truth allied to those with which, in the two foregoing chapters, I have preluded the summaries of results—the truth that the primitive intellect develops rapidly, and early reaches its limit.

In the Principles of Psychology, § 165, I have shown that the children of Australians, of Negroes in the United States, of Negroes on the Nile, of Andamanese, of New Zealanders, of Sandwich Islanders, are quicker than European children in acquiring simple ideas, but presently stop short from inability to grasp the complex ideas readily grasped by European children, when they arrive at them. To testimonies before quoted I may add the remark of Mr. Reade, that in Equatorial Africa the children are “absurdly precocious;” the statement of Captain Burton, that “the negro child, like the East Indian, is much ‘sharper’ than the European . . . at the age of puberty this precocity . . . disappears;” and the description of the Aleuts of Alaska, who “up to a certain point are readily taught.” This early cessation of development implies both low intellectual nature and a great impediment to intellectual advance; since it makes the larger part of life unmodifiable by further experiences. On reading of the East African, [I-91] that he “unites the incapacity of infancy with the unpliancy of age,” and of the Australians that “after twenty their mental vigour seems to decline, and at the age of forty seems nearly extinct;” we cannot fail to see how greatly this arrest of mental evolution hinders improvement where improvement is most required.

The intellectual traits of the uncivilized, thus made specially difficult to change, may now be recapitulated while observing that they are traits recurring in the children of the civilized.

Infancy shows us an absorption in sensations and perceptions akin to that which characterizes the savage. In pulling to pieces its toys, in making mud-pies, in gazing at each new thing or person, the child exhibits great tendency to observe with little tendency to reflect. There is, again, an obvious parallelism in the mimetic propensity. Children are ever dramatizing the lives of adults; and savages, along with their other mimicries, similarly dramatize the actions of their civilized visitors. Want of power to discriminate between useless and useful facts, characterizes the juvenile mind, as it does the mind of the primitive man. This inability to select nutritive facts necessarily accompanies low development; since, until generalization has made some progress, and the habit of generalizing has become established, there cannot be reached the conception that a fact has a remote value apart from any immediate value it may have. Again, we see in the young of our own race a similar inability to concentrate the attention on anything complex or abstract. The mind of the child, as well as that of the savage, soon wanders from sheer exhaustion when generalities and involved propositions have to be dealt with. From feebleness of the higher intellectual faculties comes, in both cases, an absence, or a paucity, of ideas grasped by those faculties. The child, like the savage, has few words of even a low grade of abstractedness, and none of a higher grade. For a long [I-92] time it is familiar with cat, dog, horse, cow, but has no conception of animal apart from kind; and years elapse before words ending in ion and ity occur in its vocabulary. Thus, in both cases, the very implements of developed thought are wanting. Unsupplied as its mind is with general truths, and with the conception of natural order, the civilized child when quite young, like the savage throughout life, shows but little rational surprise or rational curiosity. Something startling to the senses makes it stare vacantly, or perhaps cry; but let it see a chemical experiment, or draw its attention to the behaviour of a gyroscope, and its interest is like that shown in a common-place new toy. After a time, indeed, when the higher intellectual powers it inherits are beginning to act, and when its stage of mental development represents that of such semi-civilized races as the Malayo-Polynesians, rational surprise and rational curiosity about causes, begin to show themselves. But even then its extreme credulity, like that of the savage, shows us the result of undeveloped ideas of causation and law. Any story, however monstrous, is believed; and any explanation, however absurd, is accepted.

And here, in final elucidation of these intellectual traits of the primitive man, let me point out that, like the emotional traits, they could not be other than they are in the absence of the conditions brought about by social evolution. In the Principles of Psychology, §§ 484—493, it was shown in various ways that only as societies grow, become organized, and gain stability, do there arise those experiences by assimilating which the powers of thought develop. It needs but to ask what would happen to ourselves were the whole mass of existing knowledge obliterated, and were children with nothing beyond their nursery-language left to grow up without guidance or instruction from adults, to perceive that even now the higher intellectual faculties would be almost inoperative, from lack of the materials and aids accumulated by past civilization. And seeing this, we [I-93] cannot fail to see that development of the higher intellectual faculties has gone on pari passu with social advance, alike as cause and consequence; that the primitive man could not evolve these higher intellectual faculties in the absence of a fit environment; and that in this, as in other respects, his progress was retarded by the absence of capacities which only progress could bring.






§ 49. Yet a further preparation for interpreting social phenomena is needed. It is not enough that we should acquaint ourselves, first with the external factors, and then with those internal factors treated of in the foregoing three chapters. The behaviour of the social unit as exposed to environing conditions—inorganic, organic, and super-organic—depends in part on certain additional traits. Beyond those visible specialities of organization which the body displays, and beyond those hidden specialities of organization implied by the mental type, there are those specialities, still less traceable, implied by the acquired beliefs. As accumulated ancestral experiences, moulding the nervous structures, produce the mental powers; so personal experiences, daily elaborated into thoughts, cause small modifications of these structures and powers. A complete account of the original social unit must include these modifications—or rather, must include the correlative ideas implying them. For, manifestly, the ideas he forms of himself of other beings and of the surrounding world, greatly affect his conduct.

A description of these final modifications, or of the corresponding ideas, is difficult to give. Obstacles stand in the way alike of inductive interpretation and deductive interpretation. We must first glance at these.


§ 50. To determine what conceptions are truly primitive would be easy if we had accounts of truly primitive men. But there are reasons for suspecting that men of the lowest types now known, forming social groups of the simplest kinds, do not exemplify men as they originally were. Probably most of them had ancestors in higher states; and among their beliefs remain some which were evolved during those higher states. While the current degradation theory is untenable, the theory of progression, in its ordinary form, seems to me untenable also. If, on the one hand, the notion that savagery is caused by lapse from civilization, is irreconcilable with the evidence; there is, on the other hand, inadequate warrant for the notion that the lowest savagery has never been any higher than it is now. It is possible, and, I believe, probable, that retrogression has been as frequent as progression.

Evolution is commonly conceived to imply in everything an intrinsic tendency to become something higher. This is an erroneous conception of it. In all cases it is determined by the co-operation of inner and outer factors. This co-operation works changes until there is reached an equilibrium between the environing actions and the actions which the aggregate opposes to them—a complete equilibrium if the aggregate is without life, and a moving equilibrium if the aggregate is living. Thereupon evolution, continuing to show itself only in the progressing integration that ends in rigidity, practically ceases. If, in the case of the living aggregates forming a species, the environing actions remain constant, the species remains constant. If the environing actions change, the species changes until it re-equilibriates itself with them. But it by no means follows that this change constitutes a step in evolution. Usually neither advance nor recession results; and often, certain previously-acquired structures being rendered superfluous, there results a simpler form. Only now and then does the environing change initiate in the organism a new complication, [I-96] and so produce a somewhat higher structure. Hence the truth that while for immeasurable periods some types have not sensibly altered, and while in other types there has been further evolution, there are many types in which retrogression has happened. I do not refer merely to such facts as that the highest orders of reptiles, the Pterosauria and Dinosauria which once had many genera superior in structure and gigantic in size, have become extinct, while lower orders of reptiles have survived; or to such facts as that in many genera of mammals there once existed species larger than any of their allies existing now; but I refer more especially to the fact that of parasitic creatures innumerable kinds are degraded modifications of higher creatures. Of all existing species of animals, if we include parasites, the greater number have retrograded from structures to which their ancestors had once advanced. Indeed, progression in some types often involves retrogression in others. For the more evolved type, conquering by the aid of its acquired superiority, habitually drives competing types into inferior habitats and less profitable modes of life: usually implying disuse and decay of their higher powers.

As with organic evolution, so with super-organic evolution. Though, taking the entire assemblage of societies, evolution may be held inevitable as an ultimate effect of the co-operating factors, intrinsic and extrinsic, acting on them all through indefinite periods; yet it cannot be held inevitable in each particular society, or even probable. A social organism, like an individual organism, undergoes modifications until it comes into equilibrium with environing conditions; and thereupon continues without further change of structure. When the conditions are changed meteorologically, or geologically, or by alterations in the Flora and Fauna, or by migration consequent on pressure of population, or by flight before usurping races, some change of social structure results. But this change does not necessarily imply advance. Often it is towards neither [I-97] a higher nor a lower structure. When the habitat entails modes of life that are inferior, degradation follows. Only occasionally does the new combination of factors produce a change constituting a step in social evolution, and initiating a social type which spreads and supplants inferior social types. And with these super-organic aggregates, as with the organic aggregates, progression in some causes retrogression in others. The more-evolved societies drive the less-evolved societies into unfavourable habitats; and so entail on them decrease of size, or decay of structure, or both.

Direct evidence forces this conclusion upon us. Lapse from higher civilization to lower civilization, made familiar during school-days, is further exemplified as our knowledge widens. Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Phœnicians, Persians, Jews, Greeks, Romans—it needs but to name these to be reminded that many large and highly-evolved societies have either disappeared, or have dwindled to barbarous hordes, or have been long passing through slow decay. Ruins show us that in Java there existed in the past a more-developed society than exists now; and the like is shown by ruins in Cambodia. Peru and Mexico were once the seats of societies large and elaborately organized, which have been disorganized by conquest; and where the cities of Central America once contained great populations carrying on various industries and arts, there are now but scattered tribes of savages. Unquestionably, causes like those which produced these retrogressions, have been at work during the whole period of human existence. Always there have been cosmical and terrestrial changes going on, which, bettering some habitats, have made others worse; always there have been over-populations, spreadings of tribes, conflicts with other tribes, and escape of the defeated into localities unfit for such advanced social life as they had reached; always, where evolution has been uninterfered with externally, there have been those decays and dissolutions which complete the cycles of social changes. And [I-98] the implication is that remnants of inferior races, taking refuge in inclement, barren, or otherwise unfit regions, have retrograded.

Probably, then, most of the tribes known as lowest, exhibit some social phenomena which are due, not to causes now operating, but to causes that operated during past social states higher than the present. This a priori conclusion harmonizes with the facts; and, indeed, is suggested by facts otherwise inexplicable. Take, for example, some furnished by the Australians. Divided into tribes wandering over a wide area, these savages have, notwithstanding their antagonisms, a complex system of relationships, and consequent interdicts on marriage, which could not possibly have been framed by any agreement among them as they now exist; but which are comprehensible as having survived from a state in which there was closer union, and subordination to some common rule. Such, also, is the implication of the circumcision, and the knocking-out of teeth, which we find among them. For when we come hereafter to deal with bodily mutilations, we shall see that they all imply a subordination, political, or ecclesiastical, or both, such as these races do not now exhibit.

Hence, then, a difficulty in ascertaining inductively what are primitive ideas. Of the ideas current among men now forming the rudest societies, there are most likely some which have descended by tradition from higher states. These have to be discriminated from truly primitive ideas; so that simple induction does not suffice.

§ 51. To the deductive method there are obstacles of another kind but equally great. Comprehension of the thoughts generated in the primitive man by converse with the surrounding world, can be had only by looking at the surrounding world from his stand-point. The accumulated knowledge acquired during education, must be suppressed; and we must divest ourselves of conceptions which, partly [I-99] by inheritance and partly by individual culture, have been firmly established. None can do this completely, and few can do it even partially.

It needs but to observe what unfit methods are used by teachers, to be convinced that even among the disciplined the power to frame thoughts which are widely unlike their own, is very small. When we see the juvenile mind plied with generalities before it has any of the concrete facts to which they refer—when we see mathematics introduced under the purely rational form, instead of under that empirical form with which it should be commenced by the child, as it was commenced by the race—when we see a subject so abstract as grammar put among the first instead of among the last, and see it taught analytically instead of synthetically; we have ample evidence of the prevailing inability to conceive the ideas of undeveloped minds. And if, though lately children themselves, men find it hard to re-think the thoughts of the child; still harder must they find it to rethink the thoughts of the savage. To keep out automorphic interpretations is beyond our power. To look at things with the eyes of absolute ignorance, and observe how their attributes and actions originally grouped themselves in the mind, implies a self-suppression that is impracticable.

Nevertheless, we must here do our best to conceive the surrounding world as it appeared to the primitive man; that we may be able the better to interpret deductively the evidence available for induction. And though we are incapable of reaching the conception by a direct process, we may approach to it by an indirect process. The doctrine of evolution will help us to delineate primitive ideas in some of their leading traits. Having inferred, a priori, the characters of those ideas, we shall be as far as possible prepared to realize them in imagination, and then to discern them as actually existing.

§ 52. Our postulate must be that primitive ideas are natural, and, under the conditions in which they occur, [I-100] rational. In early life we have been taught that human nature is everywhere the same. Led thus to contemplate the beliefs of savages as beliefs entertained by minds like our own, we marvel at their strangeness, and ascribe perversity to those who hold them. This error we must replace by the truth that the laws of thought are everywhere the same; and that, given the data as known to him, the primitive man’s inference is the reasonable inference.

From its lowest to its highest grades intelligence proceeds by the classing of objects and the classing of relations; which are, in fact, different aspects of the same process. (Principles of Psychology, §§ 309—316, § 381.) On the one hand, perception of an object implies that its attributes are severally classed with like before-known attributes, and the relations in which they stand to one another with like before-known relations; while the object itself, in being known, is classed with its like as such or such. On the other hand, every step in reasoning implies that the object of which anything is predicated, is classed with objects previously known of like kind; implies that the attribute, power, or act, predicated, is classed as like other previously-known attributes, powers, or acts; and implies that the relation between the object and this predicated attribute, power, or act, is classed with previously-known like relations. This assimilation of states of consciousness of all orders with their likes in past experience, which is the universal intellectual process, animal and human, leads to results that are correct in proportion to the power of appreciating likenesses and unlikenesses. Where simple terms stand in relations that are simple, direct, and close, the classing can be rightly carried on by simple minds; but in proportion as the terms are complex and the relations between them involved, indirect, remote, the classing can be rightly carried on only by minds developed to a corresponding complexity. In the absence of this corresponding complexity, the terms of relations are grouped with those which they conspicuously resemble, and [I-101] the relations themselves are grouped in like manner. But this leads to error; since the most obvious traits are not always those by which things are really allied to one another, and the most obvious characters of relations are not always their essential characters.

Let us observe a few of the common mistakes thus caused. In old works on natural history, whales are called fishes: living in the water, and fish-like in shape, what else should they be? Nine out of ten cabin-passengers, and ninety-nine out of a hundred of those in the steerage, would be amazed were you to tell them that the porpoises playing about the steamer’s bow, are nearer akin to dogs than to cod. Take, again, the name shell-fish, as popularly used. In the first place, there is supposed to be some alliance between shell-fish and fish-proper, because both are aquatic. In the second place, the fishmonger includes under shell-fish both oysters and crabs: these, though far more remote in type than an eel is from a man, having in common the character that their softer parts are inclosed in hard cases. After reminding ourselves of these mistakes to which classing by obvious characters leads our own people, we shall see how natural are the mistakes into which uncivilized men are similarly led. Hayes could not make the Esquimaux understand that woollen cloth was not a skin. “Glass” they “took for ice, and biscuit for the dried flesh of the musk-ox.” Having so small an acquaintance with things, these were the most rational groupings they could make—quite as rational as those above instanced. If his erroneous classing led the Esquimaux to the erroneous inference that glass would melt in his mouth, this was not more erroneous than that of the ship-passenger who, instead of what he looked for, would find in the porpoise hot blood, and lungs to breathe air with. So, too, remembering that they had no experiences of metals, we shall see nothing irrational in the question put to Jackson by the Fijians—“how we could get axes hard enough in a natural country, to cut [I-102] down the trees which the barrels of muskets were made of.” For were not tubular canes the only objects to which musket barrels bore any resemblance? When, again, certain Hill-people with whom Dr. Hooker came in contact, saw thrown on the ground a spring-box measuring-tape, that had just been extended for use, and when, seeing the coils of tape disappearing into the box they ran away shrieking, it is manifest that the tape was considered in virtue of its spontaneous movement as something alive, and in virtue of its shape and behaviour as some kind of snake. Without knowledge of mechanical contrivances, and seeing nothing of the internal spring, this belief was perfectly natural—any other would have been irrational. Turn, now, from the classing of objects to the classing of relations. We may again aid ourselves by analyzing some errors current in our own society. It is a common recommendation of some remedy for a burn, that it “draws the fire out:” the implication being that between the thing applied and the heat supposed to be lodged in the tissues, there is a connection like that between some object and another which it pulls. Again, after a long frost, when air highly charged with water comes in contact with a cold smooth surface, such as that of a painted wall, the water condensed on it collects in drops and trickles down; whereupon may be heard the remark that “the wall sweats.” Because the water, not visibly brought from elsewhere, makes its appearance on the wall as perspiration does on the skin, it is assumed to come out of the wall as perspiration does out of the skin. Here, as before, we see a relation classed with another which it superficially resembles, but from which it is entirely alien. If, now, we consider what must happen where ignorance is still greater, we shall no longer be astonished at primitive interpretations. The Orinoco Indians think that dew is “the spittle of the stars.” Observe the genesis of this belief. Dew is a clear liquid to which saliva has some resemblance. It is a liquid which, lying on leaves, etc., seems [I-103] to have descended from above, as saliva descends from the mouth of one who spits. Having descended during a cloudless night, it must have come from the only things then visible above; namely, the stars. Thus the product itself, dew, and the relation between it and its supposed source, are respectively assimilated with those like them in obvious characters; and we need but recall our own common expression “it spits with rain,” to see how natural is the interpretation.

Another trait of savage conceptions is explicable in a kindred way. Only as knowledge advances and observation becomes critical, does there grow up the idea that the power of any agent to produce its peculiar effect, may depend on some one property to the exclusion of the rest, or on some one part to the exclusion of the rest, or not on one or more of the properties or parts but on the arrangement of them. What character it is in a complex whole which determines its efficiency, can be known only after analysis has advanced somewhat; and until then, the efficiency is necessarily conceived as belonging to the whole indiscriminately. Further, this unanalyzed whole is conceived as standing towards some unanalyzed effect, in some relation that is unanalyzed. This trait of primitive thought is so pregnant of results, that we must consider it more closely. Let us symbolize the several attributes of an object, say a sea-shell, by A, B, C, D, E, and the relations among them by w, x, y, z. The ability of this object to concentrate sound on the ear, is due in part to the smoothness of its internal surface (which we will express by C), and in part to those relations among the portions of this surface constituting its shape (which we will symbolize by y). Now, that the ability of the shell to produce a hissing murmur when held to the ear, may be understood as thus resulting, it is needful that C and y should be separated in thought from the rest. Until this can be done, the sound-multiplying power of the shell cannot be known not to depend on its colour, or hardness, or roughness (supposing [I-104] these to be separately thinkable as attributes). Evidently, before attributes are distinguished, this power of the shell can be thought of only as belonging to it generally—residing in it as a whole. But, as we have seen (§ 40), attributes or properties, as we understand them, are not recognizable by the savage—are abstractions which neither his faculties can grasp nor his language express. Thus, of necessity, he associates this strange murmuring with the shell bodily—regards it as related to the shell as weight is related to a stone. Hence certain beliefs, everywhere conspicuous among the uncivilized. A special potency which some object or part of an object displays, belongs to it in such wise that it may be acquired by consuming or possessing this object or part. The powers of a conquered antagonist are supposed to be gained by devouring him. The Dakotah eats the heart of a slain foe to increase his own courage; the New Zealander swallows his dead enemy’s eyes that he may see the further; the Abipone consumes tiger’s flesh, thinking so to gain the tiger’s strength and ferocity: cases which recall the legend about Zeus devouring Metis that he might become possessed of her wisdom. The like trait is seen in such beliefs as that of the Guaranis, whose “pregnant women abstained from eating the flesh of the Anta, lest the child should have a large nose; and from small birds, lest it should prove diminutive;” or again, in such beliefs as that which led the Caribs to sprinkle a male infant with his father’s blood to give him his father’s courage; or again, in such beliefs as that of the Bulloms, who hold that possessing part of a successful person’s body, gives them “a portion of his good fortune.” Clearly the implied mode of thought, shown even in the medical prescriptions of past ages, and continuing down to recent days in the notion that character is absorbed with mother’s milk, is a mode of thought necessarily persisting until analysis has disclosed the complexities of causal relations.

While physical conceptions are few and vague, any antecedent [I-105] serves to account for any consequent. Ask a quarryman what he thinks of the fossils his pick-axe is exposing, and he will tell you they are “sports of nature:” the tendency of his thought to pass from the existence of the fossils as an effect, to some agent as cause, is satisfied, and his curiosity ceases. The plumber, cross-examined about the working of the pump he is repairing, says that the water rises in it by suction. Having classed the process with one which he can perform by the muscular actions of his mouth applied to a tube, he thinks he understands it—never asks what force makes the water rise towards his mouth when he performs these muscular actions. Similarly with an explanation of some unfamiliar fact which you may often hear in cultivated society—“it is caused by electricity.” The mental tension is sufficiently relieved when, to the observed result, there is joined in thought this something with a name; though there is no notion what the something really is, nor the remotest idea how the result can be wrought by it. Having such illustrations furnished by those around us, we shall have no difficulty in seeing how the savage, with fewer experiences more vaguely grouped, adopts, as quite adequate, the first explanation which familiar associations suggest. If Siberian tribes, finding mammoths imbedded in ice and the bones of mammoths in the ground, ascribe earthquakes to the burrowing of these huge beasts; or if savages living near volcanoes, think of them as fires lighted by some of their ancestors to cook by; they do but illustrate in a more marked way, the common readiness to fill up the missing term of a causal relation by the first agency which occurs to the mind. Further, it is observable that proximate interpretations suffice—there is no tendency to ask for anything beyond them. The Africans who denied the alleged obligations to God, by saying that “the earth, and not God, gave them gold, which was dug out of its bowels; that the earth yielded them maize and rice; . . . that for fruits they were obliged to the Portuguese, who had planted the [I-106] trees;” and so on; show us that a relation between the last consequent and its immediate antecedent having been established, nothing further happens. There is not enough mental excursiveness to raise a question respecting any remoter antecedent.

One other trait, consequent on the foregoing traits, should be added. There result conceptions that are inconsistent and confused. Certain fundamental ideas as found among the Iroquois, are described by Morgan as “vague and diversified;” as found among the Creeks, are characterized by Schoolcraft as “confused and irregular;” as found among the Karens, are said by Mason to be “confused, indefinite, and contradictory.” Everywhere occur gross inconsistencies which arise from leaving propositions uncompared; as when, in almost the same breath, a Malagasy “will express his belief that when he dies he ceases altogether to exist, . . . and yet confess the fact that he is in the habit of praying to his ancestors”—a special inconsistency occurring among many peoples. How illogicalities so extreme are possible, we shall the more easily see on recalling certain of our own illogicalities. Instance the popular notion that killing a mad dog preserves from harm a person just bitten by it; or instance that familiar absurdity fallen into by believers in ghosts, who, admitting that ghosts are seen clothed, admit, by implication, that coats have ghosts—an implication they had not perceived. Among men of low type, then, far more ignorant and with less capacity for thought, we must expect to find a chaos of notions, and a ready acceptance of doctrines which are ludicrously incongruous.

And now we have prepared ourselves, so far as may be, for understanding primitive ideas. We have seen that a true interpretation of these must be one which recognizes their naturalness under the conditions. The mind of the savage, like the mind of the civilized, proceeds by classing objects and relations with their likes in past experience. In [I-107] the absence of adequate mental power, there result simple and vague classings of objects by conspicuous likenesses, and of actions by conspicuous likenesses; and hence come crude notions, too simple and too few in their kinds, to represent the facts. Further, these crude notions are inevitably inconsistent to an extreme degree. Let us now glance at the sets of ideas thus formed and thus charcterized.

§ 53. In the sky, clear a few moments ago, the savage sees a fragment of cloud which grows while he gazes. At another time, watching one of these moving masses, he observes shreds of it drift away and vanish; and presently the whole disappears. What thought results in him? He knows nothing about precipitation of vapour and dissolution of vapour; nor has there been any one to stop his inquiry by the reply—“It is only a cloud.” Something he could not before see has become visible; and something just now visible has vanished. The whence, and the where, and the why, he cannot tell; but there is the fact.

In this same space above him occur other changes. As day declines bright points here and there show themselves, becoming clearer and more numerous as darkness increases; and then at dawn they fade gradually, until not one is left. Differing from clouds utterly in size, form, colour, etc.; differing also as continually re-appearing in something like the same places, in the same relative positions, and in moving but very slowly always in the same way; they are yet like them in becoming now visible and now invisible. That feeble lights may be wholly obscured by a bright light, and that the stars are shining during the day though he does not see them, are facts beyond the imagination of the savage. The truth, as he perceives it, is that these existences now show themselves and now are hidden.

Utterly unlike clouds and stars in their aspects as Sun and Moon are, they show, in common with them, this same [I-108] alternation of visibility with invisibility. The Sun rises on the other side of the mountains; from time to time covered by a cloud presently comes out again; and at length hides below the level of the sea. The Moon, besides doing the like, first increases slowly night after night, and then wanes: by and by re-appearing as a thin bright streak, with the rest of her disc so faintly perceptible as to seem only half existing.

Added to these commonest and most regular occultations and manifestations, are various others, even more striking—comets, meteors, and the aurora with its arch and pulsating streams; flashes of lightning, rainbows, halos. Differing from the rest and from one another as these do, they similarly appear and disappear. So that by a being absolutely ignorant but able to remember, and to group the things he remembers, the heavens must be regarded as a scene of arrivals and departures of many kinds of existences; some gradual, some sudden, but alike in this, that it is impossible to say whence the existences come or whither they go.

Not the sky only, but also the Earth’s surface, supplies various instances of these disappearances of things which have unaccountably appeared. Now the savage sees little pools of water formed by the rain drops coming from a source he cannot reach; and now, in a few hours, the gathered liquid has made itself invisible. Here, again, is a fog—perhaps lying isolated in a hollow, perhaps enwrapping everything—which came a while since, and presently goes without leaving a trace of its whereabouts. Afar off is perceived water—obviously a great lake; but on approaching it the seeming lake recedes, and cannot be found. In the desert, what we know as sand-whirlwinds, and on the sea what we know as water-spouts, are to the primitive man moving things which come out of nothing and then vanish into nothing. Looking over the ocean he recognizes an island known to be a long way off, and commonly invisible, but which has now risen from the water; and to-morrow, he observes, unsupported in space, an inverted figure of a boat, perhaps [I-109] by itself, or perhaps joined to an erect figure above. In one place he sometimes perceives land-objects on the surface of the sea, or in the air over it—a fata morgana; and in another, opposite to him on the mist, there occasionally comes into view a gigantic duplicate of himself—“a Brocken spectre.” These occurrences, some familiar and some unfamiliar, repeat the same experience—show transitions between the visible and the invisible.

Once more, let us ask what must be the original conception of wind. Nothing in early experiences yields the idea of air, as we are now familiar with it; and, indeed, most can recall the difficulty they once had in thinking of the surrounding medium as a material substance. The primitive man cannot regard it as a something which acts as do the things he sees and handles. Into this seemingly-empty space on all sides, there from time to time comes an invisible agent which bends the trees, drives along the leaves, disturbs the water; and which he feels moving his hair, fanning his cheek, and now and then pushing his body with a force he has some difficulty in overcoming. What may be the nature of this agent there is nothing to tell him; but one thing is irresistibly thrust on his consciousness—that sounds are made, things about him are moved, and he himself is buffeted, by an existence he can neither grasp nor see.

What primitive ideas arise out of these experiences derived from the inorganic world? In the absence of hypothesis (which is foreign to thought in its earliest stages), what mental association do these occurrences, some at long intervals, some daily, some hourly, some from minute to minute, tend to establish? They present, under many forms, the relation between a perceptible and an imperceptible mode of existence. In what way does the savage think of this relation? He cannot think of it in terms of dissipation into vapour and condensation from it, nor in terms of optical relations producing illusions, nor in any terms of physical [I-110] science. How, then, does he formulate it? A clue to the answer will be furnished by recalling certain remarks of young children. When an image from the magic lantern thrown on a screen, suddenly disappears on withdrawal of the slide, or when the reflection from a looking-glass, cast for a child’s amusement on the wall or ceiling, is made to vanish by changing the attitude of the glass, the child asks—“Where is it gone to?” The notion arising in its mind is, not that this something no longer seen has become non-existent, but that it has become non-apparent; and it is led to think this by daily observing persons disappear behind adjacent objects, by watching while things are put out of sight, and by now and again finding a toy that had been hidden or lost. Similarly, the primitive idea is, that these various entities now manifest themselves and now conceal themselves. As the animal which he has wounded hides itself in the brushwood, and, if it cannot be found, is supposed by the savage to have escaped in some incomprehensible way, but to be still existing; so, in the absence of accumulated and organized knowledge, the implication of all these experiences is, that many of the things above and around pass often from visibility to invisibility, and conversely. Bearing in mind how the actions of wind prove that there is an invisible form of existence which possesses power, we shall see this belief to be plausible.

It remains only to point out that along with this conception of a visible condition and an invisible condition, which each of these many things has, there comes the conception of duality. Each of them is in a sense double; since it has these two complementary modes of being.

§ 54. Significant facts of another order may next be noted—facts impressing the primitive man with the belief that things are transmutable from one kind of substance into another. I refer to the facts forced on his attention by imbedded remains of animals and plants.


While gathering food on the sea-shore, he finds, protruding from a rock, a shell, which, if not of the same shape as the shells he picks up, is so similar that he naturally classes it with them. But instead of being loose, it is part of a solid block; and on breaking it off, he finds its inside as hard as its matrix. Here, then, are two kindred forms, one of which consists of shell and flesh, and the other of shell and stone. Near at hand, in the mass of clay débris detached from an adjacent cliff, he picks up a fossil ammonite. Perhaps, like the Gryphœa just examined, it has a shelly coating with a stony inside. Perhaps, as happens with some liassic ammonites of which the shell has been dissolved away, leaving the masses of indurated clay that filled its chambers locked loosely together, it suggests a series of articulated vertebræ coiled up; or, as with other liassic ammonites of which the shell has been replaced by iron pyrites, it has a glistening appearance like that of a snake’s skin. As such fossils are sometimes called “snake-stones,” and are, in Ireland, supposed to be the serpents St. Patrick banished, we cannot wonder if the uncritical savage, classing this object with those it most resembles, thinks it a transmuted snake—once flesh and now stone. In another place, where a gully has been cut through sandstone by a stream, he observes on the surface of a slab the outline of a fish, and, looking closely, sees scales and the traces of fins; and elsewhere, similarly imbedded in rock, he finds bones not unlike those of the animals he kills for food: some of them, indeed, not unlike those of men.

Still more suggestive are the fossil plants occasionally discovered. I do not refer so much to the prints of leaves in shale, and the stony stems found in strata accompanying coal. I refer, more especially, to the silicified trees here and there met with. Retaining, not their general forms only but their minute structures, so that the annual growths are marked by rings of colour such as mark them in living stems, these yield the savage clear evidence of transmutation. With [I-112] all our knowledge it remains difficult to understand how silica can so replace the components of the wood as to preserve the appearance thus perfectly; and for the primitive man, knowing nothing of molecular action and unable to conceive a process of substitution, there is no possible thought but that the wood is changed into stone. [*]

Thus, if we ignore those conceptions of physical causation which have arisen only as experiences have been slowly organized during civilization, we shall see that in their absence there would be nothing to prevent us from putting on these facts the interpretations which the primitive man puts on them. Looking at the evidence through his eyes, we find his belief that things change from one kind of substance to another, to be the inevitable belief.

And here let us not omit to note that along with the notion of transmutation is involved the notion of duality. These things have obviously two states of existence.

§ 55. Did we not thoughtlessly assume that truths made obvious by culture are naturally obvious, we should see that an unlimited belief in change of shape, as well as in change of substance, is one which the savage cannot avoid. From early childhood we hear remarks implying that certain transformations which living things undergo are matters of course, while other transformations are impossible. This distinction we suppose to have been manifest at the outset. But at the outset, the observed metamorphoses suggest that any metamorphosis may occur.


Consider the immense contrast in form as in texture between the seed and the plant. Look at this nut with hard brown shell and white kernel, and ask what basis there is for the expectation that from it will presently come a soft shoot and green leaves. When young we are told that the one grows into the other; and the blank form of explanation being thus filled up, we cease to wonder and inquire. Yet it needs but to consider what thought would have arisen had there been no one to give this mere verbal solution, to see that the thought would have been—transformation. Apart from hypothesis, the bare fact is that a thing having one size, shape, and colour, becomes a thing having an utterly different size, shape, and colour.

Similarly with the eggs of birds. A few days since this nest contained five rounded, smooth, speckled bodies; and now in place of them are as many chicks gaping for food. We are brought up to the idea that the eggs have been hatched; and with this semblance of interpretation we are content. This extreme change in visible and tangible characters being recognized as one constantly occurring in the order of nature, is therefore regarded as not remarkable. But to a mind occupied by no generalized experiences of its own or of others, there would seem nothing more strange in the production of chicks from nuts than in the production of chicks from eggs: a metamorphosis of the kind we think impossible, would stand on the same footing as one which familiarity has made us think natural. Indeed, on remembering that there still survives, or till lately survived, the belief that barnacle-geese arise from barnacles—on learning that in the early Transactions of the Royal Society, there is a paper describing a barnacle as showing traces of the young bird it is about to produce; it will be seen that only by advanced science has there been discriminated the natural organic transformations, from transformations which to ignorance seem just as likely.

The insect-world yields instances of metamorphoses even [I-114] more misleading. To a branch above his wigwam, the savage saw a few days ago, a caterpillar hanging with its head downwards. Now in the same place hangs a differently formed and coloured thing—a chrysalis. A fortnight after there comes out a butterfly: leaving a thin empty case. These insect-metamorphoses, as we call them, which we now interpret as processes of evolution presenting certain definitely-marked stages, are in the eyes of the primitive man, metamorphoses in the original sense. He accepts them as actual changes of one thing into another thing utterly unlike it.

How readily the savage confounds these metamorphoses which really occur, with metamorphoses which seem to occur but are impossible, we shall perceive on noting a few cases of mimicry by insects, and the conclusions they lead to. Many caterpillars, beetles, moths, butterflies, simulate the objects by which they are commonly surrounded. The Onychocerus scorpio is so exactly like, “in colour and rugosity,” to a piece of the bark of the particular tree it frequents, “that until it moves it is absolutely invisible:” thus raising the idea that a piece of the bark itself has become alive. Another beetle, Onthophilus sulcatus is “like the seed of an umbelliferous plant;” another is “undistinguishable by the eye from the dung of caterpillars;” some of the Cassidæ “resemble glittering dew-drops upon the leaves;” and there is a weevil so coloured and formed that, on rolling itself up, it “becomes a mere oval brownish lump, which it is hopeless to look for among the similarly-coloured little stones and earth pellets among which it lies motionless,” and out of which it emerges after its fright, as though a pebble had become animated. To these examples given by Mr. Wallace, may be added that of the “walking-stick insects,” so called “from their singular resemblance to twigs and branches.”

“Some of these are a foot long and as thick as one’s finger, and their whole colouring, form, rugosity, and the arrangement of the [I-115] head, legs, and antennæ, are such as to render them absolutely identical in appearance with dead sticks. They hang loosely about shrubs in the forest, and have the extraordinary habit of stretching out their legs unsymmetrically, so as to render the deception more complete.”

What wonderful resemblances exist, and what illusions they may lead to, will be fully perceived by those who have seen, in Mr. Wallace’s collection, butterflies of the Indian genus Kallima, placed amid the objects they simulate. Settling on branches bearing dead leaves, and closing its wings, one of these then resembles a dead leaf, not only in general shape, colour, markings, but in so seating itself that the processes of the lower wings unite to form the representation of a foot-stalk. When it takes flight, the impression produced is that one of the leaves has changed into a butterfly. This impression is greatly strengthened when the creature is caught. On the under-side of the closed wings, is clearly marked the mid-rib, running right across them both from foot-stalk to apex; and here, too, are lateral veins. Nay, this is not all. Mr. Wallace says—

“We find representatives of leaves in every stage of decay, variously blotched and mildewed and pierced with holes, and in many cases irregularly covered with powdery black dots gathered into patches and spots, so closely resembling the various kinds of minute fungi that grow on dead leaves that it is impossible to avoid thinking at first sight that the butterflies themselves have been attacked by real fungi.”

On recalling the fact that, a few generations ago, civilized people believed, as many civilized people believe still, that decaying meat is itself transformed into maggots—on being reminded that our peasantry at the present time, think the thread-like aquatic worm Gordius, is a horsehair that has fallen into the water and become living; we shall see that these extreme resemblances inevitably raise a suspicion of actual metamorphoses. That this suspicion, so suggested, becomes a belief, is a proved fact. In Java and neighbouring regions inhabited by it, that marvellous insect, “the [I-116] walking leaf,” is positively asserted to be a leaf that has become animated. What else should it be? In the absence of that explanation of mimicry so happily hit upon by Mr. Bates, no other origin for such wonderful likenesses between things wholly unallied can be imagined.

Once established, the belief in transformation easily extends itself to other classes of things. Between an egg and a young bird, there is a far greater contrast in appearance and structure than between one mammal and another. The tadpole, with a tail and no limbs, differs from the young frog with four limbs and no tail, more than a man differs from a hyæna; for both of these have four limbs, and both laugh. Hence there seems ample justification for the belief that any kind of creature may be transformed into any other; and so there results the theory of metamorphosis in general, which rises into an explanation everywhere employed without check.

Here, again, we have to note that while initiating and fostering the notion that things of all kinds may suddenly change their forms, the experiences of transformations confirm the notion of duality. Each object is not only what it seems, but is potentially something else.

§ 56. What are shadows? Familiar as has become the interpretation of them in terms of physical causation, we do not ask how they look to the absolutely ignorant.

Those from whose minds the thoughts of childhood have not wholly vanished, will remember the interest they once felt in watching their shadows—moving legs and arms and fingers, and observing how corresponding parts of the shadows moved. By a child a shadow is thought of as an entity. I do not assert this without evidence. A memorandum made in 1858-9, in elucidation of the ideas described in the book of Williams on the Fijians, then recently published, concerns a little girl seven years old, who did not know what a shadow was, and to whom I could give no conception [I-117] of its true nature. On ignoring acquired knowledge, we shall see this difficulty to be quite natural. A thing having outlines, and differing from surrounding things in colour, and especially a thing which moves, is, in other cases, a reality. Why is not this a reality? The conception of it as merely a negation of light, cannot be framed until after the behaviour of light is in some degree understood. Doubtless the uncultured among ourselves, without formulating the truth that light, proceeding in straight lines, necessarily leaves unlighted spaces behind opaque objects, nevertheless regard a shadow as naturally attending an object exposed to light, and as not being anything real. But this is one of the countless cases in which inquiry is set at rest by a verbal explanation. “It’s only a shadow,” is the answer given in early days; and this answer, repeatedly given, deadens wonder and stops further thought.

The primitive man, left to himself, necessarily concludes a shadow to be an actual existence, which belongs to the person casting it. He simply accepts the facts. Whenever the sun or moon is visible, he sees this attendant thing which rudely resembles him in shape, which moves when he moves, which now goes before him, now keeps by his side, now follows him, which lengthens and shortens as the ground inclines this way or that, and which distorts itself in strange ways as he passes by irregular surfaces. True, he cannot see it in cloudy weather; but, in the absence of a physical interpretation, this simply proves that his attendant comes out only on bright days and bright nights. It is true, also, that such resemblance as his shadow bears to him, and its approximate separateness from him, are shown only when he stands up: on lying down it seems to disappear and partially merge into him. But this observation confirms his impression of its reality. The greater or less separateness of his own shadow, reminds him of cases where a shadow is quite separate. When watching a fish in the water on a fine day, he sees a dark, fish-shaped patch on the bottom at a considerable [I-118] distance from the fish, but nevertheless following it hither and thither. Lifting up his eyes, he observes dark tracts moving along the mountain sides—tracts which, whether traced or not to the clouds that cast them, are seen to be widely disconnected from objects. Hence it is clear that shadows, often so closely joined with their objects as to be hardly distinguishable from them, may become distinct and remote.

Thus, by minds beginning to generalize, shadows must be conceived as existences appended to, but capable of separation from, material things. And that they are so conceived is abundantly proved. The Benin-negroes regard men’s shadows as their souls; and the Wanika are afraid of their own shadows: possibly thinking, as some other negroes do, that their shadows watch all their actions, and bear witness against them. The Greenlanders say a man’s shadow is one of his two souls—the one which goes away from his body at night. Among the Fijians, too, the shadow is called “the dark spirit,” as distinguished from another which each man possesses. And the community of meaning, hereafter to be noted more fully, which various unallied languages betray between shade and spirit, shows us the same thing.

These illustrations suggest more than I here wish to show. The ideas of the uncivilized as we now find them, have developed from their first vague forms into forms having more coherence and definiteness. We must neglect the special characters of these ideas, and consider only that most general character with which they began. This proves to be the character inferred above. Shadows are realities which, always intangible and often invisible, nevertheless severally belong to their visible and tangible correlatives; and the facts they present, furnish further materials for developing both the notion of apparent and unapparent states of being, and the notion of a duality in things.


§ 57. Other phenomena, in some respects allied, yield to these notions still more materials. I refer to reflections.

If the rude resemblance which a shadow bears to the person casting it, raises the idea of a second entity, much more must the exact resemblance of a reflection do this. Repeating all the details of form, of light and shade, of colour, and mimicking even the grimaces of the original, this image cannot at first be interpreted otherwise than as an existence. Only by experiment is it ascertained that to the visual impressions there are not, in this case, those corresponding tactual impressions yielded by most other things. What results? Simply the notion of an existence which can be seen but not felt. Optical interpretation is impossible. That the image is formed by reflected rays, cannot be conceived while physical knowledge does not exist; and in the absence of authoritative statement that the reflection is a mere appearance, it is inevitably taken for a reality—a reality in some way belonging to the person whose traits it simulates and whose actions it mocks. Moreover, these duplicates seen in the water, yield to the primitive man verifications of certain other beliefs. Deep down in the clear pool, are there not clouds like those he sees above? The clouds above appear and disappear. Has not the existence of these clouds below something to do with it? At night, again, seeming as though far underneath the surface of the water, are stars as bright as those overhead. Are there, then, two places for the stars? and did those which disappeared during the day go below where the rest are? Once more, overhanging the pool is the dead tree from which he breaks off branches for firewood. Is there not an image of it too? and the branch which he burns and which vanishes while burning—is there not some connexion between its invisible state and that image of it in the water which he could not touch, any more than he can now touch the consumed branch?

That reflections thus generate a belief that each person has a duplicate, usually unseen, but which may be seen on [I-120] going to the water-side and looking in, is not an a priori inference only: there are facts verifying it. Besides “the dark spirit,” identified with the shadow, which the Fijians say goes to Hades, they say each man has another—“his likeness reflected in water or a looking-glass,” which “is supposed to stay near the place in which a man dies.” This belief in two spirits, is, indeed, the most consistent one. For are not a man’s shadow and his reflection separate? and are they not co-existent with one another and with himself? Can he not, standing at the water-side, observe that the reflection in the water and the shadow on the shore, simultaneously move as he moves? Clearly, while both belong to him, the two are independent of him and one another; for both may be absent together, and either may be present in the absence of the other.

Early theories about the nature of this duplicate are now beside the question. We are concerned only with the fact that it is thought of as real. Here is revealed another class of facts confirming the notion that existences have their visible and invisible states, and strengthening the implication of a duality in each existence.

§ 58. Let any one ask himself what would be his thought if, in a state of child-like ignorance, he were to hear repeated a shout which he uttered. Would he not inevitably conclude that the answering shout came from another person? Succeeding shouts severally responded to in tones like his own, yet without visible source, would rouse the idea that this person was mocking him, and at the same time concealing himself. A futile search in the wood or under the cliff, would end in the conviction that the hiding person was very cunning: especially when joined to the fact that here, in the spot whence the answer before came, no answer was now given—obviously because it would disclose the mocker’s whereabouts. If at this same place on subsequent occasions, a responsive shout always came to any passer-by who called [I-121] out, the resulting thought would be that in this place there dwelt one of these invisible forms—a man who had passed into an invisible state, or who could become invisible when sought.

No physical explanation of an echo can be framed by the uncivilized man. What does he know about the reflection of sound-waves?—what, indeed, is known about the reflection of sound-waves by the mass of our own people? Were it not that the spread of knowledge has modified the mode of thought throughout all classes, producing everywhere a readiness to accept what we call natural interpretations, and to assume that there are natural interpretations to occurrences not comprehended; there would even now be an explanation of echoes as caused by unseen beings.

That to the primitive mind they thus present themselves, is shown by facts. Of the Abipones, we read that “what became of the Lokal [spirit of the dead] they knew not, but they fear it, and believe that the echo was its voice.” The Indians of Cumana (Central America) “believed the soul to be immortal, that it did eat and drink in a plain where it resided, and that the echo was its answer to him that spoke or called.” Narrating his voyage down the Niger, Lander says that from time to time, as they came to a turn in the creek, the captain of the canoe halloed “to the fetish, and where an echo was returned, half-a-glass of rum, and a piece of yam and fish, were thrown into the water . . . on asking Boy the reason why he was throwing away the provisions thus, he asked: ‘Did you not hear the fetish?’ ”

Here, as before, I must ask the reader to ignore these special interpretations, acceptance of which forestalls the argument. Attention is now drawn to this evidence simply as confirming the inference that, in the absence of physical explanation, an echo is conceived as the voice of some one who avoids being seen. So that once more we have duality implied—an invisible state as well as a visible state.


§ 59. To a mind unfurnished with any ideas save those of its own gathering, surrounding nature thus presents multitudinous cases of seemingly-arbitrary change. In the sky and on the earth, things make their appearance and disappear; and there is nothing to show why they do so. Here on the surface and there imbedded in the ground, are things that have been transmuted in substance—changed from flesh to stone, from wood to flint. Living bodies on all sides exemplify metamorphosis in ways marvellous enough to the instructed, and to the primitive man quite incomprehensible. And the conception of two or more inter-changeable states of existence, impressed on him by such phenomena, is again impressed on him by shadows, reflections, and echoes.

Did we not thoughtlessly accept as self-evident the truths elaborated during civilization and acquired insensibly during our early days, we should at once see that these ideas which the primitive man forms, are inevitably formed. The laws of mental association necessitate these primitive notions of transmutation, of metamorphosis, of duality; and, until experiences have been systematized, no restraints are put on them. With the eyes of developed knowledge we look at snow as a particular form of crystallized water, and at hail as drops of rain which congealed as they fell. When these become fluid we say they have thawed—thinking of the change as a physical effect of heat; and, similarly, when the hoar frost fringing the sprays turns into hanging drops, or when the surface of the pool solidifies and again liquefies. But looked at with the eyes of absolute ignorance, these changes are transmutations of substance—passings from one kind of existence into another kind of existence. And in like ways are conceived all the changes above enumerated.

Let us now ask what happens in the primitive mind when there has been accumulated this chaotic assemblage of crude ideas, having, amid their differences, certain resemblances. In conformity with the law of evolution, every aggregate [I-123] tends to integrate, and to differentiate while it integrates. The aggregate of primitive ideas must do this. After what manner will it do it? These multitudinous vague notions form a loose mass without order. They slowly segregate, like cohering with like, and so forming indefinitely-marked groups. When these groups begin to form a consolidated whole, constituting a general conception of the way in which things at large go on, they must do it in the same way: such coherence of the groups as arises, must be due to some likeness among the members of all the groups. We have seen that there is such a likeness—this common trait of duality joined with this aptitude for passing from one mode of existence to another. Integration must be set up by the recognition of some conspicuous typical case. When, into a heap of detached observations, is introduced an observation akin to them in which a causal relation is discernible, it forthwith commences assimilating to itself from this heap of observations, those which are congruous; and tends even to coerce into union those of which the congruity is not manifest. One may say that as the protoplasm forming an unfertilized germ, remains inert until the matter of a sperm-cell is joined with it, but begins to organize when this addition is made; so a loose mass of observations continues unsystematized in the absence of an hypothesis, but under the stimulus of an hypothesis undergoes changes bringing about a coherent systematic doctrine. What particular example, then, of this prevalent duality, plays the part of an organizing principle to the aggregate of primitive ideas? We must not look for an hypothesis properly so called: an hypothesis is an implement of inquiry not to be framed by the primitive mind. We must look for some experience in which this duality is forcibly thrust on the attention. As a consciously-held hypothesis is based on some obtrusive instance of a relation, which other instances are suspected to be like; so the particular primitive notion which is to serve as an unconscious hypothesis, setting up organization [I-124] in this aggregate of primitive notions, must be one conspicuously exemplifying their common trait.

First identifying this typical notion, we must afterwards enter on a survey of the conceptions which result. It will be needful to pursue various lines of inquiry and exposition not manifestly relevant to our subject; and it will also be needful to contemplate much evidence furnished by men who have advanced beyond the savage state. But this discursive treatment is unavoidable. Until we can figure to ourselves with approximate truth the primitive system of thought, we cannot understand primitive conduct; and rightly to conceive the primitive system of thought, we must compare the systems found in many societies: helping ourselves by observing its developed forms, to verify our conclusions respecting its undeveloped form. [*]






§ 60. At first sight, the difference between an animal and a plant seems greater than the difference between a plant and a lifeless object. Its frequent movements distinguish a quadruped or a bird from inert things; but a plant, inert in most respects, is not thus distinguished. Only to beings capable of making those comparisons between past and present by which growth is detected and the cycle of reproductive changes traced, can it become manifest that plants are allied with animals more than with other entities. The earliest classification, then, puts animals into one group and the rest of things into another.

Hence, in considering how there arises in consciousness the distinction between the living and the not-living, we may, for a while, neglect the phenomena of plant-life and consider only those of animal-life.

To understand the nature of the conceived distinction in the mind of the primitive man, we must observe the development of it through lower forms of consciousness.

§ 61. If, when wandering some sunny day on the seashore among masses of rock covered with “acorn-shells,” one stops to examine something, a feeble hiss many be heard. On investigation, it will be found that this sound proceeds from the acorn-shells. During low tide they commonly remain with their valves not quite shut; but those on which [I-126] a shadow is suddenly cast begin to close, and by simultaneous closure of the great numbers covered by the shadow, this faint noise is produced. Here the fact to be observed is that these cirrhipeds, which are transformed crustaceans having aborted eyes imbedded in their bodies, and vision which suffices only to discriminate light from darkness, draw to the doors of their cells when the light is all at once intercepted. Ordinarily, something alive casts the shadow—there is an adjacent source of danger. But as the shadow may be cast by a sharp-edged cloud, which obscures the sun with adequate suddenness, an adjacent living body is not always the cause: the test is an imperfect one. Still, we see that deep down among creatures thus unintelligent, there is a vague general response to an indication of adjacent life: the indication being a change that implies a moving body.

Various inferior types whose lives are carried on mainly by reflex actions, display no very marked advance on this mode of discriminating the living from the not-living, as visually presented. Further along the shore, in the tide-pools, are shrimps, which dart in all directions when a large body comes near; and when decaying sea-weed is disturbed, the sea-fleas jump at random, whatever may have caused the disturbance. So in the neighbouring fields, the insects, not distinguishing the shapes of moving objects or their kinds of motion, fly or leap when sudden great changes of visual impression are made on them—each such change usually implying a living body near at hand. In these cases, as in the cases of caterpillars that roll themselves up when touched, the action is automatic. After the vivid nervous stimulus comes a strong motor discharge, resulting in flight or in diffused contraction of the muscles.

In such cases the motion which implies life is confounded with the motion which does not. The kind of mental act is like that occurring in ourselves when some large object suddenly passes close in front. An involuntary start results, before there is time to decide whether the object is alive or [I-127] dead—a source of danger or not. The primary suggestion with us, as with these lower creatures, is that motion implies life; but whereas with us conscious observation instantly disproves or verifies this suggestion, with them it does not.

§ 62. What is the first specialization of this original consciousness? How do superior creatures begin to qualify this association between motion and life, in such way as to exclude from the class of living things a number which move but are not living? Where intelligence rises beyond the merely automatic, the motion implying life begins to be distinguished from other motion by its spontaneity. Without being struck or pushed by anything external, bodies which are alive suddenly change from rest to movement, or from movement to rest. Rooks show appreciation of this difference. Watching doubtfully as you pass in the distance, they rise into the air if you stop; or, not doing this, do it when you walk on.

That the spontaneity of the motion serves as a test, is clearly shown by the behaviour of animals in presence of a railway train, which shows no spontaneity. In the early days of railways they displayed great alarm; but after a time, familiarized with the roar and the swift motion of this something which, appearing in the distance rushed by and disappeared in the distance, they became regardless of it. The cattle now continue to graze; and even the partridges on the embankment-slopes scarcely raise their heads.

Converse evidence is yielded by the behaviour of a dog mentioned by Mr. Darwin. Like others of his kind, and like superior animals generally, he was regardless of the swaying flowers and the leaves occasionally rustled by the summer breeze. But there happened to be on the lawn an opened parasol. From time to time the breeze stirred this; and when it did so, the dog growled fiercely and barked. Conscious, as his experiences had made him, that the familiar agency which he felt raising his own hair, sufficed also to [I-128] move the leaves about, and that consequently their motion was not self-produced, he had not observed so large a thing as a parasol thus moved. Hence arose the idea of some living power—an intruder.

Again, appearances which at first vividly suggest life, presently cease to suggest it if spontaneity is absent. The behaviour of a dog before a looking-glass proves this. At first conceiving the reflected image to be another dog, he is excited; and if the back of the looking-glass is accessible, makes attempts to reach the supposed stranger. When, however, the glass is so placed, say in a chiffonier, as to show him the image very frequently, he becomes indifferent to it. For what reason? The appearance does not spontaneously move. While he is still, it remains still; and any motion in it follows motion in himself.

§ 63. Yet a further test used by intelligent animals to discriminate the living from the not-living, is the adaptation of motion to ends. 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, and so bring a renewal of the chase. Not only is it expected that there will be self-produced motion; but it is expected that this motion will be away from danger. Habitually it is observable of animals that when failing to decide by the odour whether something smelt at is a living creature or not, there is an anticipation that disturbance will cause it to run away if it is alive. And even the behaviour of some gregarious birds when one of their number has been shot, shows that the absence of response to the cries and movements of the flock, leads to the impression that their companion is no longer one of that class of objects known as animated.

§ 64. Thus in the ascent from low to high types of creatures, the power of distinguishing the animate from the [I-129] inanimate increases. First motion, then spontaneous motion, then adapted spontaneous motion, are the successive tests used as intelligence progresses.

Doubtless other traits aid. Sniffing the air, a deer perceives by something in it the proximity of an enemy; and a carnivore often follows prey by the scent it has left. But certain odours, though concomitants of life, are not used as tests of life; for when found, the objects which exhale the odours are not regarded as living if they exhibit none of the expected motions. Sounds, too, serve as indications; but these, when caused by animals, are the results of spontaneous motions, and are taken to imply life only because they accompany other spontaneous motions.

It should be added that the ability thus to class apart the animate and the inanimate, is inevitably developed in the course of evolution. Under penalties of death by starvation or destruction, there has been a constant cultivation of the power to discriminate the two, and a consequent increase of it.

§ 65. Shall we say that the primitive man is less intelligent than the lower mammals, less intelligent than birds and reptiles, less intelligent even than insects? Unless we say this, we must say that the primitive man distinguishes the living from the not-living; and if we credit him with intelligence higher than that of brutes, we must infer that he distinguishes the living from the not-living better than brutes do. The tests which other creatures use, and which the superior among them rightly use in nearly all cases, he also must use: the only difference being that occasional errors of classing into which the most developed among other creatures fall, he avoids.

It is true that the uncivilized man as we now find him, commonly errs in his classification when shown certain products of civilized art, having traits of structure or behaviour like those of living things. By the Esquimaux, Ross’s vessels [I-130] were thought alive—moving as they did without oars; and Thomson says of the New Zealanders, that “when Cook’s ship hove in sight, the people took her for a whale with wings.” Andersson tells us that by the Bushmen, a waggon was supposed to be animated, and to want grass: its complexity, its symmetry, and its moving wheels, being irreconcilable with their experiences of inanimate things. “It is alive” said an Arawâk to Brett, on seeing a pocket-compass. That a watch is taken by savages for a living creature, is a fact frequently noted. And we have, again, the story of the Esquimaux, who, ascribing life to a musical box and a barrel-organ, regarded the one as the child of the other. But automatic instruments emitting various sounds, are in that respect strikingly like many animated bodies. The motions of a watch seem spontaneous; and hence the ascription of life is quite natural. We must exclude mistakes made in classing those things which advanced arts have made to simulate living things; since such things mislead the primitive man in ways unlike those in which he can be misled by the natural objects around him. Limiting ourselves to his conceptions of these natural objects, we cannot but conclude that his classification of them into animate and inanimate, is substantially correct.

Concluding this, we are obliged to diverge at the outset from certain interpretations currently given of his superstitions. The belief, tacit or avowed, that the primitive man thinks there is life in things which are not living, is clearly an untenable belief. Consciousness of the difference between the two, growing ever more definite as inteligence evolves, must be in him more definite than in all lower creatures. To suppose that without cause he begins to confound them, is to suppose the process of evolution is inverted.

§ 66. It is, indeed, urged that undeveloped human intelligence daily shows a tendency to confound them. Certain [I-131] facts are named as implying that children fail in the discrimination. Were not this evidence vitiated by the suggestions of adults, it would have weight. But on remembering that when trying to pacify a child that has hurt itself against some inanimate object, a mother or nurse will affect to take the child’s part against this object, perhaps saying, “Naughty chair to hurt baby—beat it!” we shall suspect that the notion does not originate with the child but is given to it. The habitual behaviour of children to surrounding things implies no such confusion. Unless an inanimate object so far resembles an animate one as to suggest the idea that it may be a motionless living creature which will presently move, a child shows no fear of it. True, if an inanimate thing moves without a perceived external force, alarm results. Unlike as a thing may be to living things, yet if it displays this spontaneity characteristic of living things, the idea of life is aroused, and a scream may be caused. But otherwise, life is no more ascribed by a child than by a puppy or a kitten. [*] Should it be said that an [I-132] older child, endowing its playthings with personalities, speaks of them and fondles them as though they were living; the reply is that this shows not belief but deliberate fiction. Though pretending that the things are alive, the child does not really think them so. Were its doll to bite, it would be no less astounded than an adult would be. To secure that pleasurable action of unused faculties called play, many intelligent creatures thus dramatize: lacking the living objects, they will accept as representing them, non-living objects—especially if these can be made to simulate life. But the dog pursuing a stick does not think it alive. If he gnaws it after catching it, he does but carry out his dramatized chase. Did he think the stick alive, he would bite it as eagerly before it was thrown as after. It is further alleged that even the grown man sometimes betrays a lurking tendency to think of inanimate objects as animate. Made angry by resistance to his efforts, he may in a fit of rage swear at some senseless thing, or dash it on the ground, or kick it. But the obvious interpretation is that anger, like every strong emotion, tends to discharge itself in violent muscular actions, which must take some direction or other; that when, as in many past cases, the cause of the anger has been a living object, the muscular actions have been directed towards the injury of such object; and that the established association directs the muscular discharges in the same way when the object is not living, if there is nothing to determine them in any other way. But the man who thus vents his fury cannot be said to think the thing is alive, though this mode of showing his irritation makes him seem to think so.

None of these facts, then, imply any real confusion between the animate and the inanimate. The power to distinguish between the two, which is one of the first powers vaguely shown even by creatures devoid of special senses, which goes on increasing as intelligence evolves, and which becomes complete in the civilized man, must be regarded as [I-133] approaching completeness in the uncivilized man. It cannot be admitted that he confuses things which, through all lower forms of mind, have been growing clear.

§ 67. “How, then, are we to explain his superstitions?” it will be asked. “That these habitually imply the ascription of life to things not alive, is undeniable. If the primitive man has no proclivity to this confusion, how is it possible to explain the extreme prevalence, if not the universality, of beliefs which give personalities, and tacitly ascribe animation, to multitudes of inanimate things?”

The reply is, that these cannot be primary beliefs, but must be secondary beliefs into which the primitive man is betrayed during his early attempts to understand the surrounding world. The incipiently-speculative stage must come after a stage in which there is no speculation—a stage in which there yet exists no sufficient language for carrying on speculation. During this stage, the primitive man no more tends to confound animate with inanimate than inferior creatures do. If, in his first efforts at interpretation, he forms conceptions inconsistent with this pre-established distinction between animate and inanimate, it must be that some striking experience misleads him—introduces a germ of error which develops into an erroneous set of interpretations.

What is the germinal error? We may fitly seek for it amid those experiences which mask the distinction between animate and inanimate. There are continually-recurring states in which living things simulate things not alive; and in certain attendant phenomena we shall find the seed of that system of superstitions which the primitive man forms.






§ 68. A conception which is made so familiar to us during education that we mistake it for an original and necessary one, is the conception of Mind, as an internal existence distinct from body. The hypothesis of a sentient, thinking entity, dwelling within a corporeal framework, is now so deeply woven into our beliefs and into our language, that we can scarcely imagine it to be one which the primitive man did not entertain, and could not entertain.

Yet if we ask what is given in experience to the untaught human being, we find that there is nothing to tell him of any such existence. From moment to moment he sees things around, touches them, handles them, moves them hither and thither. He knows nothing of sensations and ideas—has no words for them. Still less has he any such highly-abstract word or conception as consciousness. He thinks without observing that he thinks; and therefore never asks how he thinks, and what it is which thinks. His senses make him conversant only with objects externally existing, and with his own body; and he transcends his senses only far enough to draw concrete inferences respecting the actions of these objects. An invisible, intangible entity, such as Mind is supposed to be, is a high abstraction unthinkable by him, and inexpressible by his vocabulary.

This, which is obvious a priori, is verified a posteriori The savage cannot speak of internal intuition except in [I-135] terms of external intuition. We ourselves, indeed, when saying that we see something that has been clearly explained, or grasp an argument palpably true, still express mental acts by words originally used to express bodily acts. And this use of words implying vision and touch, which with us is metaphorical, is, with the savage, not distinguished from literal. He symbolizes his mind by his eye. (See Principles of Psychology, § 404.)

But until there is a conception of Mind as an internal principle of activity, there can be no such conception of dreams as we have. To interpret the sights and sayings and doings we are conscious of during sleep, as activities of the thinking entity which go on while the senses are closed, is impossible until the thinking entity is postulated. Hence arises the inquiry—What explanation is given of dreams before the conception of Mind exists.

§ 69. Hunger and repletion, both very common with the primitive man, excite dreams of great vividness. Now, after a bootless chase and a long fast, he lies exhausted; and, while slumbering, goes through a successful hunt—kills, skins, and cooks his prey, and suddenly wakes when about to taste the first morsel. To suppose him saying to himself—“It was all a dream,” is to suppose him already in possession of that hypothesis which we see he cannot have. He takes the facts as they occur. With perfect distinctness he recalls the things he saw and the actions he performed; and he accepts undoubtingly the testimony of memory. True, he all at once finds himself lying still. He does not understand how the change took place; but, as we have lately seen, the surrounding world familiarizes him with unaccountable appearances and disappearances, and why should not this be one? If at another time, lying gorged with food, the disturbance of his circulation causes nightmare—if, trying to escape and being unable, he fancies himself in the clutches of a bear, and wakes with a shriek; why should he [I-136] conclude that the shriek was not due to an actual danger? Though his squaw is there to tell him that she saw no bear, yet she heard his shriek; and like him has not the dimmest notion that a mere subjective state can produce such an effect—has, indeed, no terms in which to frame such a notion.

The belief that dreams are actual experiences is confirmed by narrations of them in imperfect language. We forget that discriminations easy to us, are impossible to those who have but few words, all concrete in their meanings, and only rude propositional forms in which to combine these words. When we read that in the language of so advanced a people as the ancient Peruvians, the word huaca meant “idol, temple, sacred place, tomb, hill, figures of men and animals,” we may judge how indefinite must be the best statements which the vocabularies of the rudest men enable them to make. When we read of an existing South American tribe, that the proposition—“I am an Abipone,” is expressible only in the vague way—“I, Abipone;” we cannot but infer that by such undeveloped grammatical structures, only the simplest thoughts can be rightly conveyed. When, further, we learn that among the lowest men inadequate words indefinitely combined are also imperfectly pronounced, as, for instance, among the Akka, whose speech struck Schweinfurth by its inarticulateness, we recognize a third cause of confusion. And thus prepared, we need feel no surprise on being told that the Zuni Indians require “much facial contortion and bodily gesticulation to make their sentences perfectly intelligible;” that the language of the Bushmen needs so many signs to eke out its meaning, that “they are unintelligible in the dark;” and that the Arapahos “can hardly converse with one another in the dark.” If, now, remembering all this, we ask what must happen when a dream is narrated by a savage, we shall see that even supposing he suspects some distinction between ideal actions and real actions, he cannot express it. His [I-137] language does not enable him to say—“I dreamt that I saw,” instead of—“I saw.” Hence each relates his dreams as though they were realities; and thus strengthens in every other, the belief that his own dreams are realities.

What then is the resulting notion? The sleeper on awaking recalls various occurrences, and repeats them to others. He thinks he has been elsewhere; witnesses say he has not; and their testimony is verified by finding himself where he was when he went to sleep. The simple course is to believe both that he has remained and that he has been away—that he has two individualities, one of which leaves the other and presently comes back. He, too, has a double existence, like many other things.

§ 70. From all quarters come proofs that this is the conception actually formed of dreams by savages, and which survives after considerable advances in civilization have been made. Here are a few of the testimonies.

Schoolcraft tells us that the North American Indians in general, think “there are duplicate souls, one of which remains with the body, while the other is free to depart on excursions during sleep;” and, according to Crantz, the Greenlanders hold “that the soul can forsake the body during the interval of sleep.” The theory in New Zealand is “that during sleep the mind left the body, and that dreams are the objects seen during its wanderings;” and in Fiji, “it is believed that the spirit of a man who still lives will leave the body to trouble other people when asleep.” Similarly in Borneo. It is the conviction of the Dyaks that the soul during sleep goes on expeditions of its own, and “sees, hears, and talks.” Among Hill-tribes of India, such as the Karens, the same doctrine is held: their statement being that “in sleep it [the Là, spirit or ghost] wanders away to the ends of the earth, and our dreams are what the Là sees and experiences in his perambulations.” By the ancient Peruvians, too, developed as was the social state they had reached, [I-138] the same interpretation was put upon the facts. They held that “the soul leaves the body while it is sleeping. They asserted that the soul could not sleep, and that the things we dream are what the soul sees in the world while the body sleeps.” And we are told the like even of the Jews: “Sleep is looked upon as a kind of death, when the soul departs from the body, but is restored again in awaking.”

Occurring rarely, it may be, somnambulism serves, when it does occur, to confirm this interpretation. For to the uncritical, a sleep-walker seems to be exemplifying that activity during sleep, which the primitive conception of dreams implies. Each phase of somnambulism furnishes its evidence. Frequently the sleeper gets up, performs various actions, and returns to rest without waking; and, recalling afterwards these actions, is told by witnesses that he actually did the things he thought he had been doing. What construction must be put on such an experience by primitive men? It proves to the somnambulist that he may lead an active life during his sleep, and yet find himself afterwards in the place where he lay down. With equal conclusiveness it proves to those who saw him, that men really go away during their sleep; that they do the things they dream of doing; and may even sometimes be visible. True, a careful examination of the facts would show that in this case the man’s body was absent from its place of rest. But savages do not carefully examine the facts. Again, in cases where the sleep-walker does not recollect the things he did, there is still the testimony of others to show him that he was not quiescent; and occasionally there is more. When, as often happens, his night-ramble brings him against an obstacle and the collision wakes him, he has a demonstration of the alleged fact that he goes hither and thither during sleep. On returning to his sleeping-place he does not, indeed, find a second self there; but this discovery, irreconcilable with the accepted notion, simply increases the confusion of his ideas about these matters. Unable to deny [I-139] the evidence that he wanders when asleep, he takes his strange experience in verification of the current belief, without dwelling on the inconsistency.

When we consider what tradition, with its exaggerations, is likely to make of these abnormal phenomena, now and then occurring, we shall see that the primitive interpretation of dreams must receive from them strong support.

§ 71. Along with this belief there of course goes the belief that persons dreamt of were really met. If the dreamer thinks his own actions real, he ascribes reality to whatever he saw—place, thing, or living being. Hence a group of facts similarly prevalent.

Morgan states that the Iroquois think dreams real, and obey their injunctions—do what they are told by those they see in dreams; and of the Chippewas, Keating asserts that they fast for the purpose of “producing dreams, which they value above all things.” The Malagasy “have a religious regard to dreams, and think that the good dæmon . . . comes, and tells them in their dreams when they ought to do a thing, or to warn them of some danger.” The Sandwich Islanders say the departed member of a family “appears to the survivors sometimes in a dream, and watches over their destinies;” and the Tahitians have like beliefs. In Africa it is the same. The Congo people hold that what they see and hear in “dreams come to them from spirits;” and among East Africans, the Wanika believe that the spirits of the dead appear to the living in dreams. The Kaffirs, too, “seem to ascribe dreams in general to the spirits.” Abundant evidence is furnished by Bishop Callaway concerning the Zulus, whose ideas he has written down from their own mouths. Intelligent as these people are, somewhat advanced in social state, and having language enabling them to distinguish between dream-perceptions and ordinary perceptions, we nevertheless find among them (joined with an occasional scepticism) a prevalent belief that the persons [I-140] who appear in dreams are real. Out of many illustrations, here is one furnished by a man who complains that he is plagued by the spirit of his brother. He tells his neighbours:—

“I have seen my brother.” They ask what he said. He says, “I dreamed that he was beating me, and saying, ‘How is it that you do no longer know that I am?’ I answered him, saying, ‘When I do know you, what can I do that you may see I know you? I know that you are my brother.’ He answered me as soon as I said this, and asked, ‘When you sacrifice a bullock, why do you not call upon me?’ I replied, ‘I do call on you, and laud you by your laud-giving names. Just tell me the bullock which I have killed, without calling on you. For I killed an ox, I called on you; I killed a barren cow, I called on you.’ He answered, saying, ‘I wish for meat.’ I refused him, saying, ‘No, my brother, I have no bullock; do you see any in the cattle-pen?’ He replied, ‘Though there be but one, I demand it.’ When I awoke, I had a pain in my side.”

Though this conception of a dead brother as a living being who demands meat, and inflicts pain for non-compliance, is so remote from our own conceptions as to seem scarcely possible; yet we shall see its possibility on remembering how little it differs from the conceptions of early civilized races. At the opening of the second book of the Iliad, we find the dream sent by Zeus to mislead the Greeks, described as a real person receiving from Zeus’s directions what he is to say to the sleeping Agamemnon. In like manner, the soul of Patroclus appeared to Achilles when asleep “in all things like himself,” saying “bury me soon that I may pass the gates of Hades,” and, when grasped at, “like smoke vanished with a shriek:” the appearance being accepted by Achilles as a reality, and its injunction as imperative. Hebrew writings show us the like. When we read that “God came to Abimelech in a dream by night,” that “the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel;” we see an equally unhesitating belief in an equally objective reality. During civilization this faith has been but slowly losing ground, and even still survives; [I-141] as is proved by the stories occasionally told of people who when just dead appeared to distant relations, and as is proved by the superstitions of the “spiritualists.”

Indeed, after recalling these last, we have but to imagine ourselves de-civilized—we have but to suppose faculty decreased, knowledge lost, language vague, and scepticism absent, to understand how inevitably the primitive man conceives as real, the dream-personages we know to be ideal.

§ 72. A reflex action on other beliefs is exercised by these beliefs concerning dreams. Besides fostering a system of erroneous ideas, this fundamental misconception discredits the true ideas which accumulated experiences of things are ever tending to establish.

For while the events dreamed are accepted as events that have really occurred—while the order of phenomena they exhibit is supposed to be an actual order; what must be thought about the order of phenomena observed at other times? Such uniformities in it as daily repetition makes conspicuous, cannot produce that sense of certainty they might produce if taken by themselves; for in dreams these uniformities are not maintained. Though trees and stones seen when awake, do not give place to other things which panoramically change, yet, when the eyes are closed at night they do. While looking at him in broad daylight, a man does not transform himself; but during slumber, something just now recognized as a companion, turns into a furious beast, threatening destruction; or what was a moment since a pleasant lake, has become a swarm of crocodiles. Though when awake, the ability to leave the earth’s surface is limited to a leap of a few feet; yet, when asleep, there sometimes comes a consciousness of flying with ease over vast regions. Thus, the experiences in dreams habitually contradict the experiences received during the day; and tend to cancel the conclusions drawn from day-experiences. Or rather, they tend to confirm the erroneous conclusions [I-142] suggested by day-experiences, instead of the correct conclusions. For do not these sudden appearances and disappearances in dreams, prove, like many facts observed when awake, that things can pass unaccountably from visible to invisible states, and vice versa? And do not these dream-transformations thoroughly accord with those other transformations, some real and some apparent, which make the primitive man believe in an unlimited possibility of metamorphosis? When that which in his dream he picked up as a stone, becomes alive, does not the change harmonize with his discoveries of fossils having the hardness of stones and the shapes of living things? And is not the sudden exchange of a tiger-shape for the shape of a man, which his dream shows him, akin to the insect metamorphoses he has noticed, and akin to the seeming transformations of leaves into walking creatures?

Clearly, then, the acceptance of dream-activities as real activities, strengthens allied misconceptions otherwise generated. It strengthens them both negatively and positively. It discredits those waking experiences from which right beliefs are to be drawn; and it yields support to those waking experiences which suggest wrong beliefs.

§ 73. That the primitive man’s conception of dreaming is natural, will now be obvious. As said at the outset, his notions seem strange because, in thinking about them, we carry with us the theory of Mind which civilization has slowly established. Mind, however, as we conceive it, is unknown to the savage; being neither diclosed by the senses, nor directly revealed as an internal entity. The fact that even now some metaphysicians hold that nothing beyond impressions and ideas can be known to exist, while others hold that impressions and ideas imply a something of which they are states, proves that Mind, as conceived by us, is not an intuition but an implication; and therefore cannot be conceived until reasoning has made some progress.


Like every child, the primitive man passes through a phase of intelligence during which there has not yet arisen the power of introspection implied by saying—“I think—I have ideas.” The thoughts that accompany sensations and the perceptions framed of them, are so unobtrusive, and pass so rapidly, that they are not noticed: to notice them implies a self-criticism impossible at the outset. But these faint states of consciousness which, during the day, are obscured by the vivid states, become obtrusive at night, when the eyes are shut and the other senses dulled. Then the subjective activities clearly reveal themselves, as the stars reveal themselves when the sun is absent. That is to say, dream-experiences necessarily precede the conception of a mental self; and are the experiences out of which the conception of a mental self eventually grows. Mark the order of dependence:—The current interpretation of dreams implies the hypothesis of mind as a distinct entity; the hypothesis of mind as a distinct entity cannot exist before the experiences suggesting it; the experiences suggesting it are the dream-experiences, which seem to imply two entities; and originally the supposition is that the second entity differs from the first simply in being absent and active at night while the other is at rest. Only as this assumed duplicate becomes gradually modified by the dropping of physical characters irreconcilable with the facts, does the hypothesis of a mental self, as we understand it, become established.

Here, then, is the germinal principle which sets up such organization as the primitive man’s random observations of things can assume. This belief in another self belonging to him, harmonizes with all those illustrations of duality furnished by things around; and equally harmonizes with those multitudinous cases in which things pass from visible to invisible states and back again. Nay more. Comparison shows him a kinship between his own double and the doubles of other objects. For have not these objects their shadows? Has not he too his shadow? Does not his shadow [I-144] become invisible at night? Is it not obvious, then, that this shadow which in the day accompanies his body is that other self which at night wanders away and has adventures? Clearly, the Greenlanders who, as we have seen, believe this, have some justification for the belief.






§ 74. The quiescence of ordinary sleep is daily seen by the savage to be quickly exchanged for activity when the slumberer is disturbed. Differences between the amounts of the required disturbances are, indeed, observable. Now the slightest sound suffices; and now it needs a shout, or rough handling, or pinching. Still, his experience shows that when a man’s body lies motionless and insensible, a mere calling of the name usually causes re-animation.

Occasionally, however, something different happens. Here is a companion exhibiting signs of extreme pain, who, all at once, sinks down into an inert state; and at another time, a feeble person greatly terrified or even overjoyed, undergoes a like change. In those who behave thus, the ordinary sensibility cannot be forthwith re-established. Though the Fijian, in such case, calls the patient by his name, and is led by the ultimate revival to believe that his other self may be brought back by calling, yet there is forced on him the fact that this absence of the other self is unlike its usual absences. Evidently, the occurrence of this special insensibility, commonly lasting for a minute or two but sometimes for hours, confirms the belief in a duplicate that wanders away from the body and returns to it: the desertion of the body being now more determined than usual, and being followed by silence as to what has been done or seen in the interval.


Our familiar speech bears witness to this primitive interpretation of syncope. We say of one who revives from a fainting fit, that she is “coming back to herself”—“returning to herself.” Though we no longer explain insensibility as due to an absence of the sentient entity from the body, yet our phrases bear witness to a time when insensibility was so explained.

§ 75. Apoplexy “is liable to be confounded with syncope or fainting, and with natural sleep.” The instructed medical man thus describes it. Judge then how little it can be discriminated by savages.

Suddenly falling, the apoplectic patient betrays a “total loss of consciousness, of feeling, and of voluntary movement.” The breathing is sometimes natural, as in quiet sleep; and sometimes the patient lies “snoring loudly as in deep sleep.” In either case, however, it presently turns out that the sleeper cannot be “brought back to himself” as usual: shouts and shakes have no effect.

What must the savage think about a fellow-savage in this state; which continues perhaps for a few hours, but occasionally for several days? Clearly the belief in duality is strengthened. The second self has gone away for a time beyond recall; and when it eventually comes back, nothing can be learnt about its experiences while absent.

If, as commonly happens, after months or years there comes a like fall, a like prolonged insensibility, and a like return, there is again a silence about what has been done. And then, on a third occasion, the absence is longer than before—the relatives wait and wait, and there is no coming back: the coming back seems postponed indefinitely.

§ 76. Similar in its sudden onset, but otherwise dissimilar, is the nervous seizure called catalepsy; which also lasts sometimes several hours and sometimes several days. Instantaneous loss of consciousness is followed by a state in [I-147] which the patient “presents the air of a statue rather than that of an animated being.” The limbs placed in this or that position, remain fixed: the agent which controlled them seems absent; and the body is passive in the hands of those around.

Resumption of the ordinary state is as sudden as was cessation of it. And, as before, “there is no recollection of anything which occurred during the fit.” That is to say, in primitive terms, the wandering other-self will give no account of its adventures.

That this conception, carrying out their conception of dreams, is entertained by savages we have direct testimony. Concerning the journeyings of souls, the Chippewas say that some “are the souls of persons in a lethargy or trance. Being refused a passage [to the other world], these souls return to their bodies and re-animate them.” And that a kindred conception has been general, is inferable from the fact named by Mr. Fiske in his Myths and Myth-makers that “in the Middle Ages the phenomena of trance and catalepsy were cited in proof of the theory that the soul can leave the body and afterwards return to it.”

§ 77. Another, but allied, form of insensibility yields evidence similarly interpretable. I refer to ecstasy. While, by making no responses to ordinary stimuli, the ecstatic subject shows that he is “not himself,” he seems to have vivid perceptions of things elsewhere.

Sometimes “induced by deep and long-sustained contemplation,” ecstasy is characterized by “a high degree of mental excitement, co-existing with a state of unconsciousness of all surrounding things.” While the muscles are “rigid, the body erect and inflexible,” there is “a total suspension of sensibility and voluntary motion.” During this state, “visions of an extraordinary nature occasionally occur,” and “can be minutely detailed afterwards.”

Witnessing such phenomena is evidently calculated to [I-148] strengthen the primitive belief that each man is double, and that one part can leave the other; and that it does strengthen them we have facts to show. Bp. Callaway, describing Zulu ideas, says a man in ecstasy is believed to see “things which he would not see if he were not in a state of ecstasy:” a statement which, joined with their interpretation of dreams, implies that the visions of his ecstatic state were regarded by the Zulus as experiences of his wandering other-self.

§ 78. I need not detail the phases of coma, having the common trait of an unconsciousness more or less unlike that of sleep, and all of them explicable in the same way. But there is one other kind of insensibility, highly significant in its implications, which remains to be noticed—the insensibility which direct injury produces. This has two varieties: the one following loss of blood; the other following concussion.

When treating of the familiar insensibility known as swoon, I purposely refrained from including loss of blood among the causes named: this origin not being visibly allied to its other origins. Leading, as he does, a life of violence, the primitive man often witnesses fainting from anæmia. Not that he connects cause and effect in this definite way. What he sees is, that after a serious wound comes a sudden collapse, with closed eyes, immobility, speechlessness. For a while there is no response to a shake or a call. Presently his wounded fellow-warrior “returns to himself”—opens his eyes and speaks. Again the blood gushes from his wound, and after a time he is again absent. Perhaps there is a revival and no subsequent unconsciousness; or, perhaps, there comes a third quietude—a quietude so prolonged that hope of immediate return is given up.

Sometimes the insensibility has a partially-different antecedent. In battle, a blow from a waddy lays low a companion, or a club brought down with force on the head of an enemy reduces him to a motionless mass. The one or the [I-149] other may be only stunned; and presently there is a “reanimation.” Or the stroke may have been violent enough to cause concussion of the brain, or fracture of the skull and consequent pressure on the brain; whence may result prolonged insensibility, followed by incoherent speech and feeble motion; after which may come a second lapse into unconsciousness—perhaps ending after another interval, or perhaps indefinitely continued.

§ 79. Joined with the evidence which sleep and dreams furnish, these evidences yielded by abnormal states of insensibility, originate a further group of notions concerning temporary absences of the other-self.

A swoon, explained as above, is not unfrequently preceded by feelings of weakness in the patient and signs of it to the spectators. These rouse in both a suspicion that the other-self is about to desert; and there comes anxiety to prevent its desertion. Revival of a fainting person has often taken place while he was being called to. Hence the question—will not calling bring back the other-self when it is going away? Some savages say yes. The Fijian may sometimes be heard to bawl out lustily to his own soul to return to him. Among the Karens, a man is constantly in fear lest his other-self should leave him: sickness or languor being regarded as signs of its absence; and offerings and prayers being made to bring it back. Especially odd is the behaviour which this belief causes at a funeral.

“On returning from the grave, each person provides himself with three little hooks made of branches of trees, and calling his spirit to follow him, at short intervals, as he returns, he makes a motion as if hooking it, and then thrusts the hook into the ground. This is done to prevent the spirit of the living from staying behind with the spirit of the dead.”

Similarly with the graver forms of insensibility. Mostly occurring, as apoplexy, trance, and ecstasy do, to persons otherwise unwell, these prolonged absences of the other-self [I-150] become mentally associated with its impending absences at other times; and hence an interpretation of ill-health or sickness. Among some Northern Asiatics disease is ascribed to the soul’s departure. By the Algonquins, a sick man is regarded as a man whose “shadow” is “unsettled, or detached from his body.” And in some cases the Karens suppose one who is taken ill and dying to be one who has had his soul transferred to another by witchcraft.

Various beliefs naturally arise respecting the doings of the other-self during these long desertions. Among the Dyaks, “elders and priestesses often assert that in their dreams they have visited the mansion of Tapa [the Supreme God], and seen the Creator dwelling in a house like that of a Malay, the interior of which was adorned with guns and gongs and jars innumerable, Himself being clothed like a Dyak.” And Hind speaks of a Cree Indian who asserted that he had once been dead and visited the spirit-world: his alleged visit being probably, like the alleged visits of the Dyaks, a vision during abnormal insensibility. For, habitually, a journey to the world of spirits is assigned as the cause for one of these long absences of the other-self. Instances are given by Mr. Tylor of this explanation among the Australians, the Khonds, the Greenlanders, the Tatars; and he names Scandinavian and Greek legends implying the same notion.

I may add, as one of the strangest of these derivative beliefs, that of certain Greenlanders, who think that the soul can “go astray out of the body for a considerable time. Some even pretend, that when going on a long journey they can leave their souls at home, and yet remain sound and healthy.”

Thus what have become with us figurative expressions, remain with men in lower states literal descriptions. The term applied by Southern Australians to one who is unconscious, means “without soul;” and we say that such an one is “inanimate.” Similarly, though our thoughts respecting [I-151] a debilitated person are no longer like those of the savage, yet the words we use to convey them have the same original implication: we speak of him as having “lost his spirit.”

§ 80. The beliefs just instanced, like those instanced in foregoing chapters, carry us somewhat beyond the mark. Evolution has given to the superstitions we now meet with, more specific characters than had the initial ideas out of which they grew. I must therefore, as before, ask the reader to ignore the specialities of these interpretations, and to recognize only the trait common to them. The fact to be observed is that the abnormal insensibilities now and then witnessed, are inevitably interpreted in the same general way as the normal insensibility daily witnessed: the two interpretations supporting one another.

The primitive man sees various durations of the insensible state and various degrees of the insensibility. There is the doze in which the dropping of the head on the breast is followed by instant waking; there is the ordinary sleep, ending in a few minutes or continuing many hours, and varying in profundity from a state broken by a slight sound to a state not broken without shouts and shakes; there is lethargy in which slumber is still longer, and the waking short and imperfect; there is swoon, perhaps lasting a few seconds or perhaps lasting hours, from which the patient now seems brought back to himself by repeated calls, and now obstinately stays away; and there are apoplexy, catalepsy, ecstasy, etc., similar in respect of the long persistence of insensibility, though dissimilar in respect of the accounts the patient gives on returning to himself. Further, these several comatose states differ as ending, sometimes in revival, and sometimes in a quiescence which becomes complete and indefinitely continued: the other-self remaining so long away that the body goes cold.

Most significant of all, however, are the insensibilities which follow wounds and blows. Though for other losses of [I-152] consciousness the savage saw no antecedents, yet for each of these the obvious antecedent was the act of an enemy. And this act of an enemy produced variable results. Now the injured man shortly “returned to himself,” and did not go away again; and now, returning to himself only after a long absence, he presently deserted his body for an indefinite time. Lastly, instead of these temporary returns followed by final absence, there sometimes occurred cases in which a violent blow caused continuous absence from the first: the other-self never came back at all.






§ 81. We assume without hesitation that death is easily distinguished from life; and we assume without hesitation that the natural ending of life by death, must have been always known as it is now known. Each of the assumptions thus undoubtingly made, is erroneous.

“Nothing is more certain than death; nothing is at times more uncertain than its reality: and numerous instances are recorded of persons prematurely buried, or actually at the verge of the grave, before it was discovered that life still remained; and even of some who were resuscitated by the knife of the anatomist.”

This passage, which I extract from Forbes and Tweedie’s Cyclopædia of Practical Medicine, is followed by an examination of the tests commonly trusted: showing that they are all fallacious. If, then, having the accumulated experiences bequeathed by civilization, joined to that acquaintance with natural death gained through direct observation in every family, we cannot be sure whether revival will or will not take place; what judgments are to be expected from the primitive man, who, lacking all this recorded knowledge, lacks also our many opportunities of seeing natural death? Until facts have proved it, he cannot know that this permanent quiescence is the necessary termination to the state of activity; and his wandering, predatory life keeps out of view most of the evidence which establishes this truth.


So circumstanced, then, what ideas does the primitive man form of death? Let us observe the course of his thought, and the resulting conduct.

§ 82. He witnesses insensibilities various in their lengths and various in their degrees. After the immense majority of them there come re-animations—daily after sleep, frequently after swoon, occasionally after coma, now and then after wounds or blows. What about this other form of insensibility?—will not re-animation follow this also?

The inference that it will, is strengthened by the occasional experience that revival occurs unexpectedly. One in course of being buried, or one about to be burned, suddenly comes back to himself. The savage does not take this for proof that the man supposed to be dead was not dead; but it helps to convince him that the insensibility of death is like all the other insensibilities—only temporary. Even were he critical, instead of being incapable of criticism, the facts would go far to justify his belief that in these cases re-animation has been only longer postponed.

That this confusion, naturally to be inferred, actually exists, we have proof. Arbousset and Daumas quote the proverb of the Bushmen—“Death is only a sleep.” Concerning the Tasmanians, Bonwick writes:—“When one was asked the reason of the spear being stuck in the tomb, he replied quietly, ‘To fight with when he sleep.’ ” Even so superior a race as the Dyaks have great difficulty in distinguishing sleep from death. When a Toda dies, the people “entertain a lingering hope that till putrefaction commences, reanimation may possibly take place.” More clearly still is this notion of revival implied in the reasons given for their practices by two tribes—one in the Old World and one in the New—who both unite great brutality with great stupidity. The corpse of a Damara, having been sewn-up sitting “in an old ox-hide,” is buried in a hole, and “the spectators jump backwards and forwards over the grave to [I-155] keep the deceased from rising out of it.” And among the Tupis, “the corpse had all its limbs tied fast, that the dead man might not be able to get up, and infest his friends with his visits.”

Apart from avowed convictions and assigned reasons, abundant proofs are furnished by the behaviour; as in the instances last given. Let us observe the various acts prompted by the belief that the dead return to life.

§ 83. First come attempts to revive the corpse—to bring back the other-self. These are sometimes very strenuous, and very horrible. Alexander says of the Arawâks, that a man who had lost two brothers “cut thorny twigs, and beat the bodies all over, uttering at the same time ‘Heia! Heia!’ as if he felt the pain of the flagellation. . . . Seeing that it was impossible to reanimate the lifeless clay, he opened their eyes, and beat the thorns into the eyeballs, and all over the face.” Similarly, the Hottentots reproach and ill-use the dying, and those just dead, for going away.

This introduces us to the widely-prevalent practice of talking to the corpse: primarily with the view of inducing the wandering duplicate to return, but otherwise for purposes of propitiation. The Fijian thinks that calling sometimes brings back the other-self at death; as does, too, the Banks’ Islander, by whom “the name of the deceased is loudly called with the notion that the soul may hear and come back;” and we read that the Hos even call back the spirit of a corpse which has been burnt. The Fantees address the corpse “sometimes in accents of reproach for leaving them; at others beseeching his spirit to watch over and protect them from evil.” During their lamentations, the Caribs asked “the deceased to declare the cause of his departure from the world.” In Samoa “the friends of the deceased . . . went with a present to the priest, and begged him to get the dead man to speak and confess the sins which caused his death;” in Loango, a dead man’s relatives question him [I-156] for two or three hours why he died; and on the Gold Coast, “the dead person is himself interrogated” as to the cause of his death. Even by the Hebrews “it was believed that a dead man could hear anything.” So, too, when depositing food, etc. Among the Todas, the sacrificer addressed the deceased, and, naming the cow killed, “said they had sent her to accompany him.” Moffat tells us of the Bechuanas that, on bringing things to the grave, an old woman speaks to the corpse the words—“There are all your articles.” And the Innuits visit the graves, talk to the dead, leave food, furs, etc., saying—“Here, Nukertou, is something to eat, and something to keep you warm.”

As implied by the last case, this behaviour, originally adopted towards those just dead, extends to those dead some time. After a burial among the Bagos, “a dead man’s relations come and talk to him under the idea that he hears what they say.” After burning, also, the same thing sometimes happens: among the old Kookies the ashes are “addressed by the friends of the deceased, and his good qualities recited.” The Malagasy not only “address themselves in an impassioned manner to the deceased,” but, on entering the burial-place, inform the surrounding dead that a relative is come to join them, and bespeak a good reception. Even by such comparatively-advanced peoples as those of ancient America, this practice was continued, and, indeed, highly developed. The Mexicans, giving to the deceased certain papers, said:—“By means of this you will pass without danger between the two mountains which fight against each other. With the second, they said: By means of this you will walk without obstruction along the road which is defended by the great serpent. With the third: By this you will go securely through the place where there is the crocodile Xochitonal.” So, too, among the Peruvians, the young knights on their initiation, addressed their embalmed ancestors, beseeching “them to make their descendants as fortunate and brave as they had been themselves.”


After learning that death is at first regarded as one kind of quiescent life, these proceedings no longer appear so absurd. Beginning with the call, which wakes the sleeper and sometimes seems effectual in reviving one who has swooned, this speaking to the dead develops in various directions; and continues to be a custom even where immediate re-animation is not looked for.

§ 84. The belief that death is a long-suspended animation, has a further effect, already indicated in some of the foregoing extracts. I refer to the custom of giving the corpse food: in some cases actually feeding it; and in most cases leaving eatables and drinkables for its use.

Occasionally in a trance, the patient swallows morsels put into his mouth. Whether or not such an experience led to it, there exists a practice implying the belief that death is an allied state. Kolff says of the Arru Islanders, that after one has died, these Papuans try to make him eat; “and when they find that he does not partake of it, the mouth is filled with eatables, siri, and arrack, until it runs down the body, and spreads over the floor.” Among the Tahitians, “if the deceased was a chief of rank or fame, a priest or other person was appointed to attend the corpse, and present food to its mouth at different periods during the day.” So is it with the Malanaus of Borneo: when a chief dies, his slaves attend to his imagined wants with the fan, sirih and betel-nut. The Curumbars, between death and burning, frequently drop a little grain into the mouth of the deceased.

Mostly, however, the aim is to give the deceased available supplies whenever he may need them. In some cases he is thus provided for while awaiting burial; as among the Fantees, who place “viands and wine for the use of the departed spirit,” near the sofa where the corpse is laid; and as among the Karens, by whom “meat is set before the body as food,” before burial. Tahitians and Sandwich Islanders, too, who expose their dead on stages, place fruits and water [I-158] beside them; and the New Zealanders, who similarly furnish provisions, “aver that at night the spirit comes and feeds from the sacred calabashes.” Herrera tells us of certain Brazilians, that they put the dead man in “the net or hammock he used to lie in, and during the first days they bring him meat, thinking he lies in his bed.” And the belief that the unburied required refreshment, was otherwise shown by the Peruvians, who held a funeral feast, “expecting the soul of the deceased, which, they say, must come to eat and to drink.”

So general is the placing of provisions in or upon the grave, that an enumeration of the cases before me would be wearisome: a few must suffice. In Africa may be instanced the Sherbro people, who “are in the habit of carrying rice and other eatables to the graves of their departed friends;” the Loango people, who deposit provisions at the tomb; the Inland Negroes, who put food and wine on the graves; and the sanguinary Dahomans, who place on the grave an iron “asen,” on which “water or blood, as a drink for the deceased, is poured.” Turning to Asia, we find the practice among the Hill-tribes of India. The Bhils cook rice and leave some where the body was burnt, and the rest at the “threshold of his late dwelling . . . as provision for the spirit;” and kindred customs are observed by Santals, Kookies, Karens. In America, of the uncivilized races, may be named the Caribs; who put the corpse “in a cavern or sepulchre” with water and eatables. But it was by the extinct civilized races that this practice was most elaborated. The Chibchas, shutting up the dead in artificial caves, wrapped them in fine mantles and placed round them many maize cakes and mucuras of chicha [a drink]; and of the Peruvians, Tschudi tells us that “in front of the bodies they used to place two rows of pots filled with quiana, maize, potatoes, dried llama-flesh, etc.”

The like is done even along with cremation. Among the Kookies, the widow places “rice and vegetables on the ashes [I-159] of her husband.” The ancient Central Americans had a kindred habit. Oviedo gives thus the statement of an Indian:—“When we are about to burn the body we put beside it some boiled maize in a calabash, and attach it to the body and burn it along with it.” Though where the corpse is destroyed by fire, the conception of re-animation in its original form must have died out, this continued practice of supplying food indicates a past time when re-animation was conceived literally: an inference verified by the fact that the Kookies, some of whom bury their dead while others burn them, supply eatables in either case.

§ 85. What is the limit to the time for the return of the other-self? Hours have elapsed and the insensible have revived; days have elapsed and the insensible have revived; will they revive after weeks or months, and then want food? The primitive man cannot say. The answer is at least doubtful, and he takes the safe course: he repeats the supplies of food.

It is thus with the indigenes of India. Among the Bodo and Dhimáls, the food and drink laid on the grave are renewed after some days, and the dead is addressed; among the Kookies the corpse being “deposited upon a stage raised under a shed,” food and drink are “daily brought, and laid before it.” By American races this custom is carried much further. Hall tells us of the Innuits that “whenever they return to the vicinity of the kindred’s grave, a visit is made to it with the best of food” as a present; and Schoolcraft says most of the North American Indians “for one year visit the place of the dead, and carry food and make a feast for the dead, to feed the spirit of the departed.” But in this, as in other ways, the extinct civilized races of America provided most carefully. In Mexico “after the burial, they returned to the tomb for twenty days, and put on it food and roses; so they did after eighty days, and so on from eighty to eighty.” The aboriginal Peruvians used to open the tombs, [I-160] and renew the clothes and food which were placed in them. Still further were such practices carried with the embalmed bodies of the Yncas. At festivals they brought provisions to them, saying—“When you were alive you used to eat and drink of this; may your soul now receive it and feed on it, wheresoever you may be.” And Pedro Pizarro says they brought out the bodies every day and seated them in a row, according to their antiquity. While the servants feasted, they put the food of the dead on a fire, and their chicha vessels before them.

Here the primitive practice of repeating the supplies of food for the corpse, in doubt how long the revival may be delayed, has developed into a system of observances considerably divergent from the original ones.

§ 86. Other sequences of the belief in re-animation, equally remarkable, may next be named. If the corpse is still in some way alive, like one in a trance, must it not breathe, and does it not require warmth? These questions sundry races practically answer in the affirmative.

The Guaranis “believe that the soul continued with the body in the grave, for which reason they were careful to leave room for it” . . . they would remove “part of the earth, lest it should lie heavy upon them” . . . and sometimes “covered the face of the corpse with a concave dish, that the soul might not be stifled.” It is an Esquimaux belief “that any weight pressing upon the corpse would give pain to the deceased.” And after the conquest, the Peruvians used to disinter people buried in the churches, saying that the bodies were very uneasy when pressed by the soil, and liked better to stay in the open air.

A fire serves both to give warmth and for cooking; and one or other of these conveniences is in some cases provided for the deceased. By the Iroquois “a fire was built upon the grave at night to enable the spirit to prepare its food.” Among the Brazilians it is the habit to “light fires by the [I-161] side of newly-made graves . . . for the personal comfort of the defunct.” Of the Sherbro people (Coast Negroes) Schön says that “frequently in cold or wet nights they will light a fire” on the grave of a departed friend. By the Western Australians, too, fires are kept burning on the burial place for days; and should the deceased be a person of distinction, such fires are lighted daily for three or four years.

§ 87. Resuscitation as originally conceived, cannot take place unless there remains a body to be resuscitated. Expectation of a revival is therefore often acompanied by recognition of the need for preserving the corpse from injury.

Note, first, sundry signs of the conviction that if the body has been destroyed resurrection cannot take place. When Bruce tells us that among the Abyssinians, criminals are seldom buried; when we learn that by the Chibchas the bodies of the greatest criminals were left unburied in the fields; we may suspect the presence of a belief that renewal of life is prevented when the body is devoured. This belief we elsewhere find avowed. “No more formidable punishment to the Egyptian was possible than destroying his corpse, its preservation being the main condition of immortality.” The New Zealanders held that a man who was eaten by them, was destroyed wholly and for ever. The Damaras think that dead men, if buried, “cannot rest in the grave. . . . You must throw them away, and let the wolves eat them; then they won’t come and bother us.” The Matiamba negresses believe that by throwing their husbands’ corpses into the water, they drown the souls: these would otherwise trouble them. And possibly it may be under a similar belief that the Kamschadales give corpses “for food to their dogs.”

Where, however, the aim is not to insure annihilation of the departed, but to further his well-being, anxiety is shown that the corpse shall be guarded against ill-treatment. This [I-162] anxiety prompts devices which vary according to the views taken of the deceased’s state of existence.

In some cases security is sought in secrecy, or inaccessibility, or both. Over certain sepulchres the Chibchas planted trees to conceal them. After a time the remains of New Zealand chiefs were “secretly deposited by priests in sepulchres on hill-tops, in forests, or in caves.” The Muruts of Borneo place the bones of their chiefs in boxes on the ridges of the highest hills; and sometimes the Tahitians, to prevent the bones from being stolen, deposited them on the tops of almost inaccessible mountains. Among the Kaffirs, while the bodies of common people are exposed to be devoured by wolves, those of chiefs are buried in their cattle-pens. So, too, a Bechuana chief “is buried in his cattle-pen, and all the cattle are driven for an hour or two around and over the grave, so that it may be quite obliterated.” Still stranger was the precaution taken on behalf of the ruler of Bogota. “They divert,” says Simon, “the course of a river, and in its bed make the grave. . . . As soon as the cazique is buried, they let the stream return to its natural course.” The interment of Alaric was similarly conducted; and Cameron tells us that in the African state of Urua, the like method of burying a king is still in use.

While in these cases the desire to hide the corpse and its belongings from enemies, brute and human, predominates; in other cases the desire to protect the corpse against imagined discomfort predominates. We have already noted the means sometimes used to insure its safety without stopping its breathing, supposed to be still going on; and probably a kindred purpose originated the practice of raising the corpse to a height above the ground. Sundry of the Polynesians place dead bodies on scaffolds. In Australia, too, and in the Andaman Islands, the corpse is occasionally thus disposed of. Among the Zulus, while some bury and some burn, others expose in trees; and Dyaks and Kyans have a similar custom. But it is in America, where the natives, as [I-163] we see, betray in other ways the desire to shield the corpse from pressure, that exposure on raised stages is commonest. The Dakotahs adopt this method; at one time it was the practice of the Iroquois; Catlin, describing the Mandans as having scaffolds on which “their ‘dead live,’ as they term it,” remarks that they are thus kept out of the way of wolves and dogs; and Schoolcraft says the same of the Chippewas. Among South-American tribes, a like combination of ends was sought by using chasms and caverns as places of sepulture. The Caribs did this. The Guiana Indians bury their dead, only in the absence of cavities amid the rocks. The Chibchas interred in a kind of “bobedas” or caves, which had been made for the purpose. And the several modes of treating the dead adopted by the ancient Peruvians, all of them attained, as far as might be, both ends—protection, and absence of supposed inconvenience to the corpse. Where they had not natural clefts in the rocks, they made “great holes and excavations with closed doors before them;” or else they kept the embalmed bodies in temples.

Leaving the New World, throughout which the primitive conception of death as a long-suspended animation seems to have been especially vivid, we find elsewhere less recognition of any sensitiveness in the dead to pressure or want of air: there is simply a recognition of the need for preventing destruction by animals, or injury by men and demons. This is the obvious motive for covering over the corpse; and, occasionally, the assigned motive. Earth is sometimes not enough; and then additional protection is given. By the Mandingoes, “prickly bushes are laid upon” the grave, “to prevent the wolves from digging up the body;” and the Joloffs, a tribe of Coast Negroes, use the same precaution. The Arabs keep out wild beasts by heaping stones over the body; and the Esquimaux do the like. The Bodo and Dhimáls pile stones “upon the grave to prevent disturbance by jackals,” etc. In Damara-land, a chief’s tomb “consists of a large heap of stones surrounded by an enclosure of [I-164] thorn-brushes.” And now observe a remarkable sequence. The kindred of the deceased, from real or professed affection, and others from fear of what he may do when his double returns, join in augmenting the protective mass. Among the Inland Negroes, large cairns are formed over graves, by passing relatives who continually add stones to the heap; and it was a custom with the aborigines of San Salvador “to throw a handful of earth, or a stone, upon the grave of the distinguished dead, as a tribute to their memory.” Obviously, in proportion as the deceased is loved, reverenced, or dreaded, this process is carried further. Hence an increasing of the heap for protective purposes, brings about an increasing of it as a mark of honour or of power. Thus, the Guatemala Americans “raised mounds of earth corresponding in height with the importance of the deceased.” Of the Chibchas, Cieza says—“they pile up such masses of earth in making their tombs, that they look like small hills;” and Acosta, describing certain other burial mounds in those parts as “heaped up during the mourning,” adds—“as that extended as long as drink was granted, the size of the tumulus shows the fortune of the deceased.” Ulloa makes a kindred remark respecting the monuments of the Peruvians.

So that, beginning with the small mound necessarily resulting from the displacement of earth by the buried body, we come at length to such structures as the Egyptian pyramids: the whole series originating in the wish to preserve the body from injuries hindering resuscitation.

§ 88. Another group of customs having the same purpose, must be named. Along with the belief that re-animation will be prevented if the returning other-self finds a mutilated corpse, or none at all; there goes the belief that to insure re-animation, putrefaction must be stopped. That this idea leaves no traces among men in very low states, is probably due to the fact that no methods of arresting decomposition [I-165] have been discovered by them. But among more advanced races, we find proofs that the idea arises and that it leads to action.

The prompting motive was shown by certain of the ancient Mexicans, who believed that “the dead were to rise again, and when their bones were dry, they laid them together in a basket, and hung them up to a bough of a tree, that they might not have to look for them at the resurrection.” Similarly, the Peruvians, explaining their observances to Garcilasso, said—“We, therefore, in order that we may not have to search for our hair and nails at a time when there will be much hurry and confusion, place them in one place, that they may be brought together more conveniently, and, whenever it is possible, we are also careful to spit in one place.”

With such indications to guide us, we cannot doubt the meaning of the trouble taken to prevent decay. When we read that in Africa the Loango people smoke corpses, and that in America some of the Chibchas “dried the bodies of their dead in barbacoas on a slow fire;” we must infer that the aim is, or was, to keep the flesh in a state of integrity against the time of resuscitation. And on finding that by these same Chibchas, as also by some of the Mexicans, and by the Peruvians, the bodies of kings and caziques were embalmed; we must conclude that embalming was adopted simply as a more effectual method of achieving the same end: especially after noting that the preservation was great in proportion as the rank was high; as is shown by Acosta’s remark that “the body [of an Ynca] was so complete and well preserved, by means of a sort of bitumen, that it appeared to be alive.”

Proof that like ideas suggested the like practices of the ancient Egyptians, has already been given.

§ 89. Some further funeral rites, indirectly implying the belief in resurrection, must be added; partly because [I-166] they lead to certain customs hereafter to be explained. I refer to the bodily mutilations which, in so many cases, are marks of mourning.

We read in the Iliad that at the funeral of Patroclus, the Myrmidons “heaped all the corpse with their hair that they cut off and threw thereon;” further, that Achilles placed “a golden lock” in the hands of the corpse; and that this act went along with the dedication of himself to avenging Patroclus, and with the promise to join him afterward. Hair is thus used as a gage: a portion of the body is given as symbolizing a gift of the whole. And this act of affection, or mode of propitiation, or both, prevails widely among uncivilized races.

As further showing what the rite means, I may begin with Bonwick’s statement that, by Tasmanian women, “the hair, cut off in grief, was thrown upon the mound;” and may add the testimony of Winterbottom respecting the Soosoos, that one grave was seen—that of a woman—with her eldest daughter’s hair placed upon it. Where we do not learn what becomes of the hair, we yet in numerous cases learn that it is cut off. Among the Coast Negroes a dead man’s more immediate relations shave off all the hair; and some Damaras, on the death of a valued friend, do the like. Similarly with the Mpongwe, the Kaffirs, and the Hottentots. In Hawaii and Samoa the hair is cut or torn; the Tongans shave the head; the New Zealanders, in some cases, clip half the head-hair short; among the Tannese “cutting off the hair is a sign of mourning;” and on the death of the late Queen of Madagascar, “the entire country round Antananarivo was clean clipped, except the Europeans and some score or so of privileged Malagasy.” In America it is the same. A Greenlander’s widow sacrifices her tresses; the near relatives of a dead Chinook cut their hair off; and the Chippewayans, the Comanches, the Dakotahs, the Mandans, the Tupis, have the same custom. The significance of this rite as a sign of subordination, [I-167] made to propitiate the presently-reviving dead, is shown by sundry facts. Among the Todas, there is a cutting off of the hair at a death, but only “by the younger members to denote their respect for their seniors;” and among the Arabs, “on the death of a father, the children of both sexes cut off their kerouns or tresses of hair in testimony of grief.” By South Americans, both political and domestic loyalty are thus marked. We read that among the Abipones, “on the death of a cacique, all the men under his authority shave their long hair as a sign of grief.” So was it with the Peruvians: the Indians of Llacta-cunya made “great lamentations over their dead, and the women who are not killed, with all the servants, are shorn of their hair.” That is to say, those wives who did not give themselves wholly to go with the dead, gave their hair as a pledge.

Like in their meanings are the accompanying self-bleedings, gashings, and amputations. At funerals, the Tasmanians “lacerated their bodies with sharp shells and stones.” The Australians, too, cut themselves; and so do, or did, the Tahitians, the Tongans, and the New Zealanders. We read that among the Greenlanders the men “sometimes gash their bodies;” and that the Chinooks “disfigure and lacerate their bodies.” The widows of the Comanches “cut their arms, legs, and bodies in gashes, until they are exhausted by the loss of blood, and frequently commit suicide;” and the Dakotahs “not unfrequently gash themselves and amputate one or more fingers.” In this last instance we are introduced to the fact that not blood only, but sometimes a portion of the body, is given, where the expression of reverence or obedience is intended to be great. In Tonga, on the death of a high priest, the first joint on the little finger is amputated; and when a king or chief in the Sandwich Islands died, the mutilations undergone by his subjects were—tattooing a spot on the tongue, or cutting the ears, or knocking out one of the front teeth. On remembering that blood, and portions [I-168] of the body, are offered in religious sacrifice—on reading that the Dahomans sprinkle human blood on the tombs of their old kings, to get the aid of their ghosts in war—on finding that the Mexicans gave their idols their blood to drink, that some priests bled themselves daily, and that even male infants were bled—on being told that the like was done in Yucatan, and Guatemala, and San Salvador, and that the coast-people of Peru offered blood alike to idols and on sepulchres; we cannot doubt that propitiation of the dead man’s double is the original purpose of these funeral rites.

That such is the meaning is, indeed, in one case distinctly asserted. Turner tells us that a Samoan ceremony on the occasion of a decease, was “beating the head with stones till the blood runs; and this they called ‘an offering of blood’ for the dead.”

§ 90. All these various observances, then, imply the conviction that death is a long-suspended animation. The endeavours to revive the corpse by ill-usage; the calling it by name, and addressing to it reproaches or inquiries; the endeavours to feed it, and the leaving with it food and drink; the measures taken to prevent its discomfort from pressure and impediments to breathing; the supplying of fire to cook by, or to keep off cold; the care taken to prevent injury by wild beasts, and to arrest decay; and even these various self-injuries symbolizing subordination;—all unite to show this belief. And this belief is avowed.

Thus in Africa, the Ambamba people think that “men and youths are thrown by the fetich priests into a torpid state lasting for three days, and sometimes buried in the fetich-house for many years, but being subsequently restored to life.” Referring to a man who had died a few days before among the Inland Negroes, Lander says “there was a public declaration that his tutelary god had resuscitated him.” And Livingstone was thought by a Zambesi chief, to be an [I-169] Italian, Siriatomba, risen from the dead. Turning to Polynesia, we find, among the incongruous beliefs of the Fijians, one showing a transition between the primitive idea of a renewed ordinary life, and the idea of another life elsewhere; they think that death became universal because the children of the first man did not dig him up again, as one of the gods commanded. Had they done so, the god said all men would have lived again after a few days’ interment. And then, in Peru, where so much care was taken of the corpse, resuscitation was an article of faith. “The Yncas believed in a universal resurrection—not for glory or punishment, but for a renewal of this temporal life.”

Just noting past signs of this belief among higher races—such as the fact that “in Moslem law, prophets, martyrs, and saints are not supposed to be dead: their property, therefore, remains their own;” and such as the fact that in Christian Europe, distinguished men, from Charlemagne down to the first Napoleon, have been expected to reappear; let us note the still existing form of this belief. It differs from the primitive form less than we suppose. I do not mean merely that in saying “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin,” the civilized creed implies that death is not a natural event; just as clearly as do the savage creeds which ascribe death to some difference of opinion among the gods, or disregard of their injunctions. Nor do I refer only to the further evidence that in our State Prayer-Book, bodily resurrection is unhesitatingly asserted; and that poems of more modern date contain descriptions of the dead rising again. I have in view facts showing that, even still, many avow this belief as clearly as it was lately avowed by a leading ecclesiastic. On July 5th, 1874, the Bishop of Lincoln preached against cremation, as tending to undermine men’s faith in bodily resurrection. Not only, in common with the primitive man, does Dr. Wordsworth hold that the corpse of each buried person will be resuscitated; but he also holds, in common with the primitive man, that [I-170] destruction of the corpse will prevent resuscitation. Had he been similarly placed, the bishop would doubtless have taken the same course as the Ynca Atahuallpa, who turned Christian in order to be hanged instead of burnt because (he said to his wives and to the Indians) if his body was not burnt, his father, the Sun, would raise him again.

And now observe, finally, the modification by which the civilized belief in resurrection is made partially unlike the savage belief. There is no abandonment of it: the anticipated event is simply postponed. Supernaturalism, gradually discredited by science, transfers its supernatural occurrences to remoter places in time or space. As believers in special creations suppose them to happen, not where we are, but in distant parts of the world; as miracles, admitted not to take place now, are said to have taken place during a past dispensation; so, re-animation of the body, no longer expected as immediate, is expected at an indefinitely far-off time. The idea of death differentiates slowly from the idea of temporary insensibility. At first revival is looked for in a few hours, or in a few days, or in a few years; and gradually, as death becomes more definitely conceived, revival is not looked for till the end of all things.






§ 91. The traveller Mungo Park, after narrating a sudden rencontre with two negro horsemen, who galloped off in terror, goes on to say:—“About a mile to the westward, they fell in with my attendants, to whom they related a frightful story: it seems their fears had dressed me in the flowing robes of a tremendous spirit; and one of them affirmed that when I made my appearance, a cold blast of wind came pouring down upon him from the sky, like so much cold water.”

I quote this passage to remind the reader how effectually fear, when joined with a pre-established belief, produces illusions supporting that belief; and how readily, therefore, the primitive man finds proof that the dead reappear.

Another preliminary:—A clergyman known to me, accepting in full the doctrine of the natural evolution of species, nevertheless professes to accept literally the statement that “God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life:” an incongruity of beliefs which may pair off with that of Roman Catholics who, seeing, touching, and tasting the unchanged wafer, yet hold it to be flesh.

These acceptances of irreconcilable conceptions, even by cultivated members of civilized communities, I instance as suggesting how readily primitive men, low in intelligence and without knowledge, may entertain conceptions which [I-172] are mutually destructive. It is difficult to picture them as thinking that the dead, though buried, come back in tangible shapes. And where they assert that the duplicate goes away, leaving the corpse behind, there seems no consistency in the accompanying supposition that it needs the food and drink they provide, or wants clothing and fire. For if they conceive it as aëriform or ethereal, then how can they suppose it to consume solid food, as in many cases they do; and if they regard it as substantial, then how do they conceive it to co-exist with the corpse, and to leave the grave without disturbing its covering?

But after reminding ourselves, as above, of the extremes of credulity and illogicality possible even in educated men of developed races, we shall infer that the primitive man’s ideas of the other-self, impossible though they look to us, can nevertheless be entertained.

§ 92. Typical as it is, I must set out with the often-cited notion of the Australians, so definitely expressed by the condemned criminal who said that after his execution he should jump up a white-fellow and have plenty of sixpences. Many have heard of the case of Sir George Grey, who was recognized and caressed by an Australian woman as her deceased son come back; and equally illustrative is the case of Mrs. Thomson, who, regarded as the returned other-self of a late member of the tribe, was sometimes spoken of by the Australians she lived with as “Poor thing! she is nothing—only a ghost!” Again, a settler with a bent arm, being identified as a lately-deceased native who had a bent arm, was saluted with—“O, my Balludery, you jump up white fellow!” And, giving other instances, Bonwick quotes Davis’s explanation of this Australian belief, as being that black men, when skinned before eating them, are seen to be white; and that therefore the whites are taken for their ghosts. But a like belief is elsewhere entertained without this hypothesis. The New Caledonians “think white men [I-173] are the spirits of the dead, and bring sickness.” “At Darnley Island, the Prince of Wales’ Islands, and Cape York, the word used to signify a white man also means a ghost.” Krumen call Europeans “the ghost-tribe;” a people in Old Calabar call them “spirit-men;” and the Mpongwe of the Gaboon call them “ghosts.”

The implication, put by these many cases beyond doubt, that the duplicate is at first conceived as no less material than its original, is shown with equal clearness in other ways among other peoples. Thus the Karens say “the Là [spirit] sometimes appears after death, and cannot then be distinguished from the person himself.” The Araucanians think “the soul, when separated from the body, exercises in another life the same functions it performed in this, with no other difference except that they are unaccompanied with fatigue or satiety.” The inhabitants of Quimbaya “acknowledged that there was something immortal in man, but they did not distinguish the soul from the body.” The distinct statement of the ancient Peruvians was that “the souls must rise out of their tombs, with all that belonged to their bodies.” They joined with this the belief “that the souls of the dead wandered up and down and endure cold, thirst, hunger, and travell.” And along with the practice of lighting fires at chiefs’ graves, there went, in Samoa, the belief that the spirits of the unburied dead wandered about crying “Oh, how cold! oh! how cold!”

Besides being expressed, this belief is implied by acts. The practice of some Peruvians, who scattered “flour of maize, or quinua, about the dwelling, to see, as they say, by the footsteps whether the deceased has been moving about,” is paralleled elsewhere: even among the Jews, sifted ashes were used for tracing the footsteps of demons; and by some of them, demons were regarded as the spirits of the wicked dead. A like idea must exist among those Negroes mentioned by Bastian, who put thorns in the paths leading to their villages, to keep away demons. Elsewhere, the alleged [I-174] demands for provisions by the dead have the same implication. “Give us some food, that we may eat and set out,” say certain Amazulu spirits, who represent themselves as going to fight the spirits of another place. Among the North-American Indians, the spirits are supposed to smoke; and in Fiji, it is said that the gods “eat the souls of those who are destroyed by men”—first roasting them. It is also a Fijian belief that some “souls are killed by men:” that is, the second self may have to be fought in battle like the first. So, too, by the Amazulu, “it is supposed that the Amatongo, or the dead, can die again. . . . We have allusions to their being killed in battle, and of their being carried away by the river.” This belief in the substantiality of the double, was shared by the ancient Hindus, by the Tatars, and by early Europeans.

§ 93. The transition from this original conception, to the less crude conceptions which come later, cannot be clearly traced; but there are signs of a progressive modification.

While the Tahitians hold that most spirits of the dead are “eaten by the gods,” not at once, but by degrees (implying separability of the parts); they hold that others are not eaten, and sometimes appear to the survivors in dreams: this re-appearance being probably the ground for the inference that they are not eaten. Again, a substantiality that is partial is not complete, is implied by the ascription to ghosts of organs of sense. The Yakuts leave conspicuous marks to show the spirits where the offerings are left; and the Indians of Yucatan think “that the soul of the deceased returns to the world, and in order that on leaving the tomb it may not lose the way to the domestic hearth, they mark the path from the hut to the tomb with chalk.” The materiality implied by physical vision, is similarly ascribed by the Nicobar people, who think that the “malignant spirits [of the dead] are effectually prevented from taking their abode again in the village, by a screen made of pieces of cloth, which [I-175] keeps out of their baneful sight the place where the houses stand.”

The elaborated doctrine of the Egyptians regarded each person as made up of several separate entities—soul, spirit, ghost, &c. The primary one was a partially-material duplicate of the body. M. Maspero writes:—“Le ka, qui j’appellerai le Double, etait comme un second exemplaire du corps en une matière moins dense que la matière corporelle, une projection colorée mais aérienne de l’individu, le reproduisant trait pour trait, . . . le tombeau entier, s’appelait la maison du Double.

The Greek conception of ghosts was of allied kind. “It is only,” says Thirlwall, “after their strength has been repaired by the blood of a slaughtered victim, that they recover reason and memory for a time, can recognize their living friends, and feel anxiety for those they have left on earth.” That these dwellers in Hades have some substantiality, is implied both by the fact that they come trooping to drink the sacrificial blood, and by the fact that Ulysses keeps them back with his sword. Moreover, in this world of the dead he beholds Tityus having his liver torn by vultures; speaks of Agamemnon’s soul as “shedding the warm tear;” and describes the ghost of Sisyphus as sweating from his efforts in thrusting up the still-gravitating stone. And here let me quote a passage from the Illiad, showing how the primitive notion becomes modified. On awaking after dreaming of, and vainly trying to embrace, Patroclus, Achilles says:—“Ay me, there remaineth then even in the house of Hades, a spirit and phantom of the dead, albeit the life be not anywise therein.” Yet, being described as speaking and lamenting, the ghost of Patroclus is conceived as having the materiality implied by such acts. Thus, in the mind of the Homeric age, the dream, while continuing to furnish proof of an after-existence, furnished experiences which, when reasoned upon, necessitated an alteration in the idea of the other-self: complete substantiality was negatived.


Nor do the conceptions which prevailed among the Hebrews appear to have been different. We find ascribed, now substantiality, now insubstantiality, and now something between the two. The resuscitated Christ was described as having wounds that admitted of tactual examination; and yet as passing unimpeded through a closed door or through walls. And their supernatural beings generally, whether revived dead or not, were similarly conceived. Here angels dining with Abraham, or pulling Lot into the house, apparently possess complete corporeity; there both angels and demons are spoken of as swarming invisibly in the surrounding air, thus being incorporeal; while elsewhere they are said to have wings, implying locomotion by mechanical action, and are represented as rubbing against, and wearing out, the dresses of Rabbins in the synagogue.

Manifestly the stories about ghosts universally accepted among ourselves in past times, involved the same thought. The ability to open doors, to clank chains and make other noises, implies considerable coherence of the ghost’s substance; and this coherence must have been assumed, however little the assumption was avowed. Moreover, the still extant belief in the torture of souls by fire similarly presupposes some kind of materiality.

§ 94. As implied above, we find, mingled with these ideas of semi-substantial duplicates, and inconsistently held along with them, the ideas of aëriform and shadowy duplicates. The contrast between the dying man and the man just dead, has naturally led to a conception of the departed in terms of the difference: each marked difference generating a correlative conception.

The heart ceases to beat. Is then the heart the other-self which goes away? Some races think it is. Bobadilla asked the Indians of Nicaragua—“Do those who go upwards, live there as they do here, with the same body and head and the rest?” To which the reply was—“Only the [I-177] heart goes there.” And further inquiry brought out a confused idea that there are two hearts, and that “that heart which goes is what makes them live.” So, too, among the Chancas of ancient Peru, Cieza says, soul “they called Sonccon, a word which also means heart.” More conspicuous as the cessation of breathing is than the cessation of the heart’s action, it leads to the more prevalent identification of the departed other-self with the departed breath. Among the Central Americans this identification co-existed with the last. To one of Bobadilla’s questions an Indian replied—“When they are dying, something like a person called yulio, goes off their mouth, and goes there, where that man and woman stay, and there it stays like a person and does not die, and the body remains here.” That the same belief has been generally held by higher races is too well known to need proof. I will name only the graphic presentation of it in illustrated ecclesiastical works of past times; as in the Mortilogus, of the Prior Conrad Reitter, printed in 1508, which contains woodcuts of dying men out of whose mouths smaller figures of themselves are escaping, and being received, in one case by an angel, and in another by a devil. Of direct identifications of the soul with the shadow, there are many examples; such as that of the Greenlanders, who “believe in two souls, namely, the shadow and the breath.” It will suffice, in further support of ancient examples, to cite the modern example of the Amazulu, as given by Bp. Callaway. Looking at the facts from the missionary point of view, and thus inverting the order of genesis, he says—“Scarcely anything can more clearly prove the degradation which has fallen on the natives than their not understanding that isitunzi meant the spirit, and not merely the shadow cast by the body; for there now exists among them the strange belief that the dead body casts no shadow.”

The conceptions of the other-self thus resulting, tending to supplant the conceptions of it as quite substantial, or half [I-178] substantial, because less conspicuously at variance with the evidence, lead to observances implying the belief that ghosts need spaces to pass through, though not large ones. The Iroquois leave “a slight opening in the grave for it” [the soul] to re-enter; “in Fraser Island (Great Sandy Island), Queensland . . . they place a sheet of bark over the corpse, near the surface, to leave room, as they say, for the spirit or ghost to move about and come up;” and in other cases, with the same motive, holes are bored in coffins. Of the Ansayrii, Walpole says—“In rooms dedicated to hospitality, several square holes are left, so that each spirit may come or depart without meeting another.”

§ 95. Were there no direct evidence that conceptions of the other-self are thus derived, the indirect evidence furnished by language would suffice. This comes to us from all parts of the world, from peoples in all stages.

Describing the Tasmanians, Milligan says—“To these guardian spirits they give the generic name ‘Warrawah,’ an aboriginal term, . . . signifying shade, shadow, ghost, or apparition.” In the Aztec language, ehecatl means both air, life, and soul. The New England tribes called the soul chemung, the shadow. In Quiché, natub, and in Esquimaux, tarnak, severally express both these ideas. And in the Mohawk dialect, atouritz, the soul, is from atourion, to breathe. Like equivalences have been pointed out in the vocabularies of the Algonquins, the Arawâks, the Abipones, the Basutos. That the speech of the civilized by certain of its words identifies soul with shade, and by others identifies soul with breath, is a familiar fact. I need not here repeat the evidence detailed by Mr. Tylor, proving that both the Semitic and the Aryan languages show the like original conceptions.

§ 96. And now we come to certain derivative conceptions of great significance. Let us take first, the most obvious.


Quadrupeds and birds are observed to breathe, as men breathe. If, then, a man’s breath is that other-self which goes away at death, the animal’s breath, which also goes away at death, must be its other-self: the animal has a ghost. Even the primitive man, who reasons but a step beyond the facts directly thrust on his attention, cannot avoid drawing this conclusion. And similarly where there exists the belief that men’s shadows are their souls, it is inferred the shadows of animals, which follow them and mimic them in like ways, must be the souls of the animals.

The savage in a low stage, stops here; but along with advance in reasoning power there is revealed a further implication. Though unlike men and familiar animals in not having any perceptible breath (unless, indeed, perfume is regarded as breath), plants are like men and animals in so far that they grow and reproduce: they flourish, decay, and die, after leaving offspring. But plants cast shadows; and as their branches sway in the gale, their shadows exhibit corresponding agitations. Hence, consistency demands an extension of the belief in duality: plants, too, have souls. This inference, drawn by somewhat advanced races, as the Dyaks, the Karens, and some Polynesians, leads among them to propitiate plant-spirits. And it persists in well-known forms through succeeding stages of social evolution.

But this is not all. Having gone thus far, advancing intelligence has to go further. For shadows are possessed not by men, animals, and plants only: other things have them. Hence, if shadows are souls, these other things must have souls. And now mark that we do not read of this belief among the lowest races. It does not exist among the Fuegians, the Australians, the Tasmanians, the Andamanese, the Bushmen; or, if it does, it is not sufficiently pronounced to have drawn the attention of travellers. But it is a belief that arises in the more intelligent races, and develops. The Karens think “every natural object has its lord or god, in the signification of its possessor or presiding [I-180] spirit:” even inanimate things that are useful, such as instruments, have each of them its Là or spirit. The Chippewas “believe that animals have souls, and even that inorganic substances, such as kettles, etc., have in them a similar essence.” By the Fijians who, as we have seen (§ 41), are among the most rational of barbarians, this doctrine is fully elaborated. They ascribe souls “not only to all mankind, but to animals, plants, and even houses, canoes, and all mechanical contrivances;” and this ascription is considered by T. Williams to have the origin here alleged. He says—“probably this doctrine of shadows has to do with the notion of inanimate objects having spirits.” Peoples in more advanced states have drawn the same conclusion. The Mexicans “supposed that every object had a god;” and that its possession of a shadow was the basis for this supposition, we may reasonably conclude on observing the like belief avowedly thus explained by a people adjacent to the Chibchas. Piedrahita writes:—

The Laches “worshipped every stone as a god, as they said that they had all been men, and that all men were converted into stones after death, and that a day was coming when all stones would be raised as men. They also worshipped their own shadow, so that they always had their god with them, and saw him when it was daylight. And though they knew that the shadow was produced by the light and an interposed object, they replied that it was done by the Sun to give them gods. . . . And when the shadows of trees and stones were pointed out to them, it had no effect, as they considered the shadows of the trees to be gods of the trees, and the shadows of the stones the gods of the stones, and therefore the gods of their gods.”

These facts, and especially the last, go far to show that the belief in object-souls, is a belief reached at a certain stage of intellectual evolution as a corollary from a pre-established belief respecting the souls of men. Without waiting for the more special proofs to be hereafter given, the reader will see what was meant in § 65, by denying that the primitive man could have so retrograded to an intelligence below that [I-181] of brutes, as originally to confuse the animate with the inanimate; and he will see some ground for the accompanying assertion that such confusion of them as his developing conceptions show, he is betrayed into by inference from a natural but erroneous belief previously arrived at.

§ 97. Returning from this parenthetical remark, it will be useful, before closing, to note the various classes of souls and spirits which this system of interpretation originates.

We have, first, the souls of deceased parents and relatives. These, taking in the minds of survivors vivid shapes, are thus distinguished from the souls of ancestors; which, according to their remoteness, pass into vagueness: so implying ideas of souls individualized in different degrees. We have, next, the wandering doubles of persons who are asleep, or more profoundly insensible. That these are recognized as a class, is shown by Schweinfurth’s account of the Bongo; who think that old people “may apparently be lying calmly in their huts, whilst in reality they are taking counsel with the spirits of mischief” in the woods. Further, we have, in some cases, the souls of waking persons which have temporarily left them: instance the belief of the Karens, that “every human being has his guardian spirit walking by his side, or wandering away in search of dreamy adventures; and if too long absent, he must be called back with offerings.” The recognition of such distinctions is clearly shown us by the Malagasy, who have different names for the ghost of a living person and the ghost of a dead person.

Another classification of souls or spirits is to be noted. There are those of friends and those of enemies—those belonging to members of the tribe, and those belonging to members of other tribes. These groups are not completely coincident; for there are the ghosts of bad men within the tribe, as well as the ghosts of foes outside of it; and there are in some cases the malignant spirits of those who have [I-182] remained unburied. But, speaking generally, the good and the bad spirits have these origins; and the amity or the enmity ascribed to them after death, is but a continuance of the amity or the enmity shown by them during life.

We must add to these the souls of other things—beasts, plants, and inert objects. The Mexicans ascribed the “blessing of immortality to the souls of brutes;” and the Malagasy think the ghosts “of both men and beasts reside in a great mountain in the south.” But though animal-souls are not uncommonly recognized; and though Fijians and others believe that the souls of destroyed utensils go to the other world; yet souls of these classes are not commonly regarded as interfering in human affairs.

§ 98. It remains only to note the progressive differentiation of the conceptions of body and soul, which the facts show us. As, in the last chapter, we saw that, along with the growth of intelligence, the idea of that permanent insensibility we call death is gradually differentiated from the ideas of those temporary insensibilities which simulate it, till at length it is marked off as radically unlike; so, here, we see that the ideas of a substantial self and an unsubstantial self, acquire their strong contrast by degrees; and that increasing knowledge, joined with a growing critical faculty, determine the change.

Thus when the Basutos, conceiving the other-self as quite substantial, think that if a man walks on the river-bank, a crocodile may seize his shadow in the water and draw him in; we may see that the irreconcilability of their ideas is so great, that advancing physical knowledge must modify them—must cause the other-self to be conceived as less substantial. Or again, if, on the one hand, the Fijian ascribes to the soul such materiality that, during its journey after death, it is liable to be seized by one of the gods and killed by smashing against a stone; and if, on the other hand, he holds that each man has two souls, his shadow and his reflection; [I-183] it is manifest that his beliefs are so incongruous that criticism must ultimately change them. Consciousness of the incongruity, becoming clearer as thought becomes more deliberate, leads to successive compromises. The second self, originally conceived as equally substantial with the first, grows step by step less substantial: now it is semi-solid, now it is aeriform, now it is ethereal. And this stage finally reached, is one in which there cease to be ascribed any of the properties by which we know existence: there remains only the assertion of an existence that is wholly undefined.






§ 99. Belief in re-animation implies belief in a subsequent life. The primitive man, incapable of deliberate thought, and without language fit for deliberate thinking, has to conceive this as best he may. Hence a chaos of ideas concerning the after-state of the dead. Among tribes who say that death is annihilation, we yet commonly find such inconsequent beliefs as those of some Africans visited by Schweinfurth, who shunned certain caves from dread of the evil spirits of fugitives who had died in them.

Incoherent as the notions of a future life are at first, we have to note their leading traits, and the stages of their development into greater coherence. The belief is originally qualified and partial. In the last chapter we saw that some think resuscitation depends on the treatment of the corpse—that destruction of it causes annihilation. Moreover, the second life may be brought to a violent end: the dead man’s double may be killed afresh in battle; or may be destroyed on its way to the land of the dead; or may be devoured by the gods. Further, there is in some cases a caste-limitation: in Tonga it is supposed that only the chiefs have souls. Elsewhere, resuscitation is said to depend on conduct and its incidental results. Some races think another life is earned by bravery; as do the Comanches, who anticipate it for good men—those who are daring in taking scalps and stealing horses. Conversely, “a mild and unwarlike tribe of Guatemala [I-185] . . . were persuaded that to die by any other than a natural death, was to forfeit all hope of life hereafter, and therefore left the bodies of the slain to the beasts and vultures.” Or, again, revival is contingent on the pleasure of the gods; as among the ancient Aryans, who prayed for another life and made sacrifices to obtain it. And there is in many cases a tacit supposition that the second life is ended by a second and final death.

Before otherwise considering the primitive conception of a future life, we will glance at this last trait—its duration.

§ 100. One of the experiences suggesting another life, is also one of the experiences suggesting a limit to it; namely, the appearance of the dead in dreams. Sir John Lubbock has been, I believe, the first to point out this. Manifestly the dead persons recognized in dreams, must be persons who were known to the dreamers; and consequently, the long dead, ceasing to be dreamt of, cease to be thought of as still existing. Savages who, like the Manganjas, “expressly ground their belief in a future life on the fact that their friends visit them in their sleep;” naturally draw the inference that when their friends cease to visit them in their sleep, they have ceased to be. Hence the contrast which Sir John Lubbock quotes from Du Chaillu. Ask a negro “where is the spirit of his great-grandfather, he says he does not know; it is done. Ask him about the spirit of his father or brother who died yesterday, then he is full of fear and terror.” And as we shall hereafter see, when dealing with another question, the evidence furnished by dreams establishes in the minds of the Amazulu, a like marked distinction between the souls of the lately dead and the souls of the long dead; which they think have died utterly.

How the notion of a temporary after-life grows into the notion of an enduring after-life, we must leave unconsidered. For present purposes it suffices to point out that the notion of an enduring after-life is reached through stages.


§ 101. What is the character of this after-life: here believed in vaguely and in a variable way; here believed in as lasting for a time; here believed in as permanent?

Sundry of the funeral rites described in a foregoing chapter, imply that the life which goes on after death is supposed to differ in nothing from this life. The Chinooks assert that at night the dead “awake and get up to search for food.” No doubt it is with a like belief in the necessity for satisfying their material wants, that the Comanches think the dead “are permitted to visit the earth at night, but must return at daylight”—a superstition reminding us of one still current in Europe. Among South American tribes, too, the second life is conceived as an unvaried continuation of the first: death-being, as the Yucatan Indians say, “merely one of the accidents of life.” The Tupis buried the dead body in the house “in a sitting posture with food before it; for there were some who believed that the spirit went to sport among the mountains, and returned there to eat and to take rest.”

Where the future life is thought of as divided from the present by a more decided break, we still find it otherwise contrasted in little or nothing. What is said of the Fijians may be said of others. After death they “plant, live in families, fight, and in short do much as people in this world.” Let us note the general agreement on this point.

§ 102. The provisions they count upon, differ from the provisions they have been accustomed to, only in being better and more abundant. The Innuits expect to feast on reindeer-meat; after death the Creek goes where “game is plenty and goods very cheap, where corn grows all the year round and the springs of pure water are never dried up;” the Comanches look forward to hunting buffaloes which are “abundant and fat;” while the Patagonians hope “to enjoy the happiness of being eternally drunk.” The conception differs elsewhere only as the food, etc., differs. The [I-187] people of the New Hebrides believe that in the next life “the cocoa-nuts and the bread-fruit are finer in quality, and so abundant in quantity as never to be exhausted.” Arriaga says that the Peruvians “do not know, either in this life or in the other, any greater happiness than to have a good farm wherefrom to eat and to drink.” And pastoral peoples show a kindred adjustment of belief: the Todas think that after death their buffaloes join them, to supply milk as before.

With like food and drink there go like occupations. The Tasmanians expected “to pursue the chase with unwearied ardour and unfailing success.” Besides killing unlimited game in their heaven, the Dakotahs look forward to “war with their former enemies.” And, reminded as we thus are of the daily fighting and feasting anticipated by the Scandinavians, we are shown the prevalence of such ideas among peoples remote in habitat and race. To see how vivid these ideas are, we must recall the observances they entail.

§ 103. Books of travel have familiarized most readers with the custom of burying a dead man’s movables with him. This custom elaborates as social development goes through its earlier stages. Here are a few illustrations, joined with the constructions we must put upon them.

The dead savage, having to hunt and to fight, must be armed. Hence the deposit of weapons and implements with the corpse. The Tongous races have these, with other belongings, “placed on their grave, to be ready for service the moment they awake from what they consider to be their temporary repose.” And a like course is followed by the Kalmucks, the Esquimaux, the Iroquois, the Araucanians, the Inland Negroes, the Nagas, and by tribes, savage and semi-civilized, too numerous to mention: some of whom, too, recognizing the kindred needs of women and children, bury with women their domestic appliances and with children their toys.


The departed other-self will need clothes. Hence the Abipones “hang a garment from a tree near the place of interment, for him [the dead man] to put on if he chooses to come out of the grave;” and hence the Dahomans, along with other property, bury with the deceased “a piece of cloth as a change of raiment when arriving in dead-land.” This providing of wearing apparel (sometimes their “best robes” in which they are wrapped at burial, sometimes an annual supply of fresh clothes placed on their skeletons, as among the Patagonians) goes along with the depositing of jewels and other valued things. Often interment of the deceased’s “goods” with him is specified generally; as in the case of the Samoyeds, the Western Australians, the Damaras, the Inland Negroes, the New Zealanders. With the dead Patagonian were left whatever “the deceased had while alive;” with the Naga, “any article to which he or she may have been particularly attached during life;” with the Guiana people, “the chief treasures which they possessed in life;” with the Papuan of New Guinea, his “arms and ornaments;” with a Peruvian Ynca, “his plate and jewels;” with the Ancient Mexican, “his garments, precious stones,” etc.; with the Chibcha, his gold, emeralds, and other treasures. With the body of the late Queen of Madagascar were placed “an immense number of silk dresses, native silk cloths, ornaments, glasses, a table and chairs, a box containing 11,000 dollars . . . and many other things.” By the Mishmis, all the things necessary for a person whilst living are placed in a house built over the grave. And in Old Calabar, a house is built on the beach to contain the deceased’s possessions, “together with a bed, that the ghost may not sleep upon the floor.” To such an extent is this provision for the future life of the deceased carried, as, in many cases, to entail great evil on the survivors. Among the Fantees “a funeral is usually absolute ruin to a poor family.” The Dyaks, besides the deceased’s property, bury with him sometimes large sums of money, and other valuables; so that [I-189] “it frequently happens that a father unfortunate in his family, is by the death of his children reduced to poverty.” And in some extinct societies of America, nothing but the deceased’s land, which they were unable to put into his grave, remained for his widow and children.

Carrying out consistently this conception of the second life, uncivilized peoples infer that, not only his inanimate possessions, but also his animate possessions, will be needed by the deceased. Hence the slaughter of his live stock. With the Kirghiz chief are deposited “his favourite horses,” as also with the Yakut, the Comanche, the Patagonian; with the Borghoo, his horse and dog; with the Bedouin, his camel; with the Damara, his cattle; with the Toda, in former times, “his entire herd;” and the Vatean, when about to die, has his pigs first tied to his wrist by a cord and then killed. Where the life led, instead of having being predatory or pastoral, has been agricultural, the same idea prompts a kindred practice. Among the Indians of Peru, writes Tschudi, “a small bag with cocoa, maize, quinua, etc., is laid beside the dead, that they might have wherewithal to sow the fields in the other world.”

§ 104. Logically developed, the primitive belief implies something more—it implies that the deceased will need not only his weapons and implements, his clothing, ornaments, and other movables, together with his domestic animals; but also that he will want human companionship and services. The attendance he had before death must be renewed after death.

Hence the immolations which have prevailed, and still prevail, so widely. The custom of sacrificing wives, and slaves, and friends, develops as society advances through its earlier stages, and the theory of another life becomes more definite. Among the Fuegians, the Andamanese, the Australians, the Tasmanians, with their rudimentary social organizations, wives are not killed to accompany dead [I-190] husbands; or if they are, the practice is not general enough to be specified in the accounts given of them. But it is a practice shown us by more advanced peoples: in Polynesia, by the New Caledonians, by the Fijians, and occasionally by the less barbarous Tongans—in America, by the Chinooks, the Caribs, the Dakotahs—in Africa, by the Congo people, the Inland Negroes, the Coast Negroes, and most extensively by the Dahomans. To attend the dead in the other world, captives taken in war are sacrificed by the Caribs, the Dakotahs, the Chinooks; and without enumerating the savage and semi-savage peoples who do the like, I will only further instance the survival of the usage among the Homeric Greeks, when slaying (though with another assigned motive) twelve Trojans at the funeral pyre of Patroclus. Similarly with domestics: a dead man’s slaves are slain by the Kyans and the Milanaus of Borneo; the Zulus kill a king’s valets; the Inland Negroes kill his eunuchs to accompany his wives; the Coast Negroes poison or decapitate his confidential servants. Further, there is in some cases an immolation of friends. In Fiji, a leading man’s chief friend is sacrificed to accompany him; and among the sanguinary peoples of tropical Africa, a like custom exists.

It was, however, in the considerably-advanced societies of ancient America that such arrangements for the future convenience of the dead were carried out with the greatest care. In Mexico, every great man’s chaplain was slain, that he might perform for him the religious ceremonies in the next life as in this. Among the Indians of Vera Paz, “when a lord was dying, they immediately killed as many slaves as he had, that they might precede him and prepare the house for their master.” Besides other attendants, the Mexicans “sacrified some of the irregularly-formed men, whom the king had collected in his palaces for his entertainment, in order that they might give him the same pleasure in the other world.” Of course, such elaborate precautions that [I-191] the deceased should not lack hereafter any advantages he had enjoyed here, entailed enormous bloodshed. By the Mexicans “the number of the victims was proportioned to the grandeur of the funeral, and amounted sometimes, as several historians affirm, to 200.” In Peru, when an Ynca died, “his attendants and favourite concubines, amounting sometimes, it is said, to a thousand, were immolated on his tomb.” And until the reign of Soui-Zin, when a Japanese emperor died “on enterrait avec lui tous ceux qui, de son vivant, approchaient sa personne.”

The intensity of the faith prompting such customs, we shall the better conceive on learning that the victims are often willing, and occasionally anxious, to die. Among the Guaranis in old times, some faithful followers “sacrificed themselves at the grave of a chief.” A dead Ynca’s wives “volunteered to be killed, and their number was often such that the officers were obliged to interfere, saying that enough had gone at present;” and “some of the women, in order that their faithful service might be held in more esteem, finding that there was delay in completing the tomb, would hang themselves up by their own hair, and so kill themselves.” Similarly of the Chibchas, Simon says that with a corpse “they interred the wives and slaves who most wished it.” Of Tonquin in past times Tavernier wrote—“Many Lords and Ladies of the Court will needs be buried alive with him [the dead king] for to serve him in the places where he is to go.” In Africa it is the same even now. Among the Yorubans, at the funeral of a great man, “many of his friends swallow poison,” and are entombed with him. Formerly in Congo, “when the king was buried a dozen young maids leapt into the grave . . . and were buried alive to serve him in the other world. These maids were then so eager for this service to their deceased prince, that, in striving who should be first, they killed one another.” And in Dahomey, immediately the king dies, his wives begin to destroy all his furniture and things of value, as [I-192] well as their own; and to murder one another. On one occasion 285 of the women were thus killed before the new king could stop it. [*]

These immolations sometimes follow the deaths of the young. Kane says a Chinook chief wished to kill his wife, that she might accompany his dead son to the other world; and in Aneiteum, on the death of a beloved child, the mother, aunt, or grandmother, is strangled that she may accompany it to the world of spirits.

As further qualifying the interpretation to be put on sanguinary customs of this kind, we must bear in mind that not only are inferiors and dependents sacrificed at a funeral, with or without their assent, but that the superiors themselves in some cases decide to die. Fiji is not the only place where people advancing in years are buried alive by their dutiful children. The like practice holds in Vate, where an old chief requests his sons to destroy him in this way.

§ 105. Conceived as like the first in its needs and occupations and pleasures, the second life is conceived as like the first in its social arrangements. Subordination, both domestic and public, is expected to be the same hereafter as here. A few specific statements to this effect may be added to the foregoing implications.

Cook states that the Tahitians divided the departed into classes similar to those existing among themselves; or, as Ellis re-states it, “those who were kings or Areois in this world were the same there for ever.” The creed of the Tongans, too, represents deceased persons as organized after the system of ranks existing in Tonga. The like holds in Fiji; where it “is most repugnant to the native mind” [I-193] that a chief should appear in the other world unattended. The Chibchas thought that in the future life, they would “be attended to by their servants, as in the present.” So, too, is it among the Hill-tribes of India: the heaven of the Karens “has its rulers and its subjects;” and in the Kookie heaven, the ghost of every enemy a man has slain becomes his slave. With African races the like holds. According to the creed of the Dahomans, classes are the same in the second life as in the first. By Kaffirs the political and social relations after death are supposed to remain as before. And a kindred conception is implied among the Akkra Negroes, by their assertion that in the rainy season, their guardian gods go on a visit to the supreme god.

That this analogy persists in the conceptions of higher races, scarcely needs saying. The legend of the descent of Ishtar, the Assyrian Venus, shows us that the residence of the Assyrian dead had, like Assyria, its despotic ruler, with officers levying tribute. So, too, in the underworld of the Greeks. We have the dread Aïdes, with his wife Persephone, as rulers; we have Minos “giving sentence from his throne to the dead, while they sat and stood around the prince, asking his dooms;” and Achilles, is thus addressed by Ulysses:—“For of old, in the days of thy life, we Argives gave thee one honour with the gods, and now thou art a great prince here among the dead.” And while departed men are thus under political and social relations like those of living men, so are the celestials. Zeus stands to the rest “exactly in the same relation that an absolute monarch does to the aristocracy of which he is the head.” Nor did Hebrew ideas of another life, when they arose, fail to yield like analogies. Originally meaning simply the grave, or, in a vague way, the place or state of the dead, Sheol, when acquiring the more definite meaning of a miserable place for the dead, a Hebrew Hades, and afterwards developing into a place of torture, Gehenna, introduces us to a form of diabolical government having [I-194] gradations. And though, as the conception of life in the Hebrew heaven elaborated, the ascribed arrangements did not, like those of the Greeks, parallel terrestrial arrangements domestically, they did politically. As some commentators express it, there is implied a “court” of celestial beings. Sometimes, as in the case of Ahab, God is represented as taking council with his attendants and accepting a suggestion. There is a heavenly army, spoken of as divided into legions. There are archangels set over different elements and over different peoples: these deputy-gods being, in so far, analogous to the minor gods of the Greek Pantheon. The chief difference is that their powers are more distinctly deputed, and their subordination greater. Though here, too, the subordination is incomplete: we read of wars in heaven, and of rebellious angels cast down to Tartarus. That this parallelism continued down to late Christian times, is abundantly shown. In 1407, Petit, professor of theology in the University of Paris, represented God as a feudal sovereign, Heaven as a feudal kingdom, and Lucifer as a rebellious vassal. “He deceived numbers of angels, and brought them over to his party, so that they were to do him homage and obedience, as to their sovereign lord, and be no way subject to God; and Lucifer was to hold his government in like manner to God, and independent of all subjection to him. . . . St. Michael, on discovering his intentions, came to him, and said that he was acting very wrong.” “A battle ensued between them, and many of the angels took part on either side, but the greater number were for St. Michael.” That a kindred view was held by our protestant Milton, is obvious.

§ 106. Along with this parallelism between the social systems of the two lives, may fitly be named the closeness of communion between them. The second life is originally allied to the first by frequency and directness of intercourse. In Dahomey, many immolations are due to the alleged need [I-195] for periodically supplying the departed monarch with fresh attendants in the shadowy world; and further, “whatever action, however trivial, is done by the King, . . . it must be dutifully reported by some male or female messenger to the paternal ghost.” Among the Kaffirs the system of appeal from subordinates to superiors, is extended so as to include those who have passed into the other-life: “the departed spirit of a chief being sometimes invoked to compel a man’s ancestors to bless him.” And with this may be named a still stranger instance—the extension of trading transactions from the one life into the other: money being borrowed “in this life, to be repaid with heavy interest in the next.”

In this respect, as in other respects, the conceptions of civilized races have but slowly diverged from those of savage races. On reading that when tribes of the Amazulu are hostile, the ancestral spirits of the one tribe go to fight those of the other, we are reminded of the supernatural beings who, siding some with Greeks and some with Trojans, joined in the combat; and we are also reminded that the Jews thought “the angels of the nations fought in heaven when their allotted peoples made war on earth.” Further, we are reminded that the creed of Christendom, under its predominant form, implies a considerable communion between those in the one life and those in the other. The living pray for the dead; and the canonized dead are asked to intercede on behalf of the living.

§ 107. The second life, being originally conceived as repeating the first in other respects, is originally conceived as repeating it in conduct, sentiments, and ethical code.

According to the Thibetan cosmogony, the gods fought among themselves. The Fijian gods “are proud and revengeful, and make war, and kill and eat each other, and are, in fact, savages like themselves.” Their names of honour are “the adulterer,” “the woman-stealer,” “the brain-eater,” “the murderer.” And the ghost of a Fijian chief, [I-196] on arriving in the other world, recommends himself by the boast—“I have destroyed many towns, and slain many in war.” This parallelism between the standards of conduct in the two lives, typical as it is of parallelisms everywhere repeated in lower stages of progress, reminds us of like parallelisms between the standards of those early peoples whose literatures have come down to us.

Of the after-life of the departed Greeks, under its ethical aspect, the traits are but indistinct. Such as we may perceive, however, conform to those of Greek daily life. In Hades, Achilles thinks of vengeance, and rejoices in the account of his son’s success in battle; Ajax is still angry because Ulysses defeated him; and the image of Hercules goes about threateningly, frightening the ghosts around him. In the upper world it is the same: “the struggle on earth is only the counterpart of the struggle in heaven.” Mars is represented as honoured by the titles of “bane of mortals,” and “blood-stainer.” Jealousy and revenge are ruling motives. Tricking each other, the immortals also delude men by false appearances—even combine, as Zeus and Athene did, to prompt the breaking of treaties solemnly sworn to. Easily offended and implacable, they are feared just as his demons are feared by the primitive man. And the one act sure to be resented, is disregard of observances which express subordination. As among the Amazulu at the present time, the anger of ancestral spirits is to be dreaded only when they have not been duly lauded, or have been neglected when oxen were killed; as among the Tahitians “the only crimes that were visited by the displeasure of their deities were the neglect of some rite or ceremony, or the failing to furnish required offerings;” so the ascribed character of the Olympians is such that the one unforgiveable offence is neglect of propitiations. Nevertheless, we may note that the unredeemed brutality implied by the stories of the earlier gods, is, in the stories of the later, considerably mitigated; in correspondence with the mitigation [I-197] of barbarism attending the progress of Greek civilization.

Nor in the ascribed moral standard of the Hebrew other-life, do we fail to see a kindred similarity, if a less complete one. Subordination is still the supreme virtue. If this is displayed, wrong acts are condoned, or are not supposed to be wrong. The obedient Abraham is applauded for his readiness to sacrifice Isaac: there is no sign of blame for so readily accepting the murderous suggestion of his dream as a dictate from heaven. The massacre of the Amalekites by divine command, is completed by the merciless Samuel without check; and there is tacit condemnation of the more merciful Saul. But though the God of the Hebrews is represented as hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and as sending a lying spirit to deceive Ahab through his prophets; it to be noted that the ethical codes of heaven and paradise, while reflecting the code of a people in some respects barbarous, reflect the code of a people in other respects morally superior. Justice and mercy enter into the moral standards of both lives (as expressed by the prophets, at least), in a degree not shown us in the moral standards of lower men.

§ 108. And here we are introduced to the fact remaining to be noted—the divergence of the civilized idea from the savage idea. Let us glance at the chief contrasts.

The complete substantiality of the second life as originally conceived, following necessarily from the conception of the other-self as quite substantial, the foregoing evidence clearly shows us. Somehow keeping himself out of sight, the deceased eats, drinks, hunts, and fights as before. How material his life is supposed to be, we see in such facts as that, among the Kaffirs, a deceased’s weapons are “broken or bent lest the ghost, during some midnight return to air, should do injury with them,” and that an Australian cuts off the right thumb of a slain enemy, that the ghost may be unable to throw a spear. Evidently, destruction of the [I-198] body by burning or otherwise, tending to produce a qualified notion of the revived other-self, tends to produce a qualified notion of the other-life, physically considered. The rise of this qualified notion we may see in the practice of burning or breaking or cutting to pieces the things intended for the dead man’s use. We have already noted cases (§ 84) in which food placed with the corpse is burnt along with it; and elsewhere, in pursuance of the same idea, the property is burnt. In Africa this is common. Among the Koossas the widows of chiefs “burn all the household utensils;” the Bagos (Coast Negroes) do the like, and include all their stores of food: “even their rice is not saved from the flames.” It is a custom of the Comanches to burn the deceased’s weapons. Franklin says of the Chippewayans, “no article is spared by these unhappy men when a near relative dies; their clothes and tents are cut to pieces, their guns broken, and every other weapon rendered useless.” Obviously the implication is that the ghosts of these possessions go with the deceased; and the accompanying belief that the second life is physically unlike the first, is in some cases expressed: it is said that the essences of the offerings made are consumed by departed souls and not the substances of them. More decided still seems to be the conceived contrast indicated by destroying models of the deceased’s possessions. This practice, prevailing among the Chinese, was lately afresh witnessed by Mr. J. Thomson; who describes two lamenting widows of a dead mandarin whom he saw giving to the flames “huge paper-models of houses and furniture, boats and sedans, ladies-in-waiting and gentlemen-pages.” Clearly, another life in which the burnt semblances of things are useful, must be figured as if a very shadowy kind.

The activities and gratifications of the second life, originally conceived as identical with those of the first, come in course of time to be conceived as more or less unlike them. Besides seeing that at first the predatory races look forward [I-199] to predatory occupations, and that races living by agriculture expect to plant and reap as before; we see that even where there is reached the advanced social state implied by the use of money, the burial of money with the body shows the belief that there will be buying and selling in the second life; and where sham coins made of tinsel are burnt, there remains the same implication. But parallelism passes into divergence. Without trying to trace the changes, it will suffice if we turn to the current description of a hereafter, in which the daily occupations and amusements find no place, and in which there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. Still, being conceived as a life in which all the days are Sundays, passed “where congregations ne’er break up,” it is conceived as akin to a part of the present life, though not to the average of it.

Again, the supposed form of social order becomes partially unlike the known form. Type of government, caste distinctions, servile institutions, are originally transferred from the experiences here to the imaginations of the hereafter. But though in the conceptions entertained by the most civilized, the analogy between the social orders of the first and the second lives does not wholly disappear, the second deviates a good deal from the first. Though the gradations implied by a hierarchy of archangels, angels, etc., bear some relation to the gradations seen around us; yet they are thought of as otherwise based: such inequalities as are imagined have a different origin.

Similarly respecting the ethical conceptions and the implied sentiments. Along with the emotional modifications that have taken place during civilization, there have gone modifications in the beliefs respecting the code of conduct and the measure of goodness in the life to come. The religion of enmity, which makes international revenge a duty and successful retaliation a glory, is to be wholly abandoned; and the religion of amity to be unqualified. Still, in certain respects the feelings and motives now dominant are to remain [I-200] dominant. The desire for approbation, which is a ruling passion here, is represented as being a ruling passion hereafter. The giving of praise and receiving of approval are figured as the chief sources of happiness.

Lastly, we observe that the two lives become more widely disconnected. At first perpetual intercourse between those in the one and those in the other, is believed to be going on. The savage daily propitiates the dead; and the dead are supposed daily to aid or hinder the acts of the living. This close communion, persisting throughout the earlier stages of civilization, gradually becomes less close. Though by paying priests to say masses for departed souls, and by invocations of saints for help, this exchange of services has been, and still continues to be, generally shown; yet the cessation of such practices among the most advanced, implies a complete sundering of the two lives in their thoughts.

Thus, then, as the idea of death gets gradually marked off from the idea of suspended animation; and as the anticipated resurrection comes to be thought of as more and more remote; so the distinction between the second life and the first life, grows, little by little, decided. The second life diverges by becoming less material; by becoming more unlike in its occupations; by having another kind of social order; by presenting gratifications more remote from those of the senses; and by the higher standard of conduct it assumes. And while thus differentiating in nature, the second life separates more widely from the first. Communion decreases; and there is an increasing interval between the ending of the one and the beginning of the other.






§ 109. While describing in the last chapter, the ideas of another life, I have quoted passages which imply ideas of another world. The two sets of ideas are so closely connected, that the one cannot be treated without occasional reference to the other. I have, however, reserved the second for separate treatment; both because the question of the locality in which another life is supposed to be passed, is a separate question, and because men’s conceptions of that locality undergo modifications which it will be instructive to trace.

We shall find that by a process akin to the processes lately contemplated, the place of residence for the dead diverges slowly from the place of residence for the living.

§ 110. Originally the two coincide: the savage imagines his dead relatives are close at hand. If he renews the supplies of food at their graves, and otherwise propitiates them, the implication is that they are not far away, or that they will soon be back. This implication he accepts.

The Sandwich Islanders think “the spirit of the departed hovers about the places of its former resort;” and in Madagascar, the ghosts of ancestors are said to frequent their tombs. The Guiana Indians believe “every place is haunted where any have died.” So, too, is it throughout Africa. On the Gold Coast, “the spirit is supposed to remain near [I-202] the spot where the body has been buried;” and the East Africans “appear to imagine the souls to be always near the places of sepulture.” Nay, this assumed identity of habitat is, in some cases, even closer. In the country north of the Zambesi, “all believe that the souls of the departed still mingle among the living, and partake in some way of the food they consume.” So, likewise, “on the Aleutian Islands the invisible souls or shades of the departed wander about among their children.”

Certain funeral customs lead to the belief in a special place of residence near at hand; namely, the deserted house or village in which the deceased lived. The Kamschadales “frequently remove to some other place when any one has died in the hut, without dragging the corpse along with them.” Among the Lepchas, the house where there has been a death “is almost always forsaken by the surviving inmates.” The motive, sufficiently obvious, is in some cases assigned. If a deceased Creek Indian “has been a man of eminent character, the family immediately remove from the house in which he is buried, and erect a new one, with a belief that where the bones of their dead are deposited, the place is always attended by goblins.” Various African peoples have the same practice. Among the Balonda, a man abandons the hut where a favourite wife died; and if he revisits the place, “it is to pray to her or make an offering.” In some cases a more extensive desertion takes place. The Hottentots remove their kraal “when an inhabitant dies in it.” After a death the Boobies of Fernando Po forsake the village in which it occurred. And of the Bechuanas we read that “on the death of Mallahawan, . . . the town [Lattakoo] was removed, according to the custom of the country.”

In these cases the consistency is complete. From the other primitive ideas we have traced, arises this primitive idea that the second life is passed in the locality in which the first life was passed.


§ 111. Elsewhere we trace small modifications: the region said to be haunted by the souls of the dead becomes wider. Though they revisit their old homes, yet commonly they keep at some distance.

In New Caledonia, “the spirits of the departed are supposed to go to the bush;” and in Eromanga “spirits are also thought to roam the bush.” We find, with a difference, this belief among some Africans. The Coast Negroes think there are wild people in the bush who summon their souls to make slaves of them; and the notion of the Bulloms is that the inferior order of demons reside in the bush near the town, and the superior further off.

In other cases funeral customs generate the idea that the world of the dead is an adjacent mountain. The Caribs buried their chiefs on hills; the Comanches on “the highest hill in the neighbourhood;” the Patagonians, too, interred on the summits of the highest hills; and in Western Arabia, the burial grounds “are generally on or near the summits of mountains.” This practice and the accompanying belief, have sometimes an unmistakable connexion. We saw that in Borneo they deposit the bones of their dead on the least accessible peaks and ridges. Hence the Hill-Dyaks’ belief given by Low, that the summits of the higher hills are peopled with spirits; or, as St. John says, “with regard to a future state the (Land) Dyaks point to the highest mountain in sight as the abode of their departed friends.” Many more peoples have mountain other-worlds. In Tahiti, “the heaven most familiar . . . was situated near . . . glorious Tamahani, the resort of departed spirits, a celebrated mountain on the north-west side of Raiatea.” As we lately saw (§ 97), a like belief prevails in Madagascar. And I may add the statement quoted by Sir John Lubbock from Dubois, that the “seats of happiness are represented by some Hindu writers to be vast mountains on the north of India.”

Where caves are used for interments, they become the supposed places of abode for the dead; and hence develops [I-204] the notion of a subterranean other-world. Ordinary burial, joined with the belief in a double who continually wanders and returns to the grave, may perhaps suggest an idea like that of the Khonds, whose “divinities [ancestral spirits] are all confined to the limits of the earth: within it they are believed to reside, emerging and retiring at will.” But, obviously, cave-burial tends to give a more developed form to this conception. Professor Nilsson, after pointing out how the evidence yielded by remains in caves verifies the traditions and allusions current throughout Europe and Asia—after referring to the villages of artificial mountain-caves, which men made when they became too numerous for natural caves; and after reminding us that along with living in caves there went burial in caves; remarks that “this custom, like all religious customs, . . . survived long after people had commenced to inhabit proper houses.” This connexion of practices is especially conspicuous in America, from Terra del Fuego to Mexico, as indicated in § 87. And along with it we find the conception of an under-ground region to which the dead betake themselves; as, for instance, among the Patagonians; who believe “that some of them after death are to return to those divine caverns” where they were created, and where their particular deities reside.

§ 112. To understand fully the genesis of this last belief, we must, however, join with it the genesis of the belief in more distant localities inhabited by the departed. What changes the idea of another world close at hand, to the idea of another world comparatively remote? The answer is simple—migration.

The dreams of those who have lately migrated, initiate beliefs in future abodes which the dead reach by long journeys. Having attachments to relatives left behind, and being subject to home-sickness (sometimes in extreme degrees, as shown by Livingstone’s account of some negroes who died from it), uncivilized men, driven by war or famine [I-205] to other habitats, must often dream of the places and persons they have left. Their dreams, narrated and accepted in the original way as actual experiences, make it appear that during sleep they have been to their old abodes. First one and then another dreams thus: rendering familiar the notion of visiting the father-land during sleep. What, naturally, happens at death; interpreted as it is by the primitive man? The other-self is long absent—where has he gone? Obviously to the place which he often went to, and from which at other times he returned. Now he has not returned. He longed to go back, and frequently said he would go back. Now he has done as he said he would.

This interpretation we meet with everywhere: in some cases stated, and in others implied. Among the Peruvians, when an Ynca died, it was said that he “was called home to the mansions of his father the Sun.” “When the Mandans die they expect to return to the original seats of their forefathers.” In Mangaia “when a man died, his spirit was supposed to return to Avaiki, i. e., the ancient home of their ancestors in the region of sunset.” “Think not,” said a New Zealand chief, “that my origin is of the earth. I come from the heavens; my ancestors are all there; they are gods, and I shall return to them.” If the death of a Santal occurs at a distance from the river, “his nearest kinsman carries a little relic . . . and places it in the current, to be conveyed to the far off eastern land from which his ancestors came:” an avowed purpose which, in adjacent regions, dictates the placing of the entire body in the stream. Similarly, “the Teutonic tribes so conceived the future as to reduce death to a ‘home-going’—a return to the Father.” Let us observe how the implications of this belief correspond with the facts.

Migrations have been made in all directions; and hence, on this hypothesis, there must have arisen many different beliefs respecting the direction of the other world. These we find. I do not mean only that the beliefs differ in widely-separated [I-206] parts of the world. They differ within each considerable area; and often in such ways as might be expected from the probable routes through which the habitats were reached, and in such ways as to agree with traditions. Thus in South America the Chonos, “trace their descent from western nations across the ocean;” and they anticipate going in that direction ofter death. The adjacent Araucanians believe that “after death they go towards the west beyond the sea.” Expecting to go to the east, whence they came, Peruvians of the Ynca race turned the face of the corpse to the east; but not so those of the aboriginal race living on the coast. The paradise of the Ottomacks of Guiana, is in the west; while that of the Central Americans was “where the sun rises.” In North America the Chinooks, inhabiting high latitudes, have their heaven in the south, as also have the Chippewas; while the tribes inhabiting the more southerly parts of the continent, have their “happy hunting-grounds” in the west. Again, in Asia the paradise of the Kalmucks is in the west; that of the Kookies in the north; that of the Todas “where the sun goes down.” And there are like differences among the beliefs of the Polynesian Islanders. In Eromanga “the spirits of the dead are supposed to go eastward;” while in Lifu, “the spirit is supposed to go westward at death, to a place called Loeha.” As is shown by one of the above cases, the position of the corpse has reference, obviously implied and in some cases avowed, to the road which the deceased is expected to take. By the Mapuchés the body is placed sitting “with the face turned towards the west—the direction of the spirit-land.” The Damaras place the corpse with the face towards the north, “to remind them (the natives) whence they originally came;” and the corpses of the neighbouring Bechuanas are made to face to the same point of the compass.

Along with these different conceptions there go different ideas of the journey to be taken after death; with correspondingly-different [I-207] preparations for it. There is the journey to an under-world; the journey over land; the journey down a river; and the journey across the sea.

Descent from troglodytes, alike shown by remains and surviving in traditions, generates a group of beliefs respecting man’s origin; and (when joined with this expectation of returning at death to the ancestral home) a further group of beliefs respecting the locality of the other world. “At least one-half of the tribes in America represent that man was first created under the ground, or in the rocky caverns of the mountains,” says Catlin. This is a notion which could scarcely fail to arise among those whose forefathers dwelt in caves. Having no language capable of expressing the difference between begetting and creating, their traditions inevitably represent them as having been made in caves, or, more vaguely, as having come out of the earth. According as the legends remain special (which they are likely to do where the particular caves once inhabited are in the neighbourhood) or become general (which they are likely to do where the tribe migrates to other regions) the belief may assume the one or the other form. In the first case, there will arise stories such as that current in the Basuto-country, where exists a cavern whence the natives say they all proceeded; or such as that named by Livingstone concerning a cave near the village of Sechele, which is said to be “the habitation of the Deity.” In the second case, there will arise such ideas as those still existing among the Todas, who think of their ancestors as having risen from the ground; and such ideas as those of the ancient historic races, who regarded “mother Earth” as the source of all beings. Be this as it may, however, we do actually find along with the belief in a subterranean origin, the belief in a subterranean world, where the departed rejoin their ancestors. Without dwelling on the effects produced in primitive minds by such vast branching caverns as the Mammoth-cave of Kentucky, or the cave of Bellamar in Florida, it suffices to remember [I-208] that in limestone-formations all over the globe, water has formed long ramifying passages (in this direction bringing the explorer to an impassable chasm, in that to an underground river) to see that the belief in an indefinitely-extended under-world is almost certain to arise. On recalling the credulity shown by our own rustics in every locality where some neighbouring deep pool or tarn is pointed out as bottomless, it will be manifest that caves of no great extent, remaining unexplored to their terminations, readily come to be regarded as endless—as leading by murky ways to gloomy infernal regions. And where any such cave, originally inhabited, was then or afterwards used for purposes of sepulture, and was consequently considered as peopled by the souls of ancestors, there would result the belief that the journey after death to the ancestral home, ended in a descent to Hades. [*]

Where the journey thus ending, or otherwise ending, is a long one, preparations have to be made. Hence the club put into the hand of the dead Fijian to be ready for self-defence; hence the spear-thrower fastened to the finger of a New Caledonian’s corpse; hence the “hell-shoon” provided by the Scandinavians; hence the sacrificed horse or camel on which to pursue the weary way; hence the passports by which the Mexicans warded off some of the dangers; hence the dog’s head laid by the Esquimaux on the grave of a child to serve as a guide to the land of souls; hence the ferry-money, and the presents for appeasing the demons met.

Of course, a certain family-likeness among alleged difficulties of this return-journey after death, is to be expected where the migrations have had similar difficulties. The heaven of the Gold Coast Negroes, is an “inland country called Bosmanque:” a river having to be crossed on the [I-209] way. This is naturally a leading event in the description of the journey, among inhabitants of continents. An overland migration can rarely have occurred without some large river being met with. The passing of such a river will, in the surviving tradition, figure as a chief obstacle overcome; and the re-passing it will be considered a chief obstacle on the journey back, made by the dead. Sometimes inability to pass the river is the assigned reason for a supposed return of the soul. By a North American tribe, the revival from trance is thus explained: the other-self, failing to get across, came back. It is not impossible that the conceived danger of this river-crossing—a danger so great that, having once escaped, the deceased will not encounter it again—leads to the idea that spirits cannot pass over running streams.

Where a migrating tribe, instead of reaching the new habitat by an overland route, has reached it by ascending a river, the tradition, and the consequent notion of the journey back to the ancestral home, take other shapes and entail other preparations. Humboldt tells us that in South America, tribes spread along the rivers and their branches: the intervening forests being impenetrable. In Borneo, too, where the invading races are located about the shores and rivers, the rivers have clearly been the channels up which the interior had been reached. Hence certain funeral rites which occur in Borneo. The Kanowits send much of a deceased chief’s goods adrift in a frail canoe on the river. The Malanaus used “to drift the deceased’s sword, eatables, cloths, jars—and often in former days a slave woman accompanied these articles, chained to the boat—out to sea, with a strong ebb tide running.” Describing this as a custom of the past, Brooke says that at present “these crafts are placed near their graves:” an example of the way in which observances become modified and their meanings obscured. A kindred example is furnished by the Chinooks, who, putting the body in a canoe near the river-side, place the canoe with its head pointing down the stream.


The journey to the other-world down a river, brings us with scarcely a break to the remaining kind of journey—that over the sea. We habitually find it where there has been an over-sea migration. The heaven of the Tongans is a distant island. Though it is not clear where Bulu, the Fijian abode of bliss, is situated, yet “the fact that it cannot be reached except in a canoe, shows that it is separated from this world by water.” The entrance to the Samoan Hades is “at the west-end of Savaii,” and to reach this entrance the spirit (if belonging to a person living on another island) journeyed partly by land and partly swimming the intermediate sea or seas. Moreover the Samoans “say of a chief who has died, ‘he has sailed.’ ” Along with, or instead of, these distinct statements, we have, in other cases, practices sufficiently significant. Sometimes a part of a canoe is found near a grave in the Sandwich Islands. In New Zealand, undoubtedly peopled by immigrant Polynesians, Angas says a canoe, sometimes with sails and paddles, or part of a canoe, is placed beside or in their graves; while the statement of Thompson that the bodies of New Zealand chiefs were put into canoe-shaped boxes, shows us a modification which explains other such modifications. Already we have seen that the Chonos, of western Patagonia, who trace their descent from western people across the ocean, expect to go back to them after death; and here it is to be added that “they bury their dead in canoes, near the sea.” Of the Araucanians, too, with like traditions and like expectations, we read that a chief is sometimes buried in a boat. Bonwick alleges of the Australians that formerly in Port Jackson, the body was put adrift in a bark canoe; and Angas, again showing us how an observance having at first an unmistakable meaning passes into a form of which the meaning is less distinct, says the New South Wales people sometimes bury the dead in a bark canoe.

Like evidence is found in the northern hemisphere. Among the Chinooks “all excepting slaves, are laid in canoes [I-211] or wooden sepulchres;” the Ostyaks “bury in boats;” and there were kindred usages among the ancient Scandinavians.

§ 113. Yet a further explanation is thus afforded. We see how, in the same society, there arise beliefs in two or more other-worlds. When with migration there is joined conquest, invaders and invaded will naturally have different ancestral homes to which their respective dead depart. Habitually, where physical and mental unlikenesses indicate unlike origins of the governing classes and the governed classes, there is a belief in unlike other-worlds for them. The Samoan chiefs “were supposed to have a separate place allotted to them, called Pulotu.” We have seen that in Peru, the Ynca race and the aborigines went after death to different regions. In the opinion of some Tongans, only the chiefs have souls, and go to Bolotoo, their heaven: the probability being that the traditions of the more recent conquering immigrants, and the belief in their return journey after death, are relatively distinct and dominant. Using the clue thus furnished, we may see how the different other-worlds for different ranks in the same society, become other worlds for good and bad respectively. On remembering that our word villain, now so expressive of detestable character, once merely meant a serf, while noble was at first indicative only of high social position; we cannot question the tendency of early opinion to identify subjection with badness and supremacy with goodness. On also remembering that victors become the military class, while vanquished become slaves who do not fight, and that in societies so constituted worth is measured by bravery, we perceive a further reason why the other-worlds of upper and lower classes, though originally their respective ancestral homes, come to be regarded as places for worthy and unworthy. Naturally, therefore, where indigenous descendants from cave-dwellers have been subjugated by an invading race, [I-212] it will happen that the respective places to which the two expect to return, will differentiate into places for bad and good. There will arise such a belief as that of the Nicaragua-people, who held that the bad (those who died in their houses) went under the earth to Miqtanteot, while the good (who died in battle) went to serve the gods where the sun rises, in the country whence the maize came. As the Patagonians show us, the unsubjugated descendants of cave-dwellers do not regard the under-world as a place of misery. Contrariwise, their return after death to the “divine caverns,” is to bring a pleasurable life with the god who presides in the land of strong drink. But where, as in Mexico, there have been conquests, the under-world is considered, if not as a place of punishment, still as a relatively-uncomfortable place.

Thus then, the noteworthy fact is that a supposed infernal abode like the Greek Hades, not undesirable as conceived by proximate descendants of troglodytes, may differentiate into a dreary place, and at length into a place of punishment, mainly because of the contrast with the better places to which the other souls go—Isles of the West for the specially brave, or the celestial abode for favourites of the gods. And the further noteworthy fact is, that the most inhospitable regions into which rebels are expelled, yield a kindred origin for a Tartarus or a Gehenna. [*]

§ 114. Interpretable after the same general manner, is the remaining conception of another world, above or outside of this world. The transition from a mountain abode to [I-213] an abode in the sky, conceived as the sky is by primitive men, presents no difficulties.

Burial on hills is practised by many peoples; and we have already seen that there are places, as Borneo, where, along with the custom of depositing a chief’s remains on some peak difficult of access, there goes the belief that the spirits of the departed inhabit the mountain-tops. That the custom causes the belief, is in this case probable; though, as we shall presently see, an apparently-similar belief arises otherwise. Here, however, it concerns us only to observe that “the highest mountain in sight” is regarded as a world peopled by the departed; and that in the undeveloped speech of savages, living on a peak up in the heavens is readily confounded with living in the heavens. Remembering that, originally, the firmament is considered as a dome supported by these loftiest peaks, the conclusion that those who live on them have access to it, is a conclusion certain to be drawn.

But, as already hinted, besides the above origin, carrying with it the belief that departed souls of men live on the mountain-tops, or in the heavens, there is another possible, and indeed probable, origin, not carrying such a conclusion; but, contrariwise, restricting this heavenly abode to a different race of beings. Observe how this other belief is suggested. The choice of high places for purposes of defence, we may trace back through civilized times into barbarous times. What many of our own castles show us—what we are shown by modern and ancient fortresses on the Rhine—what we are shown by mediæval towns and villages capping the hills in Italy, and by scattered fastnesses perched on scarcely accessible peaks throughout the East; we are shown wherever primitive savagery has been outgrown in regions affording fit sites. A fortress on an elevation in ancient Mexico, is described by Godoi; the Panches made entrenchments on high spots; and the Peruvians fortified the tops of mountains by ranges of walled [I-214] moats. Both invaded and invaders have thus utilized commanding eminences. The remains of Roman encampments on our own hills, remind us of this last use. Clearly then, during the conflicts and subjugations which have been ever going on, the seizing of an elevated stronghold by a conquering race, has been a not infrequent occurrence; and the dominance of this race has often gone along with the continued habitation of this stronghold. An account given by Brooke of his long contest with a mountain-chief in Borneo, shows what would be likely to happen when the stronghold was in the possession of the superior race. His antagonist had fortified an almost inaccessible crag on the top of Sadok—a mountain about 5,000 feet high, surrounded by lower mountains. Described by Brooke as “grim and grand,” it figures in Dyak legends and songs as “the Grand Mount, towards which no enemy dare venture.” The first attempt to take this fastness failed utterly; the second, in which a small mortar was used, also failed; and only by the help of a howitzer, dragged up by the joint strength of hundreds of yelling Dyaks, did the third attempt succeed. This chieftain, who had many followers and was aided by subordinate chiefs, Layang, Nanang, and Loyioh, holding secondary forts serving as outposts, was unconquerable by the surrounding tribes, and was naturally held in dread by them. “Grandfather Rentap,” as he was commonly called, was dangerously violent; occasionally killed his own men; was regardless of established customs; and, among other feats, took a second wife from a people averse to the match, carried her off to his eyrie, and, discarding the old one, made the young one Ranee of Sadok. Already there were superstitions about him. “Snakes were supposed to possess some mysterious connection with Rentap’s forefathers, or the souls of the latter resided in these loathsome creatures.” Now if, instead of a native ruler thus living up in the clouds (which hindered the last attack), keeping the country around in fear, occasionally [I-215] coming down to fulfil a threat of vengeance, and giving origin to stories already growing into superstitions, we suppose a ruler belonging to an invading race which, bringing knowledge, skill, arts and implements, unknown to the natives, were regarded as beings of superior kind, just as civilized men now are by savages; we shall see that there would inevitably arise legends concerning this superior race seated in the sky. Considering that among these very Dyaks, divine beings are conceived as differing so little from men, that the supreme god and creator, Tapa, is supposed to dwell “in a house like that of a Malay, . . . himself being clothed like a Dyak;” we shall see that the ascription of a divine character to a conqueror thus placed, would be certain. And if the country was one in which droughts had fostered the faith in rain-makers and “heaven-herds”—if, among the Zulus, there was a belief in weather-doctors able to “contend with the lightning and hail,” and to “send the lightning to another doctor to try him;” this ruler, living on a peak round which the clouds formed and whence the storms came, would, without hesitation, be regarded as the causer of these changes—as a thunderer holding the lightnings in his hand. [*] Joined with which ascribed powers, there would nevertheless be stories of his descents from this place up in the heavens, appearances among men, and amours with their daughters. Grant a little time for such legends to be exaggerated and idealized—let the facts be magnified as was the feat of Samson with the ass’s jawbone, or the prowess of Achilles making “the earth flow with blood,” or the achievement of Ramses II in slaying 100,000 [I-216] foes single-handed; and there would be reached the idea that heaven was the abode of superhuman beings commanding the powers of nature and punishing men. [*]

I am aware that this interpretation will be called Euhemeristic; and that having so called it, the mythologists whose views are now in fashion will consider it disposed of. Only incidentally implied as this view here is, I must leave it for the present unsupported. By-and-by, after showing that it is congruous with all the direct evidence we have respecting primitive modes of thought, I hope further to show that the multitudinous facts which existing uncivilized and semi-civilized races furnish, yield no support to the current theories of mythologists, and that these theories are equally at variance with the laws of mental evolution.

§ 115. The general conclusion to which we are led is that the ideas of another world pass through stages of development. The habitat of the dead, originally conceived as coinciding with that of the living, gradually diverges—here to the adjacent forest, there to the remoter forest, and elsewhere to distant hills and mountains. The belief that the dead rejoin their ancestors, leads to further divergences, which vary according to the traditions. Stationary descendants of troglodytes think they return to a subterranean other-world, whence they emerged; while immigrant races have for their other-worlds the abodes of their fathers, to which they journey after death: over land, down a river, or across the sea, as the case may be. Societies consisting of conquerors and conquered, having separate traditions of origin, have separate other-worlds; which differentiate into superior and inferior places, in correspondence with the respective [I-217] positions of the two races. Conquests of these mixed peoples by more powerful immigrants, bring further complications—additional other-worlds, more or less unlike in their characters. Finally, where the places for the departed, or for superior classes of beings, are mountain-tops, there is a transition to an abode in the heavens; which, at first near and definite, passes into the remote and indefinite. So that the supposed residence for the dead, originally coinciding with the residence of the living, is little by little removed in thought: distance and direction grow increasingly vague, and finally the localization disappears in space.

All these conceptions, then, which have their root in the primitive idea of death, simultaneously undergo like progressive modifications. Resurrection, once looked for as immediate, is postponed indefinitely; the ghost, originally conceived as quite substantial, fades into ethereality; the other-life, which at first repeated this exactly, becomes more and more unlike it; and its place, from a completely-known adjacent spot, passes to a somewhere unknown and unimagined.






§ 116. Specialized as they are in correspondence with our thoughts, our words do not represent truly the thoughts of the savage; and often entirely misrepresent them. The supernatural pre-supposes the natural; and until there has been reached that idea of orderly causation which we call natural, there can exist no such idea as we imply by supernatural. I am obliged to use the word, however, in default of a better; but the reader must be cautioned against ascribing to the primitive man a conception like that which the word gives to us.

This premised, let us, so far as we can, picture the imaginary environment the primitive man makes for himself, by the interpretations described in the last four chapters. Inconsistent in detail as are the notions he forms concerning surrounding actions, they are, in their ensemble, consistent with the notions that have been set forth as necessarily generated in him.

§ 117. In every tribe, a death from time to time adds another ghost to the many ghosts of those who died before. We have seen that, originally, these ghosts are thought of as close at hand—haunting the old home, lingering near the place of burial, wandering about in the adjacent bush. Continually accumulating, they form a surrounding population; [I-219] usually invisible, but some of them occasionally seen. Here are a few illustrations.

By Australians the supernatural beings thus derived are supposed to be everywhere: the face of the country swarms with them—thickets, watering-places, rocks. The Veddahs, who trust in “the shades of their ancestors and their children,” “believe that the air is peopled with spirits, that every rock and every tree, every forest and every hill, in short, every feature of nature, has its genius loci.” The Tasmanians imagine “a host of malevolent spirits and mischievous goblins” in caverns, forests, clefts, mountain-tops. Where burial within the house prevails, the ghosts of the dead are conceived to be at the elbows of the living; and where, as among the aborigines of the Amazons, “some of the large houses have more than a hundred graves in them,” they must be thought of as ever jostling their descendants. “To a Karen, the world is more thickly peopled with spirits than it is with men. . . . The spirits of the departed dead crowd around him.” Similarly the Tahitians “imagined they lived in a world of spirits, which surrounded them night and day, watching every action.” Here regarded as friendly, and here as workers of mischief, the ancestral spirits are, in some cases, driven away, as by the Nicobar people—

“Once in the year, and sometimes when great sickness prevails, they [the Nicobarians] build a large canoe, and the Minloven, or priest, has the boat carried close to each house, and then, by his noise, he compels all the bad spirits to leave the dwelling, and to get into the canoe; men, women, and children assist him in his conjuration. The doors of the house are shut; the ladder is taken out [the houses are built on posts 8 or 9 feet high]; the boat is then dragged along to the seashore, where it is soon carried off by the waves, with a full cargo of devils.”

There is a like custom in the Maldive islands; and some of the Indians of California annually expel the ghosts which have accumulated during the year.

These multitudinous disembodied spirits are agents ever [I-220] available, as conceived antecedents to all occurrences needing explanation. It is not requisite that their identification as ghosts should continue in a distinct form: many of them are sure to lose this character. The swarms of demons by whom the Jews thought themselves environed, while regarded by some as the spirits of the wicked dead, readily came to be regarded by others as the offspring of the fallen angels and the daughters of men. When the genealogies of an accumulating host have been lost, there remains nothing to resist any suggested theory respecting their origin. But though the Arab who thinks the desert is so thickly peopled with spirits that on throwing anything away he asks the forgiveness of those which may be struck, probably does not now regard them as the wandering doubles of the dead; it is clear that, given the wandering doubles of the dead, supposed by the primitive man to be everywhere around, and we have the potentiality of countless supernatural agencies capable of indefinite variation.

§ 118. Hence the naturalness, and, indeed, the inevitableness, of those interpretations which the savage gives of surrounding phenomena. With the development of the ghost-theory, there arises an easy way of accounting for all those changes which the heavens and earth hourly exhibit. Clouds that gather and presently vanish, shooting stars that appear and disappear, sudden darkenings of the water’s surface by a breeze, animal-metamorphoses, transmutations of substance, storms, earthquakes, eruptions—all of them are now understood. These beings to whom is ascribed the power of making themselves visible and invisible at will, and to whose other powers no limits are known, are omnipresent. Explaining, as their agency seems to do, all unexpected changes, their own existence becomes further verified. No other causes for such changes are known, or can be conceived; therefore these souls of the dead must be the causes; therefore the survival of souls is manifest: [I-221] a circular reasoning which suffices many besides savages.

The interpretations of nature which precede scientific interpretations, are thus the best that can then be framed. If by the Karens “unaccountable sounds and sights in the jungles” are, as Mason says, ascribed to the ghosts of the wicked, the Karens do but assume an origin which, in the absence of generalized knowledge, is the only imaginable origin. If, according to Bastian, the Nicobar people attribute to evil spirits the unlucky events they cannot explain by ordinary causes, they are simply falling back on such remaining causes as they can conceive. Livingstone names certain rocks which, having been intensely heated by the sun, and then suddenly cooled externally in the evening, break with loud reports; and these reports the natives set down to evil spirits. To what else should they set them down? Uncivilized men are far removed from the conception that a stone may break from unequal contraction; and in the absence of this conception, what assignable cause of breaking is there, but one of these mischievous demons everywhere at hand? In his account of the Danákil, Harris tells us that “no whirlwind ever sweeps across the path without being pursued by a dozen savages with drawn creeses, who stab into the centre of the dusty column in order to drive away the evil spirit that is believed to be riding on the blast.” Ludicrous as this notion appears, we have but to remember that the physical interpretation of a sand-whirlwind cannot be framed by the savage, to see that the only conceivable interpretation is that which he gives. Occasionally, too, his experiences suggest that such agencies are multitudinous, and everywhere present. Describing a tropical scene, Humboldt says—“the surface of these sands, heated by the rays of the sun, seems to be undulating, like the surface of a liquid . . . the sun animates the landscape, and gives mobility to the sandy plain, to the trunks of trees, and to the rocks that project into the sea like promontories.” What [I-222] shakes the tree-trunks and makes the rocks oscillate? There is no alternative but to assume invisible beings scattered about everywhere. By savages these appearances cannot be understood as illusions caused by refraction.

As one of the above examples shows, the ghosts of the dead are in comparatively early stages the assigned agents for unusual phenomena; and there are other such examples. Thomson says the Araucanians think tempests are caused by the fights which the spirits of their countrymen have with their enemies. Such interpretations differ from the interpretations of more advanced races, only by presenting the individualities of dead friends and foes in their original forms: the eventful fading of these individualities leaves notions of personal agencies less definite in kind. An eddy in the river, where floating sticks are whirled round and engulfed, is not far from the place where one of the tribe was drowned and never seen again. What more manifest, then, than that the double of this drowned man, malicious as the unburied ever are, dwells thereabouts, and pulls these things under the surface—nay, in revenge, seizes and drags down persons who venture near? When those who knew the drowned man are all dead—when, after generations, the details of the story, thrust aside by more recent stories, have been lost—and especially when there comes some conquering tribe, in whose past history the local stories have no roots; there survives only the belief in a water-demon haunting the place. [*] And so throughout. There is nothing [I-223] to maintain in tradition the likenesses between the ghosts and the individuals they were derived from; and along with innumerable divergences, there comes not only a fading of individual traits, but also at length a fading of human traits. Varieties pass into species, and genera, and orders, of supernatural beings.

§ 119. Of course, if the ghosts of the dead, passing gradually into less distinct but still personal forms, are thus the agents supposed to work all the notable effects in the surrounding world; they are also the agents supposed to work notable effects in the affairs of men. Ever at hand and moved by amity or enmity, it is incredible that they should not interfere with human actions. The soul of a dead foe is on the watch to cause an accident; the soul of a late relative is ready to help and to guard if in good humour, or, if offended, to make something go wrong.

Hence explanations, universally applicable, of successes and failures. Among all peoples such explanations have prevailed: differing only in the extent to which the aiding or hindering spirits have lost the human character. Low down we have the Veddah, who looks to the shade of his dead parent or child to give him success in the chase, and ascribes a bad shot to the lack of an invocation; we have the Australian who, “if a man tumbles out of a tree and breaks his neck,” thinks that “his life has been charmed away by the Boyala-men of another tribe;” we have the Ashantees, who “believe that the spirits of their departed relatives exercise a guardian care over them,” and that “the ghosts of departed enemies are . . . bad spirits,” who work mischief. Higher up we have, among the Homeric heroes, feats of arms set down to the assistance of the supernatural beings who join in the battle. With Hector “one at least of the gods is ever present, who wards off death;” and “Menelaus conquered by Minerva’s aid.” Diomed is unscathed because an immortal “has turned into another [I-224] course the swift shaft just about to hit him;” Paris, dragged by the helmet, would have been lost had not Venus, “who quickly perceived it, broke for him the thong;” and Idæus escaped only because “Vulcan snatched him away.” Be it the Araucanian who ascribes success to the aid of his particular fairy; be it the African chief Livingstone names, who thought he had ensured the death of an elephant they were attacking by emptying his snuff-box as an offering to the Barimo; be it the Greek whose spear is well fixed in a Trojan’s side by the guiding hand of his favourite deity; be it the Jew’s ministering angel or the Catholic’s patron saint; there is identity in essentials, and only more or less of difference in form. The question is solely how far this evolution of the ghosts of the dead into supernatural agents has gone.

§ 120. Lastly, and chiefly, we have to note the fact that this machinery of causation which the primitive man is inevitably led to frame for himself, fills his mind to the exclusion of any other machinery. This hypothesis of ghost-agency gains a settled occupation of the field, long before there is either the power or the opportunity of gathering together and organizing the experiences which yield the hypothesis of physical-force-agency. Even among ourselves, with our vast accumulation of definite knowledge, and our facilities for diffusing it, the displacement of an old doctrine by a new one is difficult. Judge then its difficulty where the few facts known remain ungeneralized, unclassified, unmeasured; where the very notions of order, cause, law, are absent; where criticism and scepticism are but incipient; and where there is not even the curiosity needful to prompt inquiry. If, parodying a common adage, we may fitly say that prepossession is nine points of belief—if this is so even in the relatively-plastic minds of the civilized; how many points of belief must it be in the relatively-rigid minds of the uncivilized?


Hence the surprise commonly expressed at these primitive interpretations is an unwarranted surprise. If, as Mr. St. John tells us, the Dyaks never take the natural explanation of any phenomena, such as an accident, but always “fly to their superstitions;” they fly to the only kind of explanation which yet exists for them. The absurdity is in supposing that the uncivilized man possesses at the outset the idea of “natural explanation.” Only as societies grow, arts multiply, experiences accumulate, and constant relations of phenomena become recognized, registered, and familiar, does the notion of natural explanation become possible.

And now, having seen how the primitive man is led to think of the activities in his environment as controlled by the spirits of the dead, and by spirits more or less differentiated from them, let us observe how he is similarly led to think of such spirits as controlling the activities within his body and within the bodies of other men.






§ 121. The phenomena exhibited during evolution cannot be placed in serial order. Always there go on divergences and re-divergences. Setting out with the primitive ideas of insensibility, of death, and of the ghost, we have traced along certain lines the developing ideas of another life and another world; and along other lines we have traced the developing ideas of supernatural agents as existing on all sides. Setting out afresh from the insensible body as the starting point, we have now to observe how a further class of ideas has been simultaneously developing by the aid of those we have considered.

In sleep, in swoon, in trance, in apoplexy, there is almost complete quiescence; and at death the quiescence becomes absolute. Usually, then, during the supposed absence of the other-self, the body does nothing. But sometimes the body, lying on the ground with eyes closed, struggles violently; and, after the ordinary state is resumed, the individual denies having struggled—says that he knows nothing about those actions of his body which the spectators saw. Obviously his other-self has been away. But how came his body to behave so strangely during the interval?

The answer given to this question is the most rational which the primitive man can give.


§ 122. If, during insensibilities of all kinds, the soul wanders, and, on returning, causes the body to resume its activity—if the soul can thus not only go out of the body but can go into it again; then may not the body be entered by some other soul? The savage thinks it may.

Hence the interpretation of epilepsy. The Congo people ascribe epilepsy to demoniac possession. Among the East Africans, “falling sickness” is peculiarly common; and Burton thinks it has given rise to the prevalent notion of possession. Of Asiatic races may be instanced the Kalmucks: by these nomads epileptics are regarded as persons into whom bad spirits have entered. That the Jews similarly explained the facts is clear; and the Arabic language has the same word for epilepsy and possession by devils. It is needless to show that this explanation persisted among the civilized up to comparatively-recent times.

The original inference is, then, that while the patient’s other-self has gone away, some disembodied spirit, usurping its place, uses his body in this violent way. Where we have a specific account of the conception in its earliest stage, we learn that the assumed supernatural agent is a ghost. From the Amazulu cross-examined by Bishop Callaway, there is brought out the statement that when a diviner is becoming possessed by the Itongo (ancestral spirits), “he has slight convulsions.” Moreover, a witness who “went to a person with a familiar spirit to inquire respecting a boy . . . who had convulsions,” got the answer—“he is affected by the ancestral spirits.”

§ 123. A further question comes before the primitive mind, and a further rational corollary is drawn, which develops into a series of curious but consistent ideas.

Occasionally a person, while still conscious, cannot control the actions of his body. He finds himself doing something without willing it, or even in spite of his will. Is it, then, that another soul has entered him; even though his [I-228] own soul has not wandered away? An affirmative answer is inevitable.

Hence the explanation of hysteria, with its uncontrollable and meaningless laughs, sobs, and cries. Among the Amazulu, hysterical symptoms are counted as traits of one who is becoming an Inyanga, or diviner—one who is becoming possessed. The remark made by Parkyns respecting the Abyssinians, that “the greater part of the ‘possessed’ are women,” indicates a kindred interpretation: women being so much more liable to hysteria than men. And when we read in Mariner, that among the Tongans inspiration is not confined to the priests, but is sometimes experienced by others, especially females, we may reasonably conclude that fits of hysterics are the signs of inspiration referred to. Indeed, is not one of the symptoms of the disorder conclusive proof? What can be said of the globus hystericus—a ball that is suddenly felt within the body—unless it is this alleged possessing spirit?

Carried thus far, the explanation has to be carried further. If these more violent actions of the body, performed in defiance of the will, are ascribable to a usurping demon, so, too, must be the less violent actions of this kind. Hence the primitive theory of sneezing and yawning. The Amazulu regard these involuntary actions as marks of possession. When a man is becoming an Inyanga,

“his head begins to give signs of what is about to happen. He shows that he is about to be a diviner by yawning again and again, and by sneezing again and again. And men say, ‘No! Truly it seems as though this man was about to be possessed by a spirit.’ ”

In other cases we have proof, not of permanent possession, but of temporary possession, being inferred from the sneeze. The Khonds dash water on the priest when they wish to consult him. He sneezes, and becomes inspired. Of course, there is nothing to determine whether this possession is by a friendly or by an unfriendly spirit: it may be, as among the Zulus, an ancestral ghost, or, as among other peoples, it [I-229] may be a malicious demon. But be the sneeze, as with the Moslem, a reason for asking Allah to protect him against Satan as the presumed cause; or be it, as with the Christian, the occasion of a now-unmeaning “God bless you” from bystanders; or be it the ground for putting faith in an utterance as inspired; the root idea is the same: some intruding spirit has made the body do what its owner did not intend.

Two kindred interpretations may be added. Among the Yakuts there is a disorder accompanied by a violent hiccough, and “they persist in believing that a devil is in the body of the person afflicted.” A neighbouring people, the Kirghiz, furnish a still stranger instance. Mrs. Atkinson says that a woman in child-bed is supposed to be possessed by a devil; and it is even the custom to beat her for the purpose of driving him away.

In this last case, as in all the others, there are involuntary muscular contractions. These may reasonably be ascribed to possession, if those of epilepsy are so; and we see that the ascription of epilepsy to possession is an implication of the original ghost-theory.

§ 124. Certain allied phenomena, explicable in like manner and otherwise inexplicable, further confirm the doctrine of possession. I refer to the phenomena of delirium and madness.

What is come to this man who, lying prostrate, and refusing to eat, does not know those around; now mutters incoherently or talks nonsense; now speaks to some one the bystanders cannot see; now shrinks in terror from an invisible foe; now laughs without a cause? And how does it happen that when he has become calm he either knows nothing about these strange doings of his, or narrates things which no one witnessed? Manifestly one of these spirits or ghosts, swarming around, had entered his body at night while he was away, and had thus abused it. That savages do thus interpret the facts we have not much evidence: [I-230] probably because travellers rarely witness among them this kind of mental disturbance. Still, Petherick says the Arabs suppose that “in high fever, when a person is delirious, he is possessed by the devil.”

But when from temporary insanity we pass to permanent insanity, we everywhere find proof that this is the interpretation given. The Samoans attribute madness to the presence of an evil spirit; as also do the Tongans. The Sumatrans, too, consider that lunatics are possessed. Among more advanced races the interpretation has been, and still remains, the same. When the writer of Rambles in Syria. tells us that, “in the East, madness is tantamount to inspiration,” we are reminded that if there is any difference between this conception and the conceptions recorded of old, it concerns only the nature of the possessing spirit. These earlier records, too, yield evidence that the original form of the belief was the form above inferred. “According to Josephus, demons are the spirits of the wicked dead: they enter into the bodies of the living.” As the possessed were said to frequent burial-places, and as demons were supposed to make tombs their favourite haunts, we may conclude that by Jews in general the possessing spirit was at first conceived as a ghost.

The continuance of this view of insanity through mediæval days, down to the days when the 72nd canon of our Church tacitly embodied it by forbidding the casting out of devils without a special licence, is easy to understand. Only after science had made familiar the idea that mental states result from nervous actions, which can be disordered by physical causes, did it become possible to conceive the madman’s amazing ideas and passions in any other way than as the expressions of some nature unlike his own.

We must not overlook a verification which the behaviour of the insane yields to the belief in surrounding ghosts or spirits. The uncivilized or semi-civilized man knows nothing about subjective illusions. What then must he think [I-231] when he hears a maniac talking furiously to an invisible person, or throwing a missile at some being, unseen by others, whom he wants to drive away? His frantic gestures, his glaring eyes, his shrieking voice, make it impossible to doubt the strength of his belief. Obviously, then, there are mischievous demons around: manifest to him, but not to bystanders. Any who doubted the existence of supernatural agents can no longer doubt.

One further noteworthy idea is thus yielded. In his paroxysms, an insane person is extremely strong—strong enough to cope single-handed with several men. What is the inference? The possessing demon has superhuman energy. The belief thus suggested has developments hereafter to be observed.

§ 125. Once established, this mode of explaining unusual actions, mental and bodily, extends itself. Insensibly it spreads from abnormalities of the kinds above instanced, to those of other kinds. Diseases are soon included under the theory. As in fever bodily derangement co-exists with mental derangement, the inference is that the same agent causes both. And if some unhealthy states are produced by indwelling demons, then others are thus produced. A malicious spirit is either in the body, or is hovering around, inflicting evil on it.

The primitive form of this interpretation is shown us by the Amazulu. Even a stitch in the side they thus explain: “if the disease lasts a long time,” they say, “he is affected by the Itongo. He is affected by his people who are dead.” The Samoans supposed that the spirits of the dead “had power to return, and cause disease and death in other members of the family.” As we saw in § 92, the New Caledonians “think white men are the spirits of the dead, and bring sickness.” The Dyaks who, like the Australians, attribute every disease to spirits, like them, too, personify diseases. They will not call the small-pox by its name; but [I-232] ask—“Has he yet left you?” Sometimes they call it “the chief.” In these cases ghosts are the assumed agents; and in some of them, occupation of the sufferer’s body is alleged or implied. In other cases, the supernatural agent, not specified in its origin, appears to be regarded as external. By the Arawâks, pain is called “the evil spirit’s arrow;” and the Land-Dyaks believe that sickness is occasionally “caused by spirits inflicting on people invisible wounds with invisible spears.” But everywhere the supposed cause is personal. In Asia, the Karens “attribute diseases to the influence of unseen spirits.” By the Lepchas, all ailments “are deemed the operations of devils;” as also by the Bodo and Dhimáls. In Africa, the Coast Negroes ascribe illness to witchcraft or the operations of the gods; the Koossas consider it caused by enemies and evil spirits; and the offended ancestor of a Zulu is represented as saying—“I will reveal myself by disease.” In America, the Comanches think a malady is due to the “blasting breath” of a foe; and the Mundrucús regard it as the spell of an unknown enemy.

If instead of “ghost” we read “supernatural agent,” the savage theory becomes the semi-civilized theory. The earliest recorded hero of the Babylonians, Izdubar, is smitten with a grievous malady by the offended goddess Ishtar. In the first book of the Iliad, the Greeks who die of pestilence are represented as hit by Apollo’s arrows—an idea parallel to one of the savage ideas above named. It was believed by the Jews that dumbness and blindness ceased when the devils causing them were ejected. And in after-times, the Fathers held that demons inflicted diseases. How persistent this kind of interpretation has been, we are shown by the fact that the production of illness by witches, who instigate devils, is even now alleged among the uncultured; and by the fact that some of the cultured still countenance the belief that illness is diabolically caused. A State-authorized expression of this theory of disease is often repeated [I-233] by priests. In the order for the visitation of the sick, one of the prayers is, “renew in him” “whatsoever has been decayed by the fraud and malice of the devil.”

§ 126. After contemplating the genesis of the foregoing beliefs, the accompanying belief that death is due to supernatural agency will no longer surprise us.

In one form or other this belief occurs everywhere. The Uaupè Indians, Wallace tells us, “scarcely seem to think that death can occur naturally;” and Hearne says the Chippewayans ascribe the deaths of their chiefs to witchcraft—commonly by the Esquimaux. The Kalmucks believe that “death is caused by some spirit at the command of the deity;” the Kookies attribute death, as well as all earthly evils, to supernatural causes; and the Khonds hold “that death is not the necessary and appointed lot of man, but that it is incurred only as a special penalty for offences against the gods.” The Bushmen think death is chiefly due to witchcraft; and by the Bechuanas, death, even in old age, is ascribed to sorcery. The Coast Negroes think “no death is natural or accidental;” Burton says that “in Africa, as in Australia, no man, however old, dies a natural death;” and the Loango people do not believe in natural death, even from drowning or other accident. The Tahitians regarded the effects of poisons as “more the effects of the god’s displeasure, . . . than the effects of the poisons themselves. . . . Those who were killed in battle were also supposed to die from the influence of the gods.” And kindred ideas are current among the Sandwich Islanders, the Tannese, and various other peoples.

A sequence must be named. Eventually the individualities of the particular demons supposed to have caused death, merge in a general individuality—a personalized Death: the personalization probably beginning, everywhere, in the tradition of some ferocious foe whose directly-seen acts of vengeance were multitudinous, and to whom, [I-234] afterwards, unseen acts of vengeance were more and more ascribed. Be this as it may, however, we may trace the evolution of these primitive notions into those which existed in classic times and mediæval times. At a Naga’s burial, his friends arm themselves, and challenge the spirit who caused his death. Of the Tasmanians, Mr. Davis relates that, “during the whole of the first night after the death of one of their tribe, they will sit round the body, using rapidly a low, continuous recitative, to prevent the evil spirit from taking it away. Such evil spirit being the ghost of an enemy.” On the other hand, among the Kora-Hottentots the conception has become partially generalized: they personalize death—say “Death sees thee.” Which several facts show us the root of the belief implied by the story of Alcestis, who is rescued from the grasp of the strong Death by the still stronger Hercules; and also the root of the belief implied by the old representations of Death as a skeleton, holding a dart or other weapon.

In the minds of many, the primitive notion still lingers. When reading with astonishment that savages, not recognizing natural death, ascribe all death to supernatural agency, we forget that even now supernatural agency is assigned in cases where the cause of death is not obvious—nay, in some cases where it is obvious. We still occasionally read the coroner’s verdict—“Died by the visitation of God;” and we still meet people who think certain deaths (say the drownings of those who go boating on Sundays) directly result from divine vengeance: a belief differing from these savage beliefs only in a modified conception of the supernatural agent.

§ 127. Considered thus as following from the primitive interpretation of dreams, and consequent theory of ghosts, souls, or spirits, these conclusions are quite consistent.

If souls can leave bodies and re-enter them, why should not bodies be entered by strange souls, while their own souls [I-235] are absent? If, as in epilepsy, the body performs acts which the owner denies having performed, there is no choice but to assume such an agency. And if certain uncontrollable movements, as those of hysteria, as well as the familiar ones of sneezing, yawning, and hiccough, take place involuntarily, the conclusion must be that some usurping spirit directs the actions of the subject’s body in spite of him.

This hypothesis explains, too, the strange behaviour of the delirious and the insane. That a maniac’s body has been taken possession of by an enemy, is proved by the fact that it is impelled to self-injury. Its right owner would not make the body bite and tear itself. Further, the possessing demon is heard to hold converse with other demons, which he sees but which bystanders do not see.

And if these remarkable derangements of body and mind are thus effected, the manifest inference is that diseases and disorders of less remarkable kinds are effected in the same way. Should there not be a demon within the body, there must be, at any rate, some invisible enemy at hand, who is working these strange perturbations in it.

Often occurring after long-continued disease, death must be caused by that which caused the disease. Whenever the death has no visible antecedent, this is the only possible supposition; and even when there is a visible antecedent, it is still probable that there was some demoniacal interference. The giving way of his foothold and consequent fatal fall of a companion down a precipice, or the particular motion which carried a spear into his heart, was very likely determined by the malicious spirit of a foe.






§ 128. If a man’s body may be entered by a “wicked soul of the dead” enemy, may it not be entered by a friendly soul? If the struggles of the epileptic, the ravings of the delirious, the self-injuries of the insane, are caused by an indwelling demon; then must not the transcendent power or marvellous skill occasionally displayed, be caused by an indwelling beneficent spirit? If, even while a man is conscious, the ghost of a foe may become joint occupant of his body and control its actions in spite of him, so producing hiccough, and sneezing, and yawning; may not joint occupancy be assumed by an ancestral ghost, which co-operates with him instead of opposing him: so giving extra strength, or knowledge, or cunning?

These questions the savage consistently answers in the affirmative. There result the ideas to be here glanced at.

§ 129. The fact that maniacs, during their paroxysms, are far stronger than men in their normal states, raises, as we before saw, the belief that these supernatural agents have superhuman energies.

That manifestations of unusual will and strength are thus accounted for, we find proofs among early traditions. Encouraging Diomede, Minerva says—“In thy breast have I set thy father’s courage undaunted, even as it was in knightly Tydeus:” words implying some kind of inspiration—some [I-237] breathing-in of a soul that had been breathed-out of a father. More distinctly is this implied by certain legendary histories of the Egyptians. In the third Sallier papyrus, narrating a conquest, Ramses II invokes his “father Ammon,” and has the reply—“Ramses Miamon, I am with thee, I thy father Ra. . . . I am worth to thee 100,000 joined in one.” And when Ramses, deserted by his own army, proceeds single-handed to slay the army of his foes, they are represented as saying—“No mortal born is he whoso is among us.”

Here several points of significance are observable. The ancestral ghost was the possessing spirit, giving superhuman strength. Along with development of this ancestral ghost into a great divinity had gone increase of this strength from something a little above the human to something immeasurably above the human. The conception, common to all these ancient races—Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks—was that gods, otherwise much like men, were distinguished by power transcending that of men; and this conception, subject to no restraint, readily expanded into the conception of omnipotence. A concomitant result was that any display of bodily energy exceeding that which was ordinary, raised in observers the suspicion, either that there was possession by a supernatural being, or that a supernatural being in disguise was before them.

§ 130. Similarly with extraordinary mental power. If an incarnate spirit, having either the primitive character of an ancestral ghost or some modified and developed character, can give superhuman strength of body, then it can give, too, superhuman intelligence and superhuman passion.

We are now so remote from this doctrine of inspiration, as to have difficulty in thinking of it as once accepted literally. Some existing races, as the Tahitians, do indeed show us, in its original form, the belief that the priest when inspired “ceased to act or speak as a voluntary agent, but [I-238] moved and spoke as entirely under supernatural influence;” and so they make real to us the ancient belief that prophets were channels for divine utterances. But we less clearly recognize the truth that the inspiration of the poet was at first conceived in the same way. “Sing, O goddess, the destructive wrath of Achilles,” was not, like the invocations of the Muses in later times, a rhetorical form; but was an actual prayer for possession. The Homeric belief was, that “all great and glorious thoughts . . . come from a god.” Of course, this mode of interpreting ideas and feelings admits of unlimited extension; and hence the assumption of a supernatural cause, made on the smallest suggestion, becomes habitual. In the Iliad, Helen is represented as having an ordinary emotion excited in her by Iris; who “put into her heart, sweet longing for her former husband, and her city, and parents.” Nor does the interpretation extend itself only to exaltations, emotional or intellectual. In the Homeric view, “not the doers of an evil deed, but the gods who inspire the purpose of doing it, are the real criminals;” and even a common error of judgment the early Greek explains by saying—“a god deceived me that I did this thing.”

How this theory, beginning with that form still shown us by such savages as the Congoese, who ascribe the contortions of the priest to the inspiration of the fetish, and differentiating into inspirations of the divine and the diabolical kinds, has persisted and developed, it is needless to show in detail. It still lives in both sacred and secular thought; and between the earliest and latest views the unlikeness is far less than we suppose. When we read in Brinton that “among the Tahkalis the priest is accustomed to lay his hand on the head of the nearest relative of the deceased, and to blow into him the soul of the departed, which is supposed to come to life in his next child;” we are reminded that in the service for ordaining priests there are the words—“Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our [I-239] hands.” Not only in the theory of Apostolic Succession do we see this modified form of the savage belief in inspiration, but we see it, with a difference, in the ideas of the most unsacerdotal of our sects, the Quakers. Being moved by the spirit, as they understand it, is being temporarily possessed or inspired. And then, in its secular application, the primitive notion has left a trace in the qualitative distinction, still asserted by some, between genius and talent.

§ 131. There is but a nominal difference between the facts just grouped under the head of inspiration, and the facts to be grouped under the head of divination. The diviner is simply the inspired man using his supernatural power for particular ends.

The ideas of the Amazulu, which have been so carefully ascertained, we may again take as typical. Mark, first, that bodily derangement, leading to mental perturbation, is the usual preliminary. Fasting is requisite. They say “the continually-stuffed body cannot see secret things.” Moreover, “a man who is about to be an inyanga . . . does not sleep, . . . his sleep is merely by snatches,” “he becomes a house of dreams.” Mark, next, that mental perturbation, rising to a certain point, is taken as proof of inspiration. Where the evidence is not strong, “some dispute and say, ‘No. The fellow is merely mad. There is no Itongo [ancestral ghost] in him.’ Others say, ‘O, there is an Itongo in him; he is already an inyanga.’ ” And then mark, further, that the alleged possession is proved by his success: doubters say—“We might allow that he is an inyanga if you had concealed things for him to find, and he had discovered what you had concealed.”

The conception here so clearly implied is traceable in all cases: the chief difference being in the supposed nature of the indwelling supernatural agent. Such mode of living as produces abnormal excitement, is everywhere a preparation for the diviner’s office. Everywhere, too, this excitement is [I-240] ascribed to the possessing ghost, demon, or divinity; and the words uttered are his. Of the inspired Fijian priest, Williams says:—

“All his words and actions are considered as no longer his own, but those of the deity who has entered into him. . . . While giving the answer, the priest’s eyes stand out and roll as in a frenzy; his voice is unnatural, his face pale, his lips livid, his breathing depressed, and his entire appearance like that of a furious madman.”

And just the same constituents of the belief are shown by the Santals. Starving many days, the Santal priest brings on a state of half wildness. He then answers questions through the power of the possessing god. And in the case named by Sherwill, this god was “formerly a chief amongst them.”

The views of the semi-civilized and civilized need mention only to show their kinship. As represented by Homer, “the gods maintain an intercourse with men as part of the ordinary course of their providence, and this intercourse consists principally in revelations of the divine will, and specially of future events, made to men by oracular voices,” etc. Here we are shown likeness in nature, though some unlikeness in form, between the utterances of the Greek oracle and those of the Zulu Inyanga, to whom the ancestral ghost says—“You will not speak with the people; they will be told by us everything they come to inquire about.” Greater deviation in non-essentials has left unchanged the same essentials in the notions current throughout Christendom; beginning with the “inspired writers,” whose words were supposed to be those of an indwelling holy spirit, and ending with the Pope, who says his infallible judgments have a like origin.

§ 132. Inevitably there comes a further development of these ideas. When the ghost of an enemy has entered a man’s body, can it not be driven out? And if this cannot otherwise be done, can it not be done by supernatural aid? [I-241] If some men are possessed to their hurt by spirits of evil, while others are possessed to their benefit by friendly spirits, as powerful or more powerful, is it not possible by the help of the good spirits to undo the mischief done by the bad ones—perhaps to conquer and expel them? This possibility is reasonably to be inferred. Hence exorcism.

The medicine-man is primarily an exorcist. What Rowlatt tells us of the Mishmis, that, in illness, a priest is sent for to drive away the evil spirit, is told us directly or by implication in hosts of instances. The original method is that of making the patient’s body so disagreeable a residence that the demon will not remain in it. In some cases very heroic modes of doing this are adopted; as by the Sumatrans, who, in insanity, try to expel the spirit by putting the insane person into a hut, which they set fire to, leaving him to escape as he best can. Probably various other extreme measures described, including the swallowing of horrible things, and the making intolerable smells, have the purpose of disgusting the intruder. Generally, also, the exorcist tries to alarm the mischievous tenants by shouts, and gesticulations, and fearful faces. Among the Californian tribes, the doctor “squats down opposite the patient and barks at him after the manner of an enraged cur, for hours together;” and a Koniaga-doctor has a female assistant who does the groaning and growling. Sometimes with other means is joined physical force. Among the Columbian Indians, the medicine-man “proceeds to force the evil spirit from the sick man by pressing both clenched fists with all his might in the pit of his stomach.” As a type of such processes may be taken that ascribed by Herrera to the Indians of Cumana:—

“If the disease increased, they said the patient was possessed with spirits, stroked all the body over, used words of enchantment, licked some joints, and sucked, saying they drew out spirits; took a twig of a certain tree, the virtue whereof none but the physician knew, tickled their own throats with it, till they vomited and bled, [I-242] sighed, roared, quaked, stamped, made a thousand faces, sweated for two hours, and at last brought up a sort of thick phlegm, with a little, hard, black ball in the middle of it, which those that belonged to the sick person carried into the field, saying—‘Go thy way, Devil.’ ”

But in what we may consider the more-developed form of exorcism, one demon is employed to drive out another. The medicine-man or priest conquers the demon in the patient by the help of a demon with which he is himself possessed; or else he summons a friendly supernatural power to his aid.

Everyone knows that, in this last form, exorcism continues during civilization. In their earlier days the Hebrews employed some physical process, akin to the processes we find among savages; such as making a dreadful stench by burning the heart and liver of a fish. Through such exorcism, taught by the angel Raphael, the demon Asmodeus was driven out—fled to Egypt when he “had smelled” the smoke. But later, as in the exorcisms of Christ, the physical process was replaced by the compulsion of superior supernatural agency. In this form exorcism still exists in the Roman Catholic Church, which has specially-ordained exorcists; and it was daily practised in the Church of England in the time of Edward VI, when infants were exorcized before baptism, in the words—“I command thee, unclean spirit, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, that thou come out, and depart from these infants.” Occasional exorcism continued till 1665, if not later: a clergyman named Ruddle, licensed to exorcize by the Bishop of Exeter, having then, according to his own account, succeeded in laying the ghost of a woman, by using the means appointed for dealing with demons—magic circle, “pentacle,” etc. Nor is this all. It has been an ecclesiastical usage, lasting down to Protestant times, to exorcize the water used in divine service: a practice implying the primitive notion that invisible demons swarm everywhere around.

In this, as in other cases, we may still trace the original nature of the supernatural agent. Malicious ghosts which [I-243] annoy the living because their bodies have been ill-treated, differ but little from evil spirits which vex the living by possessing them. The instance given above, clearly implies that the laying of ghosts and the exorcism of demons, are but modifications of the same thing. The Amazulu show the two in undistinguishable forms. Concerning a woman persecuted by the ghost of her dead husband, we read:—

“If it trouble her when she has gone to another man without being as yet married; if she has left her husband’s children behind, the dead husband follows her and asks, ‘With whom have you left my children? What are you going to do here? Go back to my children. If you do not assent I will kill you.’ The spirit is at once laid in that village because it harasses the woman.”

Of course, as civilization advances, the processes differentiate; so that while evil spirits are commanded or conjured, ghosts are pacified by fulfilling their requests. But since the meanings of ghost, spirit, demon, devil, angel, were at first the same, we may infer that what eventually became the casting out of a devil, was originally an expulsion of the malicious double of a dead man.

§ 133. A medicine-man who, helped by friendly ghosts, expels malicious ghosts, naturally asks himself whether he may not get ghostly aid for other purposes. Can he not by such aid revenge himself on enemies, or achieve ends not else possible? The belief that he can initiates sorcery.

A primitive form of this belief is shown us by the Kaffirs, who think dead bodies are restored to life by bad persons, and made hobgoblins to aid them in mischief. Here we have direct identification of the familiar demon with the deceased man. When we read that the Tahitians think sickness and death are produced by the incantations of priests, who induce the evil spirits to enter the sick; or when we read that most misfortunes are attributed by the Australians “to the power which hostile tribes possess over the spirits and demons which infest every corner of the land;” [I-244] we recognize the same notion less specifically stated. In the fact that by Jewish writers “a necromancer is defined as one who fasts and lodges at night amongst tombs, in order that the evil spirit may come upon him;” we have a hint of a kindred belief in an early historic race. And we see the connexion between these original forms of the conception and those derived forms of it which have survived among the more civilized.

The operations of the sorcerer, having for their primary end the gaining of power over a living person, and having for their secondary end (which eventually becomes predominant) the gaining of power over the souls of dead persons, or supernatural agents otherwise conceived, are guided by a notion which it will be instructive to consider.

In § 52 it was shown why, originally, the special power or property of an object is supposed to be present in all its parts. This mode of thinking, we saw, prompted certain actions. Others such may here be instanced. The belief that the qualities of any individual are appropriated by eating him, is illustrated by the statement of Stanbridge, that when the Australians kill an infant, they feed a previously-born child with it; believing “that by its eating as much as possible of the roasted infant, it will possess the strength of both.” Elsewhere, dead relatives are consumed in pursuance of an allied belief. We read of the Cucamas that “as soon as a relation died, these people assembled and ate him roasted or boiled, according as he was thin or fat.” The Tariánas and Tucános, who drink the ashes of their relatives, “believe that thus the virtues of the deceased will be transmitted to the drinkers;” and an allied people, the Arawâks, think it “the highest mark of honour they could pay to the dead, to drink their powdered bones mixed in water.” Scarcely less significant is a custom of the whale-fishing Koniagas. “When a whaler dies, the body is cut into small pieces and distributed among his fellow-craftsmen, each of whom, after rubbing the point of his lance upon it, dries and [I-245] preserves his piece as a sort of talisman. Or the body is placed in a distant cave, where, before setting out upon a chase, the whalers all congregate, take it out, carry it to a stream, immerse it, and then drink of the water.” The particular virtue possessed by an aggregate is supposed not only to inhere in all parts of it, but to extend to whatever is associated with it. Even its appearance is regarded as a property which cannot exist apart from its other properties. Hence the dislike often shown by savages to having their portraits taken. Along with this lively representation they think there must go some part of the life. A belief like that of the Chinooks who, if photographed, “fancied that their spirit thus passed into the keeping of others, who could torment it at pleasure,” or that of the Mapuchés, who hold that to have a man’s likeness is to have a fatal power over him, will be fully exemplified hereafter under another head. For the present, it must suffice to name this belief, as further showing the ways in which unanalytical conceptions of things work out. One more way must be added. Even with the name, there is this association. The idea betrayed by our own uncultured that some intrinsic connexion exists between word and thing (an idea which even the cultured among the Greeks did not get rid of) is betrayed still more distinctly by savages. From all parts of the world come illustrations of the desire to keep a name secret. Burton remarks it of North Americans, and Smith of some South Americans. The motive for this secrecy was clearly expressed by the Chinook who thought Kane’s desire to know his name proceeded from a wish to steal it. Indeed, as Bancroft puts it, “with them the name assumes a personality; it is the shadow or spirit, or other-self, of the flesh and blood person.” An allied interpretation is shown among the Land-Dyaks, who often change the names of their children, especially if they are sickly: “there being an idea that they will deceive the inimical spirits by following this practice.” And in another direction this belief works out [I-246] in the widely-prevalent repugnance to naming the dead. That which Dove tells us of the Tasmanians, that they fear “pronouncing the name by which a deceased friend was known, as if his shade might thus be offended,” is told us, with or without the assigned motive, by travellers from many regions.

The facts thus grouped make sufficiently clear the genesis of the sorcerer’s beliefs and practices. Everywhere he begins by obtaining a part of his victim’s body, or something closely associated with his body, or else by making a representation of him; and then he does to this part, or this representation, something which he thinks is thereby done to his victim. The Patagonians hold that possession of a man’s hair or nails enables the magician to work evil on him; and this is the general conception. New Zealanders “all dread cutting their nails” for this reason. By the Amazulu, “sorcerers are supposed to destroy their victims by taking some portion of their bodies, as hair or nails; or something that has been worn next their person, as a piece of old garment, and adding to it certain medicines, which is then buried in some secret place.” Ancient Peruvian magicians did the like by acting on blood taken from them. Among the Tannese this fatal power over any one is exercised by operating on the remnants of his meals. Probably the idea is that these remnants continue to be connected with the portions he has eaten, and that have become part of him. They believe that—

“men can create disease and death by burning what is called nahak. Nahak means rubbish, but principally refuse of food. Everything of the kind they bury or throw into the sea, lest the disease-makers should get hold of it. . . . If a disease-maker was ill himself, he felt sure that some one must be burning his nahak.”

Spells which originate in the belief that a representation is physically connected with the thing represented, might be exemplified from societies in all stages. Keating tells us of the Chippewas, that a sorcerer transfers a disease by making [I-247] a “wooden image of his patient’s enemy,” piercing it to the heart, and introducing powders: a method identical with methods indicated in tales of European witchcraft.

Turning from this simpler form of magic to the form in which supernatural agents are employed, there comes the question—Does not the second grow out of the first? Reasons exist for thinking that it does. On remembering how small a difference the primitive man recognizes between the living and the dead, we may suspect that he thinks the two can be similarly acted upon. If possessing a portion of a living man gives power over him, will not possessing a portion of a dead man give power over him too? That by some peoples the deceased is supposed to have need of all his parts, has already been shown. We saw, in § 88, that the Mexicans put his bones where he could easily find them at the resurrection; and that a dead Peruvian’s hair and nails were preserved for him in one place. A like custom has a like assigned reason among the Inland Negroes in Ardrah. Is there not, then, the implication that one who obtains such relics thereby obtains a means of hurting, and therefore of coercing, the dead owner? Accept this implication, and the meaning of enchantments becomes clear. Habitually there is destructive usage; and habitually the things bruised, or burned, or boiled, are fragments of dead things, brute or human, but especially human. Speaking of the Ancient Peruvians, Arriaga says that by “a certain powder ground from the bones of the dead,” a sorcerer “stupifies all in the house.” During early times in Europe, it was thought dangerous “to leave corpses unguarded, lest they should be mangled by the witches, who took from them the most choice ingredients composing their charms.” Our own Parliament, so late even as 1604, enacted a death-penalty on any one who exhumed a corpse, or any part of it, to be used in “witchcrafte, sorcerie, charme, or inchantment.” Portions of the dead man having been the elements originally used, and such portions having repulsiveness as their most [I-248] conspicuous trait, repulsive things in general naturally suggested themselves as things likely to strengthen the “hell-broth.” Especially if animal-souls, or the souls of metamorphosed human beings, were to be coerced, there might be looked for those strange mixtures of “eye of newt, and toe of frog,” etc., which the witch-cauldron contains. [*] That some such relationship exists between the arts of the necromancer and these ideas of the [I-249] savage, we find further reason to suspect in the supposed potency of names. The primitive notion that a man’s name forms a part of him, and the derivative notion that calling the dead by their names affects them and may offend them, originate the necromancer’s notion of invocation. Everywhere, be it in the Hebrew legend of Samuel, whose ghost asks why he has been disquieted, or in an Icelandic saga, which describes ghosts severally summoned by name as answering to the summons, we get evidence that possession of the name is supposed to give over the dead an influence like that which it is supposed to give over the living. The power acquired by knowledge of the name is again implied by such stories as the “open Sesame” of the Arabian Nights; and the alleged effect of calling the name we see in the still-extant, though now jocose, saying—“Talk of the devil and he is sure to appear.”

Special interpretations aside, however, the general interpretation is sufficiently manifest. The primitive ghost-theory, implying but little difference between dead and living, fosters the notion that the dead can be acted on by arts like those which act on the living; and hence results that species of magic which, in its earlier form, is a summoning of the dead to get from them information, as the witch of Endor summons the spirit of Samuel, and in its later form is a raising of demons to help in mischief.

§ 134. Exorcism and sorcery pass insensibly into miracle. What difference exists refers less to the natures of the effects worked than to the characters of the agents working them. If the marvellous results are ascribed to a supernatural being at enmity with the observers, the art is sorcery; [I-250] but if ascribed to a friendly supernatural being, the marvellous results are classed as miracles.

This is well shown in the contest between the Hebrew priests and the magicians of Egypt. From Pharaoh’s point of view, Aaron was an enchanter working by the help of a spirit antagonistic to himself; while his own priests worked by the help of his favouring gods. Contrariwise, from the point of view of the Israelites, the achievements of their own leaders were divine, and those of their antagonists diabolical. But both believed that supernatural agency was employed, and that the more powerful supernatural agent had to be yielded to.

Alleged ancient miracles of another order are paralleled in their meanings by alleged miracles now wrought every day in South Africa. By the Bechuanas, missionaries are taken for another sort of rain-makers; and among the Yorubas, “an old farmer, seeing a cloud, will say to a missionary, ‘please let it rain for us.’ ” Rain being thus, in these arid regions, as in the East, synonymous with blessing, we find contests between rain-doctors, or “heaven-herds,” like that between Elijah and the priests of Baal. There are similar trials of strength, and kindred penalties for failure. In Zululand, at a time when “the heaven was hot and dry,” a rain-doctor, “Umkqaekana, says—‘let the people look at the heaven at such a time; it will rain.’ . . . And when it rained, the people said—‘truly, he is a doctor.’ . . . After that year the heaven was hard, and it did not rain. The people persecuted him exceedingly. . . . It is said they poisoned him.” Habitually we find this same conception of the weather-doctor, as, in the words of Bishop Callaway, “a priest to whom is entrusted the power of prevailing mediation;” and habitually we find both his mediatory power and the power of the supernatural agent with whom he has influence, tested by the result. Thus, in the account of his captivity in Brazil, the old voyager, Hans Stade, saying, “God did a wonder through me,” narrates how, at the [I-251] request of two savages, he stopped by prayer a coming storm, which threatened to hinder their fishing; and that “the savage, Parwaa, said—‘Now I see that thou hast spoken with thy God:’ ” heathen and Christian being thus perfectly at one in their interpretation.

The only difference of moment is the extent to which the supernatural agent who produces the miraculous effect at the instigation of the medicine-man, rain-maker, prophet, or priest, has diverged in ascribed nature from the primitive ancestral ghost.

§ 135. And now we approach another order of phenomena which has been evolving simultaneously with the orders described in this chapter and the one preceding it.

The primitive belief is that the ghosts of the dead, entering the bodies of the living, produce convulsive actions, insanity, disease, and death; and as this belief develops, these original supernatural agents conceived as causing such evils, differentiate into supernatural agents of various kinds and powers. Above, we have contemplated certain sequences of this theory of possession. Along with a belief in maleficent possession there goes a belief in beneficent possession; which is prayed for under the forms of supernatural strength, inspiration, or knowledge. Further, from the notion that if maleficent demons can enter they can be driven out, there results exorcism. And then there comes the idea that they may be otherwise controlled—may be called to aid: whence enchantments and miracles.

But if ghosts of the dead, or derived supernatural agents otherwise classed, can thus inflict evils on men when at enmity with them, or, when amicable, can give them help and protection, will it not be wise so to behave as to gain their good-will? This is evidently one of several policies that may be adopted. Supposed as these souls or spirits originally are, to be like living men in their perceptions and intelligence, they may be evaded and deceived. Or, as in [I-252] the procedures above described, they may be driven away and defied. Or, contrariwise, there may be pursued the course of pacifying them if angry, and pleasing them if friendly.

This last course, which originates religious observances in general, we have now to consider. We shall find that the group of ideas and practices constituting a cult, has the same root with the groups of ideas and practices already described, and gradually diverges from them.






§ 136. The inscriptions on grave-stones commonly begin with the words—“Sacred to the memory of.” The sacredness thus ascribed to the tomb, extends to whatever is, or has been, closely associated with the dead. The bedroom containing the corpse is entered with noiseless steps; words are uttered in low tones; and by the subdued manner is shown a feeling which, however variable in other elements, always includes the element of awe.

The sentiment excited in us by the dead, by the place of the dead, and by the immediate belongings of the dead, while doubtless partly unlike that of the primitive man, is in essence like it. When we read of savages in general, as of the Dakotahs, that “they stand in great awe of the spirits of the dead,” and that many tribes, like the Hottentots “leave the huts they died in standing,” with their contents untouched; we are shown that fear is a chief component of the sentiment. Shrinking from the chamber of death, often shown among ourselves, like aversion to going through a churchyard at night, arises partly from a vague dread. Common to uncivilized and civilized, this feeling colours all the ideas which the dead arouse.

Parallelisms apart, we have abundant proof that the place where the dead are, awakens in savages an emotion of fear; is approached with hesitating steps; and acquires the [I-254] character of sanctity. In the Tonga Islands, the cemeteries containing the greatest chiefs are considered sacred. When a New Zealand chief is buried in a village, the whole village become tapu: no one, on pain of death, being permitted to go near it. The Tahitians never repair or live in the house of one who has died: that, and everything belonging to him, is tabooed. Food for the departed is left by New Zealanders in “sacred calabashes;” in Aneiteum, the groves in which they leave offerings of food for their dead ancestors, are “sacred groves;” and by Ashantis, the town of Bantama “is regarded as sacred because it contains the fetish-house, which is the mausoleum of the kings of Ashanti.”

The fact which here concerns us is, that this awe excited by the dead grows into a sentiment like that excited by the places and things used for religious purposes. The kinship is forced on our attention when Cook tells us of the Sandwich Islanders, that the morai seems to be their pantheon as well as their burial-place; and that the morais or burying-grounds of the Tahitians are also places of worship. But we shall see this relationship most clearly on tracing the genesis of temples and altars.

§ 137. By the cave-inhabiting Veddahs, until recently, the dead man was left where he died: the survivors sought some other cave, leaving that in which the death occurred to the spirit of the deceased. As already shown in connexion with another belief, the Bongo people could not be got to enter a certain cave which they said was haunted by the spirits of fugitives who had died in it. Further south “no one dared to enter the Lohaheng, or cave, for it was the common belief that it was the habitation of the Deity.” And in the Izdubar legends, Heabani, represented as living in a cave, is said, at death, to be taken by his “mother earth,” and his ghost is raised out of the earth. On being thus reminded that primitive men lived in caves and interred their dead in them; on adding that when they ceased to use caves [I-255] as dwellings they continued to use them as cemeteries; and on remembering, further, the general custom of carrying offerings to the places where the departed lie; we see how there arises the sacred cave or cave-temple. That the cave-temples of Egypt thus originated is tolerably clear. In various parts of the world natural caverns are found with rude frescoes daubed on their sides; and these artificial caverns in which some Egyptian kings were buried, had their long passages and sepulchral chambers covered with paintings. If we assume that to the preserved bodies of these kings, as to those of Egyptians generally, offerings were made; we must infer that the sacred burial-cave had become a cave-temple. And on learning that elsewhere in Egypt there are cave-temples of a more developed kind that were not sepulchral, we may properly regard these as derivative; for it is not to be supposed that men begun cutting their places of worship out of the solid rock, without having a preceding habit to prompt them.

For another class of temples we have another origin caused by another mode of burial. The Arawâks place the corpse in a “small corial (boat) and bury it in the hut.” By the Guiana tribes, “a hole is dug in the hut and there the body is laid.” Among the Creeks, the habitation of the dead becomes his place of interment. Similarly in Africa. By the Fantees “the dead person is buried in his own house;” the Dahomans bury in the deceased’s “own house or in the abode of certain ancestors;” and there is house-burial among the Fulahs, the Bagos, and the Gold Coast people. Whether the house thus used tends to become a temple, depends on whether it is, or is not, abandoned. In cases like those cited in § 117, where the survivors continue to inhabit it after one or more interments, the acquirement of the sacred character is prevented. When Landa tells us of the Yucatanese, that, “as a rule, they abandoned the house and left it uninhabited after the burial, unless there were many people living in it who overcame the fear of [I-256] death by company;” we are shown the rise of the sentiment and what results from it if not checked. Hence, when told of the Caribs that, “burying the corpse in the centre of his own dwelling” [if the master of the house] the relations “quitted the house altogether, and erected another in a distant situation;” and when told of the Brazilian Indians that a dead man “is buried in the hut which, if he was an adult, is abandoned, and another built in its stead;” and when told that “the ancient Peruvians frequently buried their dead in their dwellings and then removed;” we cannot but see that the abandoned house, thus left to the ghost of the deceased, becomes a place regarded with awe. Moreover, as repeated supplies of food are taken to it; and as along with making offerings there go other propitiatory acts; the deserted dwelling-house, turned into a mortuary-house, acquires the attributes of a temple.

Where house-burial is not practised, the sheltering structure raised above the grave, or above the stage bearing the corpse, becomes the germ of the sacred building. By some of the New Guinea people there is a “roof of atap erected over” the burial-place. In Cook’s time, the Tahitians placed the body of a dead person upon a kind of bier supported by sticks and under a roof. So, too, in Sumatra, where “a shed is built over” the grave; and so, too, in Tonga. Of course this shed admits of enlargement and finish. The Dyaks in some places build mausoleums like houses, 18 ft. high, ornamentally carved, containing the goods of the departed—sword, shield, paddle, etc. When we read that the Fijians deposit the bodies of their chiefs in small mbures or temples, we may fairly conclude that these so-called temples are simply more-developed sheltering structures. Describing the funeral rites of a Tahitian chief, placed under a protective shed, Ellis says the corpse was clothed “and placed in a sitting posture; a small altar was erected before it, and offerings of fruit, food, and flowers, daily presented by the relatives, or the priest appointed to attend the body.” Here [I-257] the shed has become a place of worship. Still more clearly did the customs of the Peruvians show that the structure erected over the dead body develops into a temple. Acosta tells us that “every one of these kings Yncas left all his treasure and revenues to entertaine the place of worshippe where his body was layed, and there were many ministers with all his familie dedicated to his service.”

Nor is it among inferior races alone that we trace this genesis of the temple out of the specially-provided house for the dead. That which early Spanish travellers tell us about the Peruvians, ancient Greek travellers tell us about the Egyptians. Just as Cieza remarks “how little [the Collas] cared for having large and handsome houses for the living, while they bestowed so much care on the tombs where the dead were interred;” so Diodorus, giving a reason for the meanness of the Egyptians’ dwellings as contrasted with the splendour of their tombs, says—“they termed the houses of the living inns, because they stay in them but a little while, but the sepulchres of the dead they call everlasting habitations.” As these Egyptian tombs, like their houses in type though so superior in quality, were places in which offerings to the dead were made, they were essentially temples. Indeed, as it is doubtful whether that most ancient underground structure close to the great pyramid, is a tomb or a temple—as the Serapeum (also underground) where the god Osiris-Apis was buried after each incarnation, “resembled in appearance the other Egyptian temples, even those which were not of a funereal character;” we have reason for thinking that in earlier Egyptian times the temple, as distinguished from the tomb, did not exist. Not unfrequently in the East, these mortuary structures united the characters of the cave-temple and the dwelling-house temple. As at Petra, as at Cyrene, so in Etruria, the tombs were arranged along a cliff “like houses in a street,” and “were severally an imitation of a dwelling-chamber:” to which add that the Etruscans had also underground [I-258] temples like underground burial places, which were like primitive underground houses. A temple at Mahavellipore in Dravidian style, suggests that in India the rock-temple was originally a tomb: there is a reclining (? dead) figure being worshipped. The tomb of Darius, too, cut in the rock, “is an exact reproduction” of his palace on the same scale. I may end with the remark of Mr. Fergusson, who, writing of the Chaldean temples, and indicating the likeness of the tomb of Cyrus to a temple, says “the most celebrated example of this form is as often called [by ancient writers] the tomb as the temple of Belus, and among a Turanian people the tomb and the temple may be considered as one and the same thing.”

Later times have seen manifest tendencies to such a genesis of the temple, de novo. In the oases of the Sahara, are chapels built over the remains of marabouts, or Mahometan saints; and to these chapels the pious make pilgrimages and take offerings. Obviously, too, a chapel covering the tomb of a saint within a Roman Catholic cathedral, is a small temple within a large one. And every detached mausoleum containing the bones of a distinguished man, is visited with feelings akin to the religious, and is an incipient place of worship.

§ 138. When, from tracing the origin of the sacred chamber, be it cave, or deserted house, or special mortuary-house, or temple, we proceed to trace the origin of the sacred structure within it—the altar—we come first to something intermediate. In India there are highly-developed sacred structures uniting the attributes of the two.

The grave-heap growing into the tumulus, which increases in size with the dignity of the deceased, sometimes develops from a mound of earth into a mound partly of stones and partly of earth, or otherwise wholly of stones, and finally into a stone structure, still solid like a mound, and still somewhat mound-shaped, but highly elaborated architecturally. [I-259] Instead of a sacred edifice evolved from the sepulchral chamber, we have, in the Indian Tope, a sacred edifice evolved from the grave-heap itself. “The Tope is the lineal and direct descendant of the funereal tumulus,” says Mr. Fergusson; or, as defined by Gen. Cunningham in his elaborate work, it is “a regularly-built cairn,” as its name implies. Of these Indian Topes, some contain relics of Sakyá-muni; and others contain relics of his principal disciples, priests, and saints: relics only, because in the case of Sakyá-muni, parts of his remains were carried to different places, and because, in the other cases, burning of the dead having been adopted by the Indian Buddhists, the tomb became not the receptacle of a body but of a remnant. As nearly as this change of practice permits, therefore, the Tope is a tomb; and the prayers offered at Topes, the processions made round them, and the adorations paid to them (as shown in the sculptures on their own surfaces), prove that they are simply solid temples instead of hollow temples. Further evidence of this remains: the name given to certain of them, Chaitya, means, in Sanskrit, “an altar, a temple, as well as any monument raised on the site of a funeral pile.”

Returning to the grave-heap in its original form, we have first to recall the fact (§ 85) that among savages who bury, and who take supplies of food to the dead, the grave-heap is thereby made a heap on which offerings are placed. Here of earth or turf, there partly of stones, elsewhere of stones entirely, it has the same relation to offerings for the dead that an altar has to offerings for a deity.

Where corpses are supported on platforms, which also bear the refreshments provided, these platforms become practically altars; and we have evidence that in some cases the altars used in the worship of deities are derived from them. In Tahiti, when Cook was there, the altars on which the natives placed their offerings to the gods were similar to the biers on which they placed their dead: both were small stages, raised on wooden pillars, from five to seven feet high. [I-260] A like structure was used in the Sandwich Islands to support the provisions taken to the grave of one of Cook’s sailors. Elsewhere, neither the grave-heap simply nor the raised stage, plays the part of a stand for offerings. Ximenez tells us of the Central Americans that “if, after the slaves had been laid in the sepulchre beside their master, any space was left, they filled it up with earth, and levelled it. They afterwards erected an altar upon the grave, a cubit high, of lime and rock, on which generally much incense was burnt, and sacrifices offered.” And then, among peoples who enlarge the grave-heap, this structure carrying food and drink is placed close to it; as even now before the vast tumulus of a Chinese Emperor.

Among ancient orientals the altar had a like origin. A ceremony at one of the Egyptian festivals was crowning the tomb of Osiris with flowers; and in like manner they placed garlands on the sarcophagi of dead persons. On altars “outside the doors of the catacombs at Thebes” “are carved in bas-relief the various offerings they bore, which are the same as those represented in the paintings of tombs:” an illustration showing us that where it became a support for offerings placed in front of the dead, the altar still bore traces of having originally been the receptacle for the dead. One more case. Though, along with their advance from the earliest pastoral state, the Hebrews probably diverged somewhat from their original observances of burial and sacrifice, their primitive altars as described, suggest the origin here alleged. They were either of turf, and in so far like a grave-heap, or they were of undressed stones, and in so far also like a grave-heap. Bearing in mind that, as illustrated in the use of the flint-knife for circumcision, religious usages are those which remain longest unchanged, we may suspect the cause of the restriction to undressed stones for building an altar, was that the use of them had persisted from the time when they formed the primitive cairn. It is true that the earliest Hebrew legends imply cave-burials, and that [I-261] later burials were in artificial caves or sepulchres; but pastoral tribes, wandering over wide plains, could not constantly have buried thus. The common mode was probably that still practised by such wild Semites as the Bedouins, whose dead have “stones piled over the grave,” and who “make sacrifices in which sheep or camels are devoutly slaughtered at the tombs of their dead kinsmen:” the piled stones being thus clearly made into an altar.

The usages of European races also yield evidence of this derivation. Here, partly from Blunt’s Dictionary of Theology, and partly from other sources, are some of the proofs. The most ancient altar known is “a hollow chest, on the lid or mensa of which the Eucharist was celebrated.” This form was associated with “the early Christian custom of placing the relics of martyred saints” under altars; and it is still a standing rule in the Catholic Church to enclose the relics of a saint in an altar. “Stone was ordered by councils of the fourth century, from an association of the altar with the sepulchre of Christ.” Moreover, “the primitive Christians chiefly held their meetings at the tombs of the martyrs, and celebrated the mysteries of religion upon them.” And to Mr. Fergusson’s statement, that in the middle ages “the stone coffin became an altar,” may be joined the fact that our churches still contain “altar-tombs.”

Thus what we are clearly shown by the practices of the uncivilized, is indicated also by the practices of the civilized. The original altar is that which supports offerings to the dead; and hence its various forms—a heap of turf, a pile of stones, a raised stage, a stone coffin.

§ 139. Altars imply sacrifices; and we pass naturally from the genesis of the one to the genesis of the other.

Already in § 84 I have exemplified at length the custom of providing the deceased with food; and I might, space permitting, double the number of examples. I might, too, dwell on the various motives avowed by various peoples—by [I-262] the Lower Californians, among whom “the priest demands provisions for the spirit’s journey;” by the Coras of Mexico, who, after a man’s death, “placed some meat upon sticks about the fields, for fear he might come for the cattle he formerly owned;” by the Damaras, who, bringing food to the grave of a relation, request “him to eat and make merry,” and in return “invoke his blessing” and aid. A truth also before illustrated (§ 85), but which, as bearing directly on the argument, it will be well to re-illustrate here, is that these offerings are repeated at intervals: in some places for a short time; in other places for a long time. Of the Vancouver-Island people we are told that “for some days after the death relatives burn salmon or venison before the tomb;” and among the Mosquito Indians, “the widow was bound to supply the grave of her husband with provisions for a year.” When, with practices of this kind, we join such practices as those of the Karen, who thinks himself surrounded by the spirits of the departed dead, “whom he has to appease by varied and unceasing offerings;” we cannot fail to recognize the transition from funeral gifts to religious sacrifices.

The kinship becomes further manifest on observing that in both cases there are, besides offerings of the ordinary kind, festival offerings. The Karens just named as habitually making oblations, have also annual feasts for the dead, at which they ask the spirits to eat and drink. Of the Bodo and Dhimáls Hodgson tells us that “at harvest home, they offer fruits and a fowl to deceased parents.” Such yearly sacrifices, occurring in November among the natives of the Mexican Valley, who then lay live animals, edibles, and flowers on the graves of their dead relatives and friends, and occurring in August among the Pueblos, who then place corn, bread, meat, etc., in the “haunts frequented by the dead,” have prevailed widely: the modern Chinese still exemplifying them, as they were exemplified by the ancient Peruvians and Aztecs.


Moreover there are offerings on occasions specially suggesting them. “When passing a burial-ground they [the Sea Dyaks] throw on it something they consider acceptable to the departed;” and a Hottentot makes a gift on passing a burial-place, and ask for ghostly guardianship. In Samoa, where the spirits of the dead are supposed to roam the bush, “people in going far inland to work, would scatter food here and there as a peace-offering to them, and utter a word or two of prayer for protection.” Development of funeral offerings into habitual sacrifices is carried a stage further in the practice of reserving for the dead a part of each meal. In Fiji “often when the natives eat or drink anything, they throw portions of it away, stating them to be for their departed ancestors.” Always when liquor is given the Bhils, they pour a libation on the ground before drinking any; and as their forefathers are their gods, the meaning of this practice is unmistakable. So, too, the Araucanians spill a little of their drink, and scatter a little of their food, before eating and drinking; and the Virzimbers of Madagascar, when they sit down to meals, “take a bit of meat and throw it over their heads, saying—‘There’s a bit for the spirit.’ ” Ancient historic races had like ways.

The motives for these offerings are often avowed. We read in Livingstone that a Berotse having a headache said—“ ‘My father is scolding me because I do not give him any of the food I eat.’ I asked him where his father was. ‘Among the Barimo,’ [gods] was the reply.” The Kaffirs are described as attributing every untoward event to the spirit of a deceased person, and as “slaughtering a beast to propitiate its favour.” The Amazulu show us the same thing. “There, then, is your food,” they say: “all ye spirits of our tribe, summon one another. I am not going to say, ‘So-and-so, there is your food,’ for you are jealous. But thou, So-and-so, who art making this man ill, call all the spirits; come all of you to eat this food.”

So that alike in motive and in method, this offering of [I-264] food and drink to the dead man parallels the offering of food and drink to a deity. Observe the points of community. The giving of portions of meals is common to the two. In the Sandwich Islands, before the priests begin a meal, says Cook, they utter a sort of prayer, and then offer some of the provisions to the deity. As with these Polynesians, so with the Homeric Greeks: “the share which is given to the gods of the wine that flows, and the flesh that smokes on the festal board,” corresponds with the share cast aside by various peoples for the ancestral spirits. The like is true of the larger oblations on special occasions. When told that a Kaffir chief kills a bullock, that he may thereby get help in war from a dead ancestor, we are reminded that “Agamemnon, king of men, slew a fat bull of five years to most mighty Kronion.” When among the Amazulu, after “an abundant harvest sometimes the head of the village dreams that it is said to him—‘How is it, when you have been given so much food, that you do not give thanks?’ ” and when he thereupon makes a feast to the Amatongo (ghosts of the dead), his act differs in no way from that of presenting first-fruits to deities. And when at another time “he tells his dream, and says—‘Let a sin-offering be sacrificed, lest the Itongo be angry and kill us;’ ” we are reminded of sin-offerings made among various peoples to avert divine vengeance. There is a no less complete correspondence between the sacrifices made at fixed periods. As above shown, we find in addition to other feasts to the dead, annual feasts; and these answer to the annual festivals in honour of deities. Moreover, the times are alike fixed by astronomical events. The parallel holds also in respect of the things offered. In both cases we have oxen, goats, etc.; in both cases bread and cakes occur; in both cases the local drink is given—wine where it exists, chicha by American races, beer by various tribes in Africa; in both cases, too, we find incense used; in both cases flowers; and, in short, whatever consumable commodities [I-265] are most valued, down even to tobacco. As we saw above, an African chief expected to get aid by emptying his snuff-box to the gods; and among the Kaffirs, when the spirits “are invited to eat, beer and snuff are usually added.” Nor is there any difference in the mode of preparation. Both to spirits and to deities we find uncooked offerings and also burnt offerings. Yet another likeness must be named. Gods are supposed to profit by the sacrifices as ghosts do, and to be similarly pleased. As given in the Iliad, Zeus’ reason for favouring Troy is that there “never did mine altar lack the seemly feast, even drink-offering and burnt-offering, the worship that is our due.” In the Odyssey, Athene is described as coming in person to receive the roasted heifer presented to her, and as rewarding the giver. Lastly, we have the fact that in sundry cases the sacrifices to ghosts and gods coexist in undistinguishable forms. By the Sandwich Islanders provisions are placed before the dead and before images of the deities. Among the Egyptians “the offerings made to the dead were similar to the ordinary oblations in honour of the gods.” The mummies were kept in closets, “out of which they were taken . . . to a small altar, before which the priest officiated;” and on this altar were made “offerings of incense and libations, with cakes, flowers, and fruits.”

§ 140. Little as we should look for such an origin, we meet with evidence that fasting, as a religious rite, is a sequence of funeral rites. Probably the practice arises in more ways than one. Involuntary as abstinence from food often is with the primitive man, and causing as it then does vivid dreams, it becomes a deliberately-adopted method of obtaining interviews with the spirits. Among numerous savage races fasting has now, as it had among the Jews of Talmudic times, this as one of its motives. In other cases it has the allied motive of bringing on that preternatural excitement regarded as inspiration. But besides fastings thus [I-266] originating, there is the fasting which results from making excessive provision for the dead. By implication this grows into an accepted mark of reverence; and finally becomes a religious act.

In § 103, it was shown how extensive is in many cases the destruction of property, of cattle, of food, at the tomb. I have quoted the statements that, as a consequence, among the Dyaks burial-rites frequently reduce survivors to poverty; and that, on the Gold Coast, “a funeral is usually absolute ruin to a poor family.” If, as in some extinct American societies, everything a man had except his land went into the grave with him—if on the death of a Toda “his entire herd” of oxen was sacrificed; the implication is that his widow and children had to suffer great want. Such want is, indeed, alleged. We read that “the Indians of the Rocky Mountains burn with the deceased all his effects, and even those of his nearest relatives, so that it not unfrequently happens that a family is reduced to absolute starvation;” and that in Africa, among the Bagos, “the family of the deceased, who are ruined by this act of superstition [burning his property, including stores of food], are supported through the next harvest by the inhabitants of the village.” Now when along with these facts, obviously related as cause and consequence, we join the fact that the Gold Coast people, to their other mourning observances, add fasting; as well as the fact that among the Dahomans “the weeping relatives must fast;” we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that what is at first a natural result of great sacrifice to the dead, becomes eventually a usage signifying such sacrifice; and continues as a usage when no longer made needful by impoverishment. We shall see the more reason for concluding this on finding that fasting was a funeral rite among sundry extinct peoples whose attentions to the dead were elaborate. The Yucatanese “fasted for the sake of the dead.” The like was a usage with the Egyptians: during the mourning for a king “a solemn fast was established.” [I-267] Even by the Hebrews fasting was associated with mourning dresses; and after the burial of Saul the people of Jabesh-Gilead fasted for seven days.

This connexion of practices and ideas is strengthened by a kindred connexion, arising from daily offerings to the dead. Throwing aside a part of his meal to the ancestral ghosts, by diminishing the little which the improvident savage has, often entails hunger; and voluntarily-borne hunger thus becomes an expression of duty to the dead. How it passes into an expression of duty to the gods, is well shown by the Polynesian legend concerning Maui and his brothers. Having had a great success in fishing, Maui says to them—“After I am gone, be courageous and patient; do not eat food until I return, and do not let our fish be cut up, but rather leave it until I have carried an offering to the gods for this great haul of fish. . . . I will then return, and we can cut up this fish in safety.” And the story goes on to describe the catastrophe resulting from the anger of the gods, because the brothers proceeded to eat before the offering had been made.

Of course the fasting thus entailed, giving occasions for self-discipline, comes to be used for self-discipline after the original purpose is forgotten. There still clings to it, however, the notion that approval of a supernatural being is gained; and the clinging of this notion supports the inference drawn.

§ 141. From this incidental result, introduced parenthetically, let us return to our study of the way in which the offerings at burials develop into religious offerings.

We have seen that for the immolation of human victims at funerals, there are two motives: one of them being the supply of food for the dead; and the other being the supply of attendants for service in the future life. We will glance at the two in this order. Remembering that a man’s ghost is supposed to retain the likings of the living [I-268] man, we shall see that among cannibals the offering of human flesh to the dead is inevitable. The growth of the usage is well shown by a passage in Turner’s Samoa. He says that Sama was “the name of the cannibal god of a village in Savaii. He was incarnate as a man, who had human flesh laid before him when he chose to call for it. This man’s power extended to several villages, and his descendants are traced to this day.” Again, those ferocious anthropophagi the Fijians, who have victims buried with them, and whose apotheosized chiefs join other gods to whom “human flesh is still the most valued offering;” show us the entire series of sequences—cannibalism during life, cannibal ghosts, cannibal deities, and human sacrifices made as religious rites. So, too, was it with the ancient Mexicans. The man-eating habits of their ruling race were accompanied by slayings of slaves, etc., at burials, as well as by slayings of prisoners before their gods; and though the immolations at graves were not, during their later times, avowedly food-offerings, yet we may suspect that they were so in earlier times, on seeing how literally a victim immolated to the god was made a food-offering—the heart being torn out, put into the mouth of the idol, and its lips anointed with the blood. When, too, we read that the Chibchas offered men to the Spaniards as food; and when Acosta, remarking that the Chibchas were not cannibals, asks “can they have believed that the Spaniards, as sons of the Sun (as they were styled by them), must take delight in the barbarous holocausts they offered to that star?” we may suspect that their immolations at funerals, like their immolations to the Sun, were the remains of an extinct cannibalism. Having before us such facts as that some Khonds believe the god eats the person killed for him; that the Tahitians, thinking their gods fed on the spirits of the dead, provided them with such spirits by frequent slaughterings; and that the Tongans made offerings of children to their gods, who were deified chiefs; we cannot doubt that human sacrifices [I-269] at graves had originally the purpose of supplying human flesh, along with other food, for the soul of the deceased; and that the slaughter of victims as a religious rite was a sequence. The like holds of slaying men as attendants. We have seen (§ 104) how common, in uncivilized and semi-civilized societies, is the killing of prisoners, slaves, wives, friends, to follow the departed; and in some cases there is a repetition of the observance. By the Mexicans additional slaves were slain on the fifth day after the burial, on the twentieth, on the fortieth, on the sixtieth, and on the eightieth days. In Dahomey there are frequent beheadings that the victims, going to the other world to serve the dead king, may carry messages from his living descendant. Human sacrifices thus repeated to propitiate the ghosts of the dead, evidently pass without break into the periodic human sacrifices which have commonly been elements in primitive religions.

In § 89 were brought together, from peoples in all parts of the world, examples of blood-offerings to the dead. Meaningless as such offerings otherwise are, they have meanings when made by primitive cannibals. That any men, in common with most ferocious brutes, should delight in drinking blood—especially the blood of their own species—is almost incredible to us. But on reading that in Australia human flesh “is eaten raw” by “the blood-revengers;” that the Fijian chief Tanoa, cut off a cousin’s arm, drank the blood, cooked the arm, and ate it in presence of the owner; and that the cannibal Vateans will exhume, cook, and eat, bodies that have been buried even more than three days; that among the Haidahs of the Pacific States, the taamish, or inspired medicine-man, “springs on the first person he meets, bites out and swallows one or more mouthfuls of the man’s living flesh wherever he can fix his teeth, then rushes to another and another;” and that among the neighbouring Nootkas the medicine-man, instead of doing this, “is satisfied with what his teeth can tear from the [I-270] corpses in the burial-places;” we see that horrors beyond our imaginations of possibility are committed by primitive men, and, among them, the drinking of warm human blood. We may infer, indeed, that the vampire-legends of European folk-lore, grew out of such facts concerning primitive cannibals: the original vampire being the supposed other-self of a ferocious savage, still seeking to satisfy his bloodsucking propensities. And we shall not doubt that those blood-offerings to the dead described in § 89, were originally, as they are now in Dahomey, “drink for the deceased.” Indeed, as there is no greater difference between drinking animal blood and drinking human blood, than there is between eating animal flesh and eating human flesh, hesitation disappears on reading that even now, the Samoiedes delight in the warm blood of animals, and on remembering that Ulysses describes the ghosts in the Greek Hades as flocking to drink the sacrificial blood he provides for them, and as being refreshed by it. If, then, blood, shed at a funeral was at first meant for the refreshment of the ghost—if when shed on subsequent occasions, as by the sanguinary Dahomans to get the aid of a dead king’s ghost in war, it became a blood-offering to a supernatural being for special propitiation; we can scarcely doubt that the offering of human blood to a deity with a like motive, is but a further development of the practice. The case of the Mexicans is typical. Their ruling races descended from conquering cannibals; they had cannibal-gods, whose idols were fed with human hearts; the priests, when there had not been recent sacrifices, reminded the kings that the idols “were starving with hunger;” war was made, to take prisoners, “because their gods demanded something to eat;” and thousands were for this reason sacrificed annually. When we add the facts that the blood of victims was separately offered; that “the Indians gave the idols, to drink, their own blood, drawn from their ears;” “that the priests and dignified persons also drew blood from their legs, and daubed [I-271] their temples;” and that “the effusion of blood was frequent and daily with some of the priests;” we shall see an obvious filiation. Even the records of ancient Eastern nations describe blood-offerings as parts of the two sets of rites. That self-bleeding at funerals occurred among the Hebrews, is implied by the passage in Deuteronomy which forbids them to cut themselves for the dead. And that self-bleeding was a religious ceremony among their neighbours, there is direct proof. In propitiation of their god the prophets of Baal cut themselves “till the blood gushed out upon them.”

The only question is how far this kind of offering has passed into the kind we have now to glance at—the sacrificing a part of the body as a mark of subordination. In § 89 were given many cases of mutilation as a funeral rite, and many more might be added. Among the Nateotetains of North America, a woman “cuts off one joint of a finger upon the death of a near relative. In consequence of this practice, some old women may be seen with two joints off every finger on both hands.” On the death of a Salish chief, it is the custom for the bravest woman and the man who is to be the succeeding chief, to cut off portions of one another’s flesh, and throw them into the fire along with meat and a root. Paralleling these funeral mutilations, we elsewhere in America find mutilations as religious observances. Some Mexicans practised circumcision (or something like it), and self-injuries much more serious than circumcision, in propitiation of their deities. The Guancavilcas, a Peruvian people, pulled out three teeth from each jaw of their young children, which they thought “very acceptable to their gods;” while, as we before saw, knocking out one of the front teeth is a rite at the funeral of a chief in the Sandwich Islands.

Proofs that at funerals the cutting-off of hair is usual among savages have been given in abundance; and it occurs also as a religious sacrifice. In the Sandwich Islands, on the [I-272] occasion of the volcanic eruption of 1803, when, to appease the gods, many offerings were made in vain, we are told that at length the king Tamehameha cut off part of his own hair, which was considered sacred, and threw it into the torrent, as the most valuable offering. By the Peruvians, too, hair was given as an act of worship. “In making an offering they pulled a hair out of their eyebrows,” says Garcilasso; and Arriaga and Jos. de Acosta similarly describe the presentation of eyelashes or eyebrows to the deities. In ancient Central America part of the marriage ceremony was a sacrifice of hair. Even among the Greeks there was a kindred observance: on a marriage the bride sacrificed a lock of her hair to Aphrodite.

Alike, then, in the immolation of human victims, in the offering of blood that flows from the living as well as the dying, in the offering of portions of the body, and even in the offering of hair, we see that funeral rites are paralleled by religious rites.

§ 142. Is there no further way in which the goodwill of these invisible beings may be secured? If savages in general think, as the Aleutian Islanders do, that the shades of the departed must be propitiated “as being able to give good and evil,” will they not ask this question and find an affirmative answer? When alive their relatives were pleased by applause; and now that, though invisible, they are often within hearing, praise will still be pleasing to them. Hence another group of observances.

Bancroft quotes from an eye-witness the account of a funeral in which an American Indian, carrying on his back the corpse of his wife to the burial cave, expresses his sense of loss by chanting her various virtues, and is followed by others of the tribe repeating his utterances. This practice, which is in large measure the natural expression of bereavement, is a prevalent practice into which there enters also the idea of propitiation. By the Tupis, at a funeral feast, [I-273] “songs were sung in praise of the dead.” Among the Lower Californians, one of the honours paid to the departed is that “a quama, or priest, sings his praises;” and the Chippewas make praises permanent by placing at a man’s grave a post bearing “devices denoting the number of times he has been in battle, and the number of scalps he has taken.” By partially-civilized American peoples, funeral laudations were much more elaborated. In San Salvador “they chanted the lineage and deeds of the dead” for four days and nights; the Chibchas “sang dirges and the great achievements of the deceased;” and during ancient Peruvian obsequies, they traversed the village, “declaring in their songs the deeds of the dead chief.” Like observances occur in Polynesia. On the occasion of a death in Tahiti, there are “elegiac ballads, prepared by the bards, and recited for the consolation of the family.” We trace the same practice in Africa. The Mandingoes, at a burial, deliver a eulogium on the departed; and by the ancient Egyptians, the like usage was developed in a degree proportionate to the elaboration of their social life. Not only did they sing commemorative hymns when a king died, but kindred praises were general at deaths. There were hired mourners to enumerate the deceased’s virtues; and when a man of rank was deposited in his tomb, the priest read from a papyrus an account of his good deeds, and the multitude joined in praising him—uttered something like responses.

Frequently eulogies do not end with the funeral. The Brazilian Indians, “sing in honour of their dead as often as they pass near their graves.” We read in Bancroft that “for a long time after a death, relatives repair daily at sunrise and sunset to the vicinity of the grave to sing songs of mourning and praise.” In Peru, for a month after death, “they loudly shouted out the deeds of the late Ynca in war, and the good he had done to the provinces. . . . After the first month they did the same every fortnight, at each phase of the moon, and this went on the whole year.” Moreover, [I-274] “bards and minstrels were appointed to chronicle his achievements, and their songs continued to be rehearsed at high festivals.”

The motive parallels the religious motive. By the Amazulu these praises of the dead are repeated for the avowed purpose of gaining favours or escaping punishments. Answering the reproaches of his brother’s angry ghost, a Zulu says—“I do call on you, and laud you by your laud-giving names.” Again, “if there is illness in the village, the eldest son lauds him [the father] with the laud-giving names which he gained when fighting with the enemy, and at the same time lauds all the other Amatongo” [ancestral ghosts]. Further, we have proof that in their desire for praise, these ancestral ghosts are jealous ghosts. When by a diviner, it has been determined which ancestral ghost has inflicted disease, this ghost is singled out for eulogy. Here is the statement of a Zulu named Umpengula Mbanda:—

“Therefore he is called upon first, and it is said, ‘So-and-so, son of So-and-so,’ he being lauded by his laud-giving names; then they proceed to his father, and he too is mentioned in connexion with the disease; and so in time they come to the last; and so there is an end, when it is said, ‘Ye people of Gwala, who did so-and-so,’ (his great deeds being mentioned), ‘come all of you.’ ”

So that, beginning with eulogy of the dead as a funeral rite, passing to praises repeated for a time, then to praises both occasional and periodic that are established, we rise to the characteristics of religious praises. Moreover, the two are alike in the ascribed demand for them by supernatural beings; in the nature of them as narrating great deeds; and in the motive for them as a means of obtaining benefits or avoiding evils.

§ 143. Yet another parallelism. Along with praises of the dead there go prayers to them. The Bambiri “pray to departed chiefs and relatives;” and in Equatorial Africa, in times of distress the people go to the forest and cry to the [I-275] spirits of those who have passed away. The Amazulu join prayers with their sacrifices. One of Callaway’s informants says:—

“The owner of the bullock having prayed to the Amatongo, saying ‘There is your bullock, ye spirits of our people;’ and as he prays naming grandfathers and grandmothers who are dead, saying, ‘There is your food; I pray for a healthy body, that I may live comfortably; and thou, So-and-so, treat me with mercy; and thou, So-and-so,’ mentioning by name all of their family who are dead.”

The Veddahs, again, think themselves guarded by the spirits of “their ancestors and their children;” and “in every calamity, in every want, they call on them for aid.” They “call on their deceased ancestors by name. ‘Come, and partake of this! Give us maintenance, as you did when living!’ ” A Dakotah, when going hunting, utters the prayer—“Spirits or ghosts, have mercy on me, and show me where I can find a deer.” By the Banks’ Islanders, “prayers, as a rule, are made to dead men and not to spirits.” Turner, describing the Vateans, who “worship the spirits of their ancestors,” says “they pray to them over the kava-bowl, for health and prosperity;” and, describing the adjacent Tannese, he says that, sacrificing first-fruits to their dead and deified chiefs, the living chief prays aloud thus—“Compassionate father, here is some food for you; eat it; be kind to us on account of it.”

Only in the supposed origin or nature of the supernatural being prayed to, do prayers like these differ from the prayers of more civilized races to their divinities. In the Iliad, Chryses, Apollo’s priest, is represented as saying—“O Smintheus! if ever I built a temple gracious in thine eyes, or if ever I burnt to thee fat flesh of thighs of bulls or goats, fulfil now this my desire; let the Danauns pay by their arrows for my tears.” So, too, Rameses, calling on Ammon for aid in battle, reminds him of the 30,000 bulls he has sacrificed to him. [*] Between the Trojan or Egyptian, [I-276] and the Zulu or New Caledonian, there is no difference in feeling or idea.

Of course, along with mental evolution there go modifications in the prayers, as in the conceptions associated with them. The Hebrew prophets, who in later times represent the Hebrew God as not delighting in the odour of offerings, have evidently advanced far enough to abandon that gross kind of religious bribery which asks material benefits proportionate to material sacrifices; though it is manifest from the denunciations these prophets uttered, that the Hebrew people at large had not dropped the primitive beliefs and practices. But while the notion of the partially civilized is not the same in form as the notion of the uncivilized, it is the same in essence. The mediæval knight who, praying for aid to the Virgin or to a saint, promises a chapel if he is delivered, adopts the same policy as does the savage who bargains with the ancestral ghost to exchange protection for provision.

§ 144. There are sundry other parallelisms which I cannot spare space to exhibit in full. A paragraph only can be devoted to each.

The East Africans believe “the spirits of the departed know what those they have left behind them are doing, and are pleased or not, according as their deeds are good or evil;” and during a death-lament the North American Indians address the spirit of the departed, promising to behave well. Here reprobation of the ancestral ghost is feared, just as [I-277] among civilized races, divine reprobation is feared; and approval is sought with kindred motives.

There is evidence, too, of repentance caused by supposed ghostly reprobation. Of the Turkomans, Vámbéry tells us that “no greater punishment can befall a living man, than to be accused before the shade of his departed father or ancestor. This is done by planting a lance upon the top of the grave. . . . No sooner did Oraz perceive the lance fixed upon the high Yoska of his grandfather, when in the silence of the following night he led the horse back to the tent of the Mollah and tied it to its former place. This act of restitution, as he himself told me, will pain him for a long time to come. But it is better to lie in the black earth than to have disturbed the repose of one’s ancestors.”

Among the Iroquois “a prominent part of the ceremonial [mourning for Sachems] consisted in the repetition of their ancient laws.” In this we trace an analogy to the repetition of divine injunctions as a religious observance.

Lighting a fire at the grave for the benefit of the deceased, we found to be a not infrequent funeral rite; and in some cases the fire was kept alight, or re-lighted, for a long period. On adding the facts that lamps were kept burning in Egyptian tombs, as also in the sepulchres of the Romans, we see that maintenance of a sacred fire in a temple again exemplifies the development of funeral rites into religious rites.

Expressions of grief naturally characterize funerals, and grow into funeral rites: sometimes, in advanced societies, being swollen by the cries of hired mourners. It was thus with the ancient Egyptians; and with the ancient Egyptians wailing was also a religious rite. Once a year, they offered first-fruits on the altar of Isis with “doleful lamentations.” During an annual festival at Busiris, which was the alleged burial-place of Osiris, the votaries having fasted and put on mourning dresses, uttered a lament round a burnt-offering: the death of Osiris being the subject of the lament. Adherents [I-278] to the theory of nature-myths of course find a symbolic meaning for this observance; but to others it will appear significant that this further likeness between funeral rites and religious rites, occurred among people who sacrificed so elaborately to their ordinary dead, and who were characterized by the unparalleled persistence of their customs.

Along with dislike to tell his name, which the savage thinks will put him in the power of one who learns it, there goes dislike to name the dead: the exercise of the implied power over them, being supposed to excite their anger. So strong is this feeling among the Malagasy, that “they account it a crime to mention them [the dead] by the names they had when living.” Similarly, among some peoples, the calling of deities by their true names has been interdicted or considered improper. The Chinese say “it is not lawful to use his [the supreme ruler’s] name lightly, we name him by his residence, which is in Tien” [heaven]. Again, Exod. III, 13-15, proves that the Hebrew God was not to be referred to by name. And Herodotus carefully avoids naming Osiris. [*]

In Kaffir-land the grave of a chief is an asylum; and in the Tonga Islands the cemeteries where the great chiefs are buried, have such sacredness that enemies meeting there [I-279] must regard each other as friends. Beecham says that on the Gold Coast the fetich-house forms a sort of sanctuary to run-away slaves. Here we see arising the right of sanctuary, attaching to the temples of deities among higher peoples.

Speaking of oaths among the Nasamonians, Herodotus says “the man, as he swears, lays his hand upon the tomb of some one considered to have been pre-eminently just and good, and so doing swears by his name.” In Sumatra, “the place of greatest solemnity for administering an oath, is the . . . burying-ground of their ancestors.” In mediæval Europe “oaths over the tombs and relics of saints were of frequent occurrence;” and a capitulary required them “to be administered in a church and over relics, invoking the name of God, and those saints whose remains were below.” The transition from the original to the developed form is clear.

Visiting the grave to take food, to repeat praises, to ask aid, implies a journey; and this journey, short if the grave is near, becomes, if the grave is far off, a pilgrimage. That this is its origin, proof is given by Vámbéry in describing certain predatory tribes of Turkomans, who, regarding as a martyr one of their number who is killed, adorn his grave and “make pilgrimages to the holy place, where they implore with tears of contrition the intercession of the canonized robber.” Filial piety, taking a more expanded form as the ancestral ghost comes to be dominated by the ghost of the distinguished man, the pilgrimage to a relation’s burial-place passes into the religious pilgrimage. Habitually a grave is the terminus: the city where Mahomet was buried as well as that in which he was born; the tomb of Baha-ed-din, regarded as a second Mahomet; the tope containing relics of Buddha; the sepulchre of Christ. Moreover, Chaucer’s poem reminds us that the tombs of saints have been, and still continue to be on the Continent, the goals of pilgrimages among Christians.

Yet one more analogy. In some cases parts of the dead are swallowed by the living, who seek thus to inspire themselves [I-280] with the good qualities of the dead; and we saw (§ 133) that the dead are supposed to be thereby honoured. The implied notion was shown to be associated with the notion that the nature of another being, inhering in all fragments of his body, inheres, too, in the unconsumed part of anything incorporated with his body; and with the further notion that between those who swallow different parts of the same food some community of nature is established. Hence such beliefs as that ascribed by Bastian to certain negroes, who think that on eating and drinking consecrated food they eat and drink the god himself—such god being an ancestor, who has taken his share. Various ceremonies which savages adopt are prompted by this conception; as, for instance, the choosing a totem. Among the Mosquito Indians, “the manner of obtaining this guardian was to proceed to some secluded spot and offer up a sacrifice: with the beast or bird which thereupon appeared, in dream or in reality, a compact for life was made, by drawing blood from various parts of the body.” This blood, supposed to be taken by the chosen animal, connected the two; and the animal’s “life became so bound up with their own that the death of one involved that of the other.” [*] And now mark that in these same regions this idea originated a religious observance. Mendieta, describing a ceremony used by the Aztecs, says—“they had also a sort of communion. . . . They made a sort of small idols of seeds . . . and ate them as the body or memory of their gods.” As the seeds were cemented partly by the blood of sacrificed boys; as their [I-281] gods were cannibal gods; as Huitzilopochtli, whose worship included this rite, was the god to whom human sacrifices were most extensive; it is clear that the aim was to establish community with him by taking blood in common. So that what, among certain of these allied American races, was a funeral rite, by which survivors sought to inspire themselves with the virtues of the dead, and to bind themselves to the ghost, became, among the more civilized, modified into an observance implying inspiration by, and fealty to, one of their deities.

§ 145. Thus, evidence abundant in amount and varied in kind, justifies the statement made at the close of the last chapter. It was pointed out that the souls of the dead, conceived by savages sometimes as beneficent agents, but chiefly as the causers of evils, might be variously dealt with—might be deceived, resisted, expelled, or might be treated in ways likely to secure goodwill and mitigate anger. It was asserted that from this last policy all religious observances take their rise. We have seen how they do so.

The original sacred place is the place where the dead are, and which their ghosts are supposed to frequent; the sheltering cave, or house, or other chamber for the dead, becomes the sacred chamber or temple; and that on which offerings for the dead are put becomes the sacred support for offerings—the altar. Food and drink and other things laid for the dead, grow into sacrifices and libations to the gods; while immolations of victims, blood-offerings, mutilations, cuttings-off of hair, originally occurring at the grave, occur afterwards before idols, and as marks of fealty to a deity. Fasting as a funeral rite, passes into fasting as a religious rite; and lamentations, too, occur under both forms. Praises of the dead, chanted at the burial and afterwards, and recurring at festivals, pass into praises forming parts of religious worship; and prayers made to the dead for aid, for blessing, for protection, become prayers made [I-282] to divinities for like advantages. Ancestral ghosts supposed to cause diseases, as gods send pestilences, are similarly propitiated by special sacrifices: the ascribed motives of ghosts and gods being the same in kind, and the modes of appealing to those motives the same. The parallelism runs out into various details. There is oversight of conduct by ghosts as there is by deities; there are promises of good behaviour to both; there is penitence before the one as before the other. There is repetition of injunctions given by the dead, as there is repetition of divine injunctions. There is a maintenance of fires at graves and in sepulchral chambers, as there is in temples. Burial-places are sometimes, like temples, used as places of refuge. A distinguished dead man is invoked to witness an oath, as God is invoked. Secrecy is maintained respecting the name of the dead, as in some cases respecting the name of a god. There are pilgrimages to the graves of relatives and martyrs, as well as pilgrimages to the graves of supposed divine persons. And in America, certain less-civilized races adopted a method of binding the living with the dead by seeking to participate in the qualities of the ghost, which a more civilized American race paralleled by a method of binding to a deity through a kindred ceremony for establishing communion.

Can so many and such varied similarities have arisen in the absence of genetic relationship? Suppose the two sets of phenomena unconnected—suppose primitive men had, as some think, the consciousness of a Universal Power whence they and all other things proceeded. What probability would there be that to such a Power they would perform an act like that performed to the dead body of a fellow savage? And if one such community would not be probable, what would be the probability of two such communities? What the probability of four? What the probability of the score above specified? In the absence of causal relation the chances against such a correspondence would be almost infinity to one.


Again, if the two sets of rites have a common root, we may see how they come to coexist under forms differing only in their degrees of elaboration. But otherwise, how does it happen that in sundry societies the two sets of rites have been, or are, simultaneously observed in like ways? In Egypt at funerals, and afterwards in tombs, the dead were lauded and sacrificed to as their deities were lauded and sacrificed to. Every day in Mexico there were burial-oblations of food and drink, slayings of servants, offerings of flowers, just as there were daily ceremonies of like kinds before their gods; and images of the dead were preserved and worshipped as were images of the gods. Peruvians poured out human blood on sepulchres, and gave it to idols; sacrificed victims to the deceased chief and victims to the deity; cut off their hair for the dead and presented their hair to the Sun; praised and prayed to embalmed bodies, as they praised and prayed to divinities; and made obeisances to the one as to the other. If between the father regarded as ancestor and the father regarded as divinity there is no connexion, the likenesses between these coexisting observances are inexplicable.

Nor is this all. Were there no such origination of religious rites out of funeral rites, it would be impossible to understand the genesis of ceremonies apparently so absurd. How could men possibly have come to think, as did the Mexicans, that a stone-bowl full of human blood would please the Sun? or that the Sun would be pleased by burning incense, as the Egyptians thought? In what imaginable way were the Peruvians led to believe that the Sun was propitiated by blowing towards it hairs from their eye-brows; or why did they suppose that by doing the like towards the sea they would mitigate its violence? From what antecedent did there result such strange ideas as those of the Santals, who, worshipping “the Great Mountain,” sacrifice to it beasts, flowers, and fruit? Or why should the Hebrews think to please Jahveh by placing on an altar flesh, bread, [I-284] wine, and incense; which were the things placed by the Egyptians on altars before their mummies? The assumption that men gratuitously act in irrational ways is inadmissible. But if these propitiations of deities were developed from propitiations of the dead, their seeming irrationality is accounted for.

We have, then, numerous lines of evidence which, converging to a focus, are by themselves enough to dissipate any doubt respecting this natural genesis of religious observances. Traceable as it is in so many ways, the development of funeral rites into worship of the dead, and eventually into worship of deities, becomes clear. We shall find that it becomes clearer still on contemplating other facts under other aspects.






§ 146. From various parts of the world, witnesses of different nations and divergent beliefs bring evidence that there exist men who are either wholly without ideas of supernatural beings, or whose ideas of them are extremely vague. “When Father Junípero Serra established the Mission of Dolores in 1776, the shores of San Francisco Bay were thickly populated by the Ahwashtees, Ohlones, Altahmos, Romanons, Tuolomos, and other tribes. The good Father found the field unoccupied, for, in the vocabulary of these people, there is found no word for god, angel, or devil; they held no theory of origin or destiny.” This testimony, which Bancroft cites respecting the Indians of California, corresponds with the testimonies of old Spanish writers respecting some South American peoples. Garcilasso says that “the Chirihuanas and the natives of the Cape de Pasau . . . had no inclination to worship anything high or low, neither from interested motives nor from fear;” Balboa mentions tribes without any religion as having been met with by Ynca Yupangui; and Avendaño asserts that in his time the Antis had no worship whatever. Many kindred instances are given by Sir John Lubbock, and further ones will be found in Mr. Tylor’s Primitive Culture. But I agree with Mr. Tylor that the evidence habitually implies some notion, however wavering and inconsistent, of a reviving other-self. Where this has not become a definite belief, the [I-286] substance of a belief is shown by the funeral rites and by the fear of the dead.

Leaving unsettled the question whether there are men in whom dreams have not generated the notion of a double, and the sequent notion that at death the double has gone away, we may hold it as settled that the first traceable conception of a supernatural being is the conception of a ghost. This exists where no other idea of the same order exists; and this exists where multitudinous other ideas of the same order exist.

That belief in a surviving duplicate is produced among the savage, and is perpetually reproduced among the civilized, is a fact of great significance. Whatever is common to men’s minds in all stages, must be deeper down in thought than whatever is peculiar to men’s minds in higher stages; and if the later product admits of being reached by modification and expansion of the earlier product, the implication is that it has been so reached. Recognizing this implication, we shall see how fully the facts now to be contemplated justify acceptance of it.

§ 147. As the notion of a ghost grows from that first vagueness and variableness indicated above, into a definite and avowed idea, there naturally arise the desire and the endeavour to propitiate the ghost. Hence, almost as widely spread as the belief in ghosts, may be looked for a more or less developed ancestor-worship. This we find. To the indirect evidence already given I must now add, in brief form, the direct evidence.

Where the levels of mental nature and social progress are lowest, we usually find, along with an absence of religious ideas generally, an absence of, or very slight development of, ancestor-worship. A typical case is that of the Juángs, a wild tribe of Bengal, who, described as having no word for god, no idea of a future state, no religious ceremonies, are also said to “have no notion of the worship of [I-287] ancestors.” Cook, telling us what the Fuegians were before contact with Europeans had introduced foreign ideas, said there were no appearances of religion among them; and we are not told by him or others that they were ancestor-worshippers. So far as the scanty evidence may be trusted, the like seems to be the case with the Andamanese. And though believing in ghosts, the Australians and Tasmanians show us but little persistence in ghost-propitiation. Among the Veddahs, indeed, though extremely low, an active if simple ancestor-worship prevails; but here, contact with the more advanced Cingalese has probably been a factor.

When, however, instead of wandering groups who continually leave far behind the places where their members lie buried, we come to settled groups whose burial-places are in their midst, and among whom development of funeral rites is thus made possible, we find that continued propitiation of dead relatives becomes an established practice. All varieties of men show us this. Taking first the Negrito races, we read that “with the Fijians, as soon as beloved parents expire, they take their place amongst the family gods. Bures, or temples, are erected to their memory.” Of the Tannese, we learn that “their general name for gods seems to be aremha; that means a dead man.” And the like is told us of other New Caledonian peoples. With the Malayo-Polynesians it is the same; save that with simple ancestor-worship there usually coexists a more developed worship of remoter ancestors, who have become deities. Sacrificing to their gods, the Tahitians also sacrifice to the spirits of departed chiefs and kindred. Similar statements are made respecting the Sandwich Islanders, the Samoans, the Malagasy, and the Sumatrans; of which last people Marsden says, that though “they neither worship god, devil, nor idol,” yet they “venerate, almost to the point of worshipping, the tombs and manes of their deceased ancestors.” The like holds in Africa. The people of [I-288] Angola “are constantly deprecating the wrath of departed souls;” and the Bambiri “pray to departed chiefs and relatives.” So by the Kaffirs the spirits of the dead “are elevated in fact to the rank of deities.” And parallel accounts are given of the Balonda, the Wanika, the Congoese. Quite different though they are in type, the lower Asiatic races yield us allied illustrations. Of the Bhils, of the Bghais, of the Karens, of the Khonds, we find ancestor-worship alleged. The Santals’ religion “is based upon the family,” and “in addition to the family-god, each household worships the ghosts of its ancestors.” And were there any doubt about the origin of the family-god, it would be removed by Macpherson’s statement respecting the Khonds—“The more distinguished fathers of the tribe, of its branches, or of its sub-divisions, are all remembered by the priests, their sanctity growing with the remoteness of the period of their deaths.” Of Northern Asiatics, the Kirghiz and the Ostyaks yield further examples; and the Turkomans were lately instanced as showing how this worship of the dead survives along with a nominal monotheism. Then, crossing over into America, the like phenomena are found from the extreme North to the uttermost South—from the Esquimaux to the Patagonians: reaching, as we have seen, very elaborate developments among the ancient civilized races.

How ancestor-worship prevailed, and was greatly elaborated, among the people who, in the Nile valley, first carried civilization to a high stage, has been already shown. How in the far East, another vast society which had reached considerable heights of culture while Europe was covered by barbarians, has practised, and still practises, ancestor-worship, scarcely needs saying. And that it has all along characterized the Hindu civilization is also a fact, though a fact less familiar. With the highly-developed religious systems of India, there coexists a daily re-genesis of deities from dead men. Sir A. C. Lyall says:—


“So far as I have been able to trace back the origin of the best-known minor provincial deities, they are usually men of past generations who have earned special promotion and brevet rank among disembodied ghosts by some peculiar acts or accidents of their lives or deaths. . . . The Bunjâras, a tribe much addicted to highway robbery, worship a famous bandit. . . . M. Raymond, the French commander, who died at Hyderabad, has been there canonized after a fashion. . . . Of the numerous local gods known to have been living men, by far the greater proportion derive from the ordinary canonization of holy personages. . . . The number of shrines thus raised in Berar alone to these anchorites and persons deceased in the odour of sanctity is large, and it is constantly increasing. Some of them have already attained the rank of temples.”

And now having observed the natural genesis of ancestor-worship, its wide diffusion over the world, and its persistence among advanced races side by side with more developed forms of worship, let us turn from its external aspect to its internal aspect. Let us, so far as we can, contemplate it from the stand-point of those who practise it. Fortunately, two examples, one of its less-developed form and one of its more-developed form, are exhibited to us in the words of ancestor-worshippers themselves.

§ 148. Our old acquaintances the Amazulu, whose ideas have been taken down from their own lips, supply the first. Here are the slightly-varying, but similar, statements of different witnesses:—

“The ancients said that it was Unkulunkulu who gave origin to men, and everything besides, both cattle and wild animals.”

“The sun and moon we referred to Unkulunkulu, together with the things of this world; and yonder heaven we referred to Unkulunkulu.”

“When black men say Unkulunkulu, or Uthlanga, [*] or the Creator, they mean one and the same thing.”


“It is said, Unkulunkulu came into being, and begat men; he gave them being; he begat them.”

“He begat the ancients of long ago; they died and left their children; they begat others, their sons, they died; they begat others; thus we at length have heard about Unkulunkulu.”

“Unkulunkulu is no longer known. It is he who was the first man; he broke off in the beginning.”

“Unkulunkulu told men—saying, ‘I, too, sprang from a bed of reeds.’ ”

“Unkulunkulu was a black man, for we see that all the people from whom we sprang are black, and their hair is black.”

After noting that here, and in other passages not quoted, there are inconsistencies (as that sometimes a reed and sometimes a bed of reeds is said to be the origin of Unkulunkulu); and after noting that variations of this primitive creed have arisen since European immigration, as is shown by one of the statements that “there were at first two women in a bed of reeds; one gave birth to a white man, and one to a black man;” let us go on to note the meaning of Unkulunkulu. This, Bp. Callaway tells us, “expresses antiquity, age, literally the old-old one, as we use great, in great-great-grandfather.” So that, briefly stated, the belief is that from a reed or bed of reeds, came the remotest ancestor, who originated all other things. By the Amazulu, however, this remotest ancestor is but nominally recognized. Propitiation is limited to their nearer ancestors who are secondary Unkulunkulus, called, in some cases, Onkulunkulus. The ideas concerning, and the behaviour towards, the remoter and nearer ancestors, may be gathered from the following extracts:—

“They say that Unkulunkulu, who sprang from the bed of reeds, is dead.”

“By that it began to be evident that Unkulunkulu had no longer a son who could worship him; . . . the praise-giving names of Unkulunkulu are lost.”

“All nations [i. e., tribes] have their own Unkulunkulu. Each has its own.”

“Utshange is the praise-giving name of our house; he was the first man of our family,—our Unkulunkulu, who founded our house.”


“We worshipped those whom we had seen with our eyes, their death and their life amongst us.”

“All we know is this, the young and the old die, and the shade departs. The Unkulunkulu of us black men is that one to whom we pray for our cattle, and worship, saying, ‘Father!’ We say, ‘Udhlamini? Uhhadebe! Umutimkulu! Uthlomo! Let me obtain what I wish, Lord! Let me not die, but live, and walk long on the earth.’ Old people see him at night in their dreams.”

Here, then, we see ancestor-worship in but a slightly-developed form—an unhistoric ancestor-worship. There have arisen no personages dominant enough to retain their distinct individualities through many generations, and to subordinate the minor traditional individualities.

§ 149. Peoples who are more settled and further advanced show us a progress. Along with worship of recent and local ancestors, there goes worship of ancestors who died at earlier dates, and who, remembered by their power, have acquired in the general mind a supremacy. This truth ought to need but little illustration, for the habits of ancient races make it familiar. As Mr. Grote says—

“In the retrospective faith of a Greek, the ideas of worship and ancestry coalesced: every association of men, large or small, in whom there existed a feeling of present union, traced back that union to some common initial progenitor, and that progenitor, again, was either the common god whom they worshipped, or some semi-divine being closely allied to him.”

This stage of development in which, along with worship of ancestry traced back a certain number of generations, there went a more widely-diffused worship of some to whom the relationships were lost in the far past, we find paralleled in other places; as, for example, in Peru. Sun-worship and Ynca-worship were there associated with an active worship of forefathers. Avendaño, repeating the affirmative answers to his questions, says:—

“Each of your ancestors . . . worshipped the marcayocc, who is the founder or senior of the village, from whom you are sprung. He [I-292] was not worshipped by the Indians of any other village, for they had another marcayocc.

Chiefly, however, let us remark that these settled races of America exhibited in their professed creeds the transformation of their remotest progenitors into deities. By the Amazulu, the traditional old-old-one, though regarded as having given origin to them and all other things, is not worshipped: he is finally dead, and his sons, who once worshipped him, are finally dead; and the worship is monopolized by those later descendants who are remembered as founders of tribes. But among these more advanced peoples of America, the most ancient men, considered as still living elsewhere, had a worship which subordinated the worship of immediate ancestors. This is well brought out by Friar Bobadilla’s cross-examination of some Nicaraguans. Here are a few of the questions and answers:—


Do you know who made a heaven and earth?


My parents told me when I was a child that it was Tamagostat and Çipattonal. . . .


Where are they?


I do not know; but they are our great gods whom we call teotes. . . .


By whom are the teotes served?


I have heard old men say that there are people who serve them, and that the Indians who die in their houses go under the earth, and that those who die in battles go to serve the teotes.


Which is better—to go under the earth or to serve the teotes?


It is better to go to serve the teotes, for they go there to their fathers.


But if their fathers have died in bed, how can they see them there?


Our fathers are these teotes.

Here are passages from the examination of another witness—the cazique Avagoaltegoan:—


Who created heaven and earth, and the stars, and the moon, and man, and all the rest?


Tamagostat and Çipattonal; the former is a man, and the latter a woman.



Who created that man and that woman?


No one; on the contrary, all men and women descend from them. . . .


Are those gods whom you name made of flesh or wood, or of what other material?


They are of flesh, and are man and woman, and youths, and are always the same; and they are of brownish colour, like us Indians; and they walked over the earth dressed, and ate what the Indians ate. . . .


What do they live on now?


They eat what the Indians eat; for the plant (maize?) and all other eatables came from where the teotes dwell.”

Another witness, Taçoteyda, a priest, apparently sixty years of age, who declined to become a Christian, gave a like account of these ancestor-gods, answering questions thus:—


Are they men?


They are men.


How do you know?


My ancestors told me.


Where are those gods of yours?


My ancestors told me that they are where the sun rises. . . .


Did they come to . . . your shrines to speak to you?


Our ancestors said that long ago they used to come and speak with them, but now they come no more.


Do those teotes eat?


I have heard my ancestors say that they eat the blood and hearts of men, and some birds; and we give them candlewood, incense and resin; that is what they eat.”

From other like testimonies given by the thirteen caziques, and chiefs, and priests, I will add only the following:—


Who sends you rain and all things?”


The water is sent us by Quiateot, who is a man, and has father and mother, and the father is called Omeyateite, and the mother, Omeyateçigoat; and those dwell . . . where the sun rises in heaven.”

Pages might be filled by evidence of like meaning. What has been given shows, like the rest, that the remotest remembered ancestors have become divinities, remaining human in physical and mental attributes, and differing only [I-294] in power; that being recognized in tradition as the begetters, or causers, of existing men, they, as the only known causers of anything, come to be tacitly regarded as the causers of other things; [*] and that they reside in the region whence the race came, which is the other world travelled to by the dead. The statements of these peoples directly imply that transformation of ancestors into deities, which we saw was directly implied by the growth of funeral rites into worship of the dead, and eventually into religious worship.

§ 150. It is said, however, that ancestor-worship is peculiar to the inferior races. I have seen implied, I have heard in conversation, and I have now before me in print, the statement that “no Indo-European or Semitic nation, so far as we know, seems to have made a religion of worship of the dead.” And the suggested conclusion is that these superior races, who in their earliest recorded times had higher forms of worship, were not even in their still earlier times, ancestor-worshippers.

That those who have another theory to uphold should thus interpret the evidence, is not unnatural. Every hypothesis tends to assimilate facts yielding it support and to reject adverse facts. But that adherents of the Evolution-doctrine should admit a distinction so profound between the minds of different human races, is surprising. Those who believe in creation by manufacture, may consistently [I-295] hold that Aryans and Semites were supernaturally endowed with higher conceptions than Turanians. If species of animals were separately made with fundamental differences, varieties of men may have been so too. But to assert that the human type has been evolved from lower types, and then to deny that the superior human races have been evolved, mentally as well as physically, from the inferior, and must once have had those general conceptions which the inferior still have, is a marvellous inconsistency. Even in the absence of evidence it would be startling; and in the presence of contrary evidence it is extremely startling.

If in their more advanced stages the leading divisions of the Aryans habitually, while worshipping their greater deities, also worshipped ancestors, who, according to their remoteness, were regarded as divine, semi-divine, and human; must we really infer that in the course of their progress they adopted this ancestor-worship from inferior races? On finding that by the Greeks, heroes from whom the people of each locality traced their descent, were made objects of religious rites, just as by aboriginal Peruvians and others; shall we say that while becoming civilized they grafted on their higher creed this lower creed? When we recall the facts that besides sacrificing to the ghosts of their recent dead, the Romans sacrificed to the ghosts of their ancient dead, who were the founders of their families, just as the Amazulu do at the present time; are we to infer that while Asiatic nomads they had no such worship, but that, then worshipping only certain personalized powers of Nature, they adopted the religion of less cultured peoples as they themselves became more cultured? Such assumptions would be inadmissible, even had we no indications of the original Aryan beliefs; and are still more inadmissible now that we know what the original Aryan beliefs were. As expressed in their sacred writings, they were essentially the same as those of existing barbarians. “The heroic Indra, who delights in praise,” and to whom the hymn is “chaunted [I-296] at the sacrifice,” hoping to impel “the well-accoutred, the loud-thundering, to succour us,” is but the ancestor considerably expanded; and from the mouth of the Zulu chief about to sacrifice, would equally well come the words of the Aryan rishi—“friends drive hither the milch cow with a new hymn.” If the human derivation of Indra needs further evidence, we have it in the statement concerning an intoxicating beverage made from the sacred plant—“the soma exhilarates not Indra unless it be poured out;” which is exactly the belief of an African respecting the libation of beer for an ancestral ghost. From the Rig-Veda we learn that men who by their virtues gained admission to heaven, attained an existence like that of deities; and these “ancient pious sages,” who “shared in the enjoyments of the gods,” were implored to be “propitious” and to protect. Still more specific are passages from the laws of Menu. We have the statement that the manes eat of the funeral meal; we have the direction to the head of the family to make a daily offering to get the good will of the manes, and also a monthly offering. And the ideas of savages, whose superior gods are the more powerful ghosts, are undeniably paralleled in a further injunction. That an oblation to the manes may be obtained by them, the master of the house must commence with an oblation to the gods, so that the gods may not appropriate what is intended for the manes!

Do, then, the Semitic races furnish a solitary exception? Strong evidence must be assigned before it can be admitted that they do; and no such strong evidence is forthcoming. Contrariwise, what positive facts we gather have opposite implications. Remembering that nomadic habits are unfavourable to evolution of the ghost-theory, it is manifest that if the ancient Hebrews, like some existing peoples, had not reached the conception of a permanently-existing ghost, they would, of course, have no established ancestor-worship: not because it was beneath them, but because the conditions [I-297] for display of it were not fulfilled. Further, we must note that the silence of their legends is but a negative fact, which may be as misleading as negative facts often are; and beyond the general reason we have special reasons for suspecting this illusiveness. For among other peoples we find traditions that give no accounts of practices which not only existed but were dominant: the cause being that extraordinary occurrences only are narrated, and not ordinary occurrences. Interesting personal adventures form their subject-matter and not social habits, which are at best traceable by implication, and in a condensed narrative may leave no traces at all. Thus, to take a case, the legends of the Polynesians say scarcely more than the Bible does about the worship of ancestors; and yet ancestor-worship was in full activity among them. Again, it should be remembered that the sacred books of a religion nominally professed, may give very untrue ideas concerning the actual beliefs of its professors. Two facts already named incidentally show this. The Turkomans are rigid Mahometans; and yet, making pilgrimages to the tombs of canonized robbers, they pray to their ghosts. Similarly, the acceptance of Mahometanism does not prevent the Bedouins from sacrificing at the graves of their forefathers. In both cases there is habitually done that which we should infer could not be done, if we drew our inferences from the Koran. When, thus warned, we turn to the denunciations of the Hebrew prophets, directed against forms of worship which the Hebrews had in common with other races, we are reminded that the religion embodied in the Bible differed greatly from the popular religion. Besides the idolatry persisted in notwithstanding reprobation, there was tree-worship; and the ceremonials, equally low with those of semi-civilized peoples in general, included prostitution in temples. Moreover, the association of mourning dresses with fasting, as well as the law against self-bleeding and cutting-off the hair for the dead, imply primitive funeral rites like those of [I-298] ancestor-worshippers in general. Nor is this all. On making an offering of first-fruits to Jahveh, the sacrificer is required to say that he has not “given ought thereof for the dead.” Hence, the conclusion must be that ancestor-worship had developed as far as nomadic habits allowed, before it was repressed by a higher worship. But be there or be there not adequate reason for ascribing a partially-developed ancestor-worship to the Hebrews, there is evidence that it has existed, and continues to exist, among other Semitic peoples. In a paper entitled “Le culte des ancêtres divinisés dans l’Yémen,” contained in the Comptes rendus of the French Academy, M. Lenormant, after commenting on some inscriptions, says:—

“Here, then, we have twice repeated a whole series of human persons, decidedly deceased ancestors or relations of the author of the dedication. Their names are accompanied with the titles they bore during lifetime. They are invoked by their descendants at the same time, in the same degree (rank), with the same intention, as the gods [mentioned in the same formula]; being, in short, completely placed on a par with the inhabitants of heaven. . . . They incontestably are deified persons, objects of a family worship, and gods or genii in the belief of the people of their race.”

Kindred evidence is furnished by the following passage from the Essai sur l’histoire des Arabes of M. Caussin de Perceval. Speaking of the time of Mahomet, he says the greatest part of the nation [i.e., all who were not either Jews or Christians] were pagans.

“They had a great number of deities; each tribe and nearly each family had one which they held in special honour. They admitted, however, the existence of a Supreme God (Allah), with whom the other deities were powerful intercessors. . . . Some believed that at death all was at an end; others believed in a resurrection and another life.”

Several significant implications occur here. The fact last named reminds us of the ancient Hebrew belief, or no-belief. Further, this difference of opinion among Arabs, some of whom are stationary and some wandering, harmonizes [I-299] with the suggestion above made, that nomadic habits are less favourable than the habits of settled life to a persistent ghost-propitiation with all its sequences. Respecting the idea of a supreme deity, accompanying ancestor-worship among them, it is manifest that wandering hordes, coming in frequent contact with relatively-civilized peoples, would inevitably acquire it from them; as, from their European visitors, it is now acquired by savages. But that the belief so acquired is vague and superficial, is shown us by the existing Bedouins; whose Mahometanism, according to Mr. Palgrave, is of the most shadowy kind, while the reality of their ancestor-worship is proved by the sacrifices they “devoutly” make at tombs. No more, then, of Semites than of Aryans can ancestor-worship be denied.

§ 151. Mythologists, however, say that these observances have a moral rather than a religious character. Let us contemplate this proposed distinction under its concrete aspects.

When Nicaraguans are described as having adored the teotes, said by them to be the ancient men from whom they descended, we may accept the fact as it stands, for these people were of inferior race; but when, in the Institutes of Menu, we read that “the sons of Maríchi and of all the other Rĭshis [ancient sages], who were the offspring of Menu, son of Brahmá, are called the companies of Pitrĭs, or forefathers,” we must understand the fatherhood not literally but metaphorically: these people were Aryans. If one of the Amazulu, sacrificing a bullock, begins by inviting “the first Itongo who is known” (oldest ancestral ghost), or in other cases is careful to name first a ghost who is supposed to be angry because he has not been propitiated, the fact exhibits the crude ideas of a race incapable of high civilization. If, however, the Institutes of Menu say—“Let an offering to the gods be made at the beginning and end of the sráddha: it must not begin and end with an offering [I-300] to ancestors; for he who begins and ends it with an oblation to the Pitrĭs, quickly perishes with his progeny;” we must, seeing the proved capacities of the Aryan mind, distinguish between the religious sentiment prompting one part of the sacrifice, and the moral sentiment prompting the other. Negroes who, when suffering, go to the woods and cry for help to the spirits of dead relatives, show by these acts the grovelling nature of their race; and we must not confound with their low conceptions those high conceptions of the Iranians implied in the Khorda Avesta, where the souls of forefathers are called upon in prayers: these express filial feeling only. Obviously, the frequent sacrifices by which the ancient Egyptians honoured their dead, namely, three “festivals of the seasons,” twelve “festivals of the month,” and twelve “festivals of the half-month,” formed part of their religion; for were they not Turanians and ancestor-worshippers? Quite otherwise, however, must we interpret the offerings made by the Romans to their Lares, on the calends, nones, and ides of every month; for these were merely marks of proper respect to forefathers. The act of a savage who at each meal throws aside some food and drink for the spirits of the dead, shows a wish to propitiate which was not felt by the Roman who offered a portion of each meal to his Lares. And if, on going abroad, the Roman prayed to his Lares for a happy return, he did not ascribe to them a power such as is ascribed to ghosts of relatives by the Indian or Veddah who asks their aid when he goes hunting. Still less must we suppose any similarity between the ideas of the sanguinary Mexicans, Peruvians, Chibchas, Dahomans, Ashantis, and others who immolate victims at funerals, and the ideas of those early Romans who offered up human sacrifices at tombs. Considering that the Romans belonged to one of the noble types of man, we must conclude that they adopted this habit from baser types around them.

What shall we say of such modes of interpretation? We [I-301] may say at least this, that were he allowed equal licence in dealing with facts, the feeblest dialectician might safely undertake to establish any proposition that could be named.

§ 152. How unwarranted is the assertion that the superior races have not passed through this lower cult, will be again seen on remembering that down to the present time, ancestor-worship lingers among the most civilized of them. Throughout Europe it still shows itself, here feebly and there with some vigour, notwithstanding the repressive influence of Christianity.

Even Protestants yield undeniable traces of the aboriginal ideas and sentiments and acts. I do not refer merely to the decoration of graves with flowers, reminding us of the placings of flowers on graves by ancestor-worshipping peoples who also offered flowers to their deities; for this practice, spreading with the ritualistic reaction, may be considered as part of a revived Catholicism. I refer rather to certain less obtrusive facts. Dead parents are often thought of among us as approving or disapproving. They are figured in the minds of relatives as though they knew what was being done, and as likely to be hurt by disregard of their injunctions. Occasionally a portrait is imagined to look reproachfully on a descendant who is transgressing; and the anxiety not to disobey a dying wish certainly acts as a deterrent. So that, indefinite though their forms have become, the aboriginal notions of subordination and propitiation have not wholly disappeared.

It is, however, among Catholic peoples that this primitive religion most distinctly shows itself. The mortuary chapels in cemeteries on the Continent, are manifestly homologous with the elaborate tombs of the ancients. If erecting a chapel to the Virgin is an act of worship, then the sentiment of worship cannot be wholly absent if the erected chapel is over a dead parent. And though mostly the prayers in such chapels, or at graves, are only for the [I-302] dead, I am told by two French Catholics that exceptionally, when a pious parent is supposed to be not in purgatory but in heaven, there are prayers to the dead for intercession. A French correspondent questions this; but he admits that men and women who have died in the odour of sanctity, are canonized by popular opinion and adored. “Ainsi, j’ai vu, en Bretagne, le tombeau d’un prêtre très pieux et très charitable: il était couvert de couronnes; on s’y rendait en foule le prier de procurer des guérisons, de veiller sur les enfants,” etc. Accepting only this last statement as trustworthy, it proves that the primitive religion lingers yet.

Even clearer proof that it lingers is yielded by the still-extant customs of feeding the spirits, both annually and at other times. If we read of periodic feasts for the dead among extinct nations, or now among the existing Chinese, and regard such observances as parts of their ancestor-worship; and if we learn that the feast of All Souls and sundry kindred observances are continued yet in various parts of Europe, both by Teutons and Celts; can we deny that an original ancestor-worship is implied by them? [*]


§ 153. See, then, how fully induction justifies deduction; and verifies the inference suggested in the last chapter.

Taking the aggregate of human peoples—tribes, societies, nations—we find that nearly all of them, if not literally all, have a belief, vague or distinct, in a reviving other-self of the dead man. Within this class of peoples we find a class not quite so large, by the members of which the other-self of the dead man is supposed to exist for a time, or always, after death. Nearly as numerous is the class of peoples included in this, who show us ghost-propitiation at the funeral, and for a subsequent interval. Then comes the narrower class contained in the last—those more advanced peoples who, along with the belief in a ghost which permanently exists, show us a persistent ancestor-worship. Again, somewhat further restricted, though by no means small, we have a class of peoples whose worship of distinguished ancestors partially subordinates that of the undistinguished. And eventually, the subordination growing more decided, becomes marked where these distinguished ancestors were leaders of conquering races.

Even the words applied in more advanced societies to different orders of supernatural beings, indicate by their original community of meaning, that this has been the course of genesis. The fact cited above, that among the Tannese the word for a god means literally a dead man, is typical of facts everywhere found. Ghost, spirit, demon—names at first applied to the other-self without distinctions of character—come to be differently applied as ascribed differences of character arise: the shade of an enemy becomes a devil, and a friendly shade becomes a divinity. Where the conceptions have not developed far, there are no differentiated titles, and the distinctions made by us cannot be expressed. The early Spanish missionaries in America were inconvenienced by finding that the only native word they could use for God also meant devil. In Greek, δαίμων and θεός are interchangeable. By Æschylus, Agamemnon’s [I-304] children are represented as appealing to their father’s ghost as to a god. So, too, with the Romans. Besides the unspecialized use of dæmon, which means an angel or genius, good or bad, we find the unspecialized use of deus for god and ghost. On tombs the manes were called gods; and a law directs that “the rights of the manes gods are to be kept sacred.” Similarly with the Hebrews. Isaiah, representing himself as commanded to reject it, quotes a current belief implying such identification:—“And when they say unto you, ‘Consult the ghost-seers and the wizards, that chirp and that mutter! Should not people consult their gods, even the dead on behalf of the living?’ ” When Saul goes to question the ghost of Samuel, the expression of the enchantress is—“I saw gods [elohim] ascending out of the earth:” god and ghost being thus used as equivalents. [*] Even in our own day the kinship is traceable. The statement that God is a spirit, shows the application of a term which, otherwise applied, signifies a human soul. Only by its qualifying epithet is the meaning of Holy Ghost distinguished from the meaning of ghost in general. A divine being is still denoted by words that originally meant the breath which, deserting a man’s body at death, was supposed to constitute the surviving part.

Do not these various evidences warrant the suspicion that from the ghost, once uniformly conceived, have arisen the variously-conceived supernatural beings? We may infer, a priori, that in conformity with the law of Evolution, [I-305] there will develop many unlike conceptions out of conceptions originally alike. The spirits of the dead, forming, in a primitive tribe, an ideal group the members of which are but little distinguished from one another, will grow more and more distinguished. As societies advance, and as traditions, local and general, accumulate and complicate, these once-similar human souls, acquiring in the popular mind differences of character and importance, will diverge; until their original community of nature becomes scarcely recognizable.

Expecting, then, heterogeneous modifications of them, multiplying in thought as populations increase, ever spreading into more varied habitats, and tending continually to fill every place in Nature that can be occupied, let us now contemplate some of their most conspicuous types.






§ 154. Facts already named show how sacrifices to the man recently dead, pass into sacrifices to his preserved body. In § 137 we saw that to the corpse of a Tahitian chief, daily offerings were made on an altar by a priest; and the ancient Central Americans performed kindred rites before bodies dried by artificial heat. That, as embalming developed, this grew into mummy-worship, Peruvians and Egyptians have furnished proof. Here the thing to be observed is that, while believing the ghost of the dead man to have gone away, these peoples had confused notions, either that it came back into the mummy, or that the mummy was itself conscious. Among the Egyptians, this was implied by the practice of sometimes placing their embalmed dead at table. The Peruvians, who by a parallel custom betrayed a like belief, betrayed it in other ways also. By some of them the dried corpse of a parent was carried round the fields that he might see the state of the crops. How the ancestor, thus recognized as present, was also recognized as exercising authority, we see in a story narrated by Santa Cruz. When his second sister refused to marry him, Huayna Ccapac “went with presents and offerings to the body of his father, praying him to give her for his wife, but the dead body gave no answer, while fearful signs appeared in the heavens.”

The primitive notion that any property characterizing an aggregate inheres in all parts of it, implies a corollary [I-307] from this belief. The soul, present in the body of the dead man preserved entire, is also present in preserved parts of his body. Hence the faith in relics. In the Sandwich Islands, bones of kings and principal chiefs were carried about by their descendants, under the belief that the spirits exercised guardianship over them. The Crees carry bones and hair of deceased relatives about for three years. The Caribs, and several Guiana tribes, have their cleaned bones “distributed among the relatives after death.” The Tasmanians show “anxiety to possess themselves of a bone from the skull or the arms of their deceased relatives.” The Andamanese “widows may be seen with the skulls of their deceased partners suspended from their necks.”

This belief in the power of relics leads in some cases to direct worship of them. The natives of Lifu, Loyalty Islands, who “invoke the spirits of their departed chiefs,” also “preserve relics of their dead, such as a finger-nail, a tooth, a tuft of hair, . . . and pay divine homage to it.” “In cases of sickness, and other calamities,” New Caledonians “present offerings of food to the skulls of the departed.” Moreover, we have the evidence furnished by conversation with a relic. “In the private fetish-hut of the King Adólee, at Badagry, the skull of that monarch’s father is preserved in a clay vessel placed in the earth.” He “gently rebukes it if his success does not happen to answer his expectations.” Similarly among the Mandans, who place the skulls of their dead in a circle, each wife knows the skull of her former husband or child,

“and there seldom passes a day that she does not visit it, with a dish of the best-cooked food. . . . There is scarcely an hour in a pleasant day, but more or less of these women may be seen sitting or lying by the skull of their child or husband—talking to it in the most pleasant and endearing language that they can use (as they were wont to do in former days), and seemingly getting an answer back.”

Thus propitiation of the man just dead leads to propitiation of his preserved body, or a preserved part of it; and the ghost is supposed to be present in each.


§ 155. Any one asked to imagine a transition from worship of the preserved body, or a preserved part of it, to idol-worship, would probably fail; but transitions occur.

The object worshipped is sometimes a figure of the deceased, made partly of his remains and partly of other substances. Landa says the Yucatanese—

“cut off the heads of the ancient lords of Cocom when they died, and cleared them from flesh by cooking them; they then sawed off half of the top of the head, leaving the anterior part with the jawbones and teeth, and to these half-skulls they joined what they wanted in flesh with a certain cement, and made them as like as possible to those to whom they belonged; and they kept them along with the statues and the ashes. All were kept in the oratories of their houses beside their idols, and were greatly reverenced and assiduously cared for. On all their festivals they offered them food.” . . . In other cases they “made for their fathers wooden statues,” left “the occiput hollow,” put in ashes of the burnt body, and attached “the skin of the occiput taken off the corpse.”

The Mexicans had a different method of joining some of the deceased’s substance with an effigy of him. When a dead lord had been burned, “they carefully collected the ashes, and after having kneaded them with human blood, they made of them an image of the deceased, which was kept in memory of him.” And from Camargo we also learn that images of the dead were worshipped.

A transitional combination partially unlike in kind is found: sometimes the ashes are contained in a man-shaped receptacle of clay. Among the Yucatanese—

“The bodies of lords and people of high position were burnt. The ashes were put in large urns and temples erected over them. . . . In the case of great lords the ashes were placed in hollow clay statues.”

And in yet other cases there is worship of the relics joined with the representative figure, not by inclusion but only by proximity. Speaking of the Mexicans, Gomara says that having burnt the body of their deceased king, they gathered up the ashes, bones, jewels, and gold, in cloths, and made a [I-309] figure dressed as a man, before which, as well as before the relics, offerings were placed.

Lastly may be named the practice of the Egyptians, who as their frescoes show, often worshipped the mummy not as exposed to view, but as inclosed in a case shaped and painted to represent the dead man.

§ 156. From these examples of transition we may turn to those in which funeral propitiations are made to a substituted image.

The Mexicans practised cremation; and when men killed in battle were missing, they made figures of them, and after honouring these burnt them. Again,

“When any of the merchants died on their journey, . . . his relations . . . formed an imperfect statue of wood to represent the deceased, to which they paid all the funeral honours which they would have done to the real body.”

“When some one died drowned or in any other way which excluded concremation and required burial, they made a likeness of him and put it on the altar of idols, together with a large offering of wine and bread.”

In Africa kindred observances occur. While a deceased king of Congo is being embalmed, a figure is set up in the palace to represent him, and is daily furnished with food and drink. Among the Abyssinians mourning takes place on the third day; and the deceased having been buried on the day of his death, a representation of the corpse does duty instead. Some Papuan Islanders, after a grave is filled up, collect round an idol and offer provisions to it. Concerning certain Javans, Raffles says that after a death a feast is held, in which a man-shaped figure, “supported round the body by the clothes of the deceased,” plays an important part.

These practices look strange to us; but a stranger thing is that we have so soon forgotten the like practices of civilized nations. When Charles VI of France was buried,


“Over the coffin was an image of the late king, bearing a rich crown of gold and diamonds and holding two shields, one of gold, the other of silver; the hands had white gloves on, and the fingers were adorned with very precious rings. This image was dressed with cloth of gold,” . . . “In this state was he solemnly carried to the church of Notre Dame.”

Speaking of the father of the great Condé, Mme. de Motteville says—“The effigy of this prince was waited upon (servit) for three days, as was customary:” forty days having been the original time during which food was supplied to such an effigy at the usual hours. Monstrelet describes a like figure used at the burial of Henry V of England; and figures of many English monarchs, thus honoured at their funerals, are still preserved in Westminster Abbey: the older having decayed into fragments.

With these reminders before us, we can have little difficulty in understanding the primitive ideas respecting such representations. When we read that the Coast Negroes in some districts “place several earthen images on the graves;” that the Araucanians fixed over a tomb an upright log, “rudely carved to represent the human frame;” that after the deaths of New Zealand chiefs, wooden images, 20 to 40 ft. high, were erected as monuments; we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the figure of the dead man is an incipient idol. Could we doubt, our doubting would end on finding the figure persistently worshipped. Jos. de Acosta says of the Peruvians that—

“every king in his lifetime caused a figure to be made wherein he was represented, which they called Huanque, which signifieth brother, for that they should doe to this image, during his life and death, as much honour and reverence as to himself.”

So, too, according to Andagoya,

“When a chief died, his house and wives and servants remained as in his lifetime, and a statue of gold was made in the likeness of the chief, which was served as if it had been alive, and certain villages were set apart to provide it with clothing, and all other necessaries.”


And the Yucatanese “worshipped the idol of one who is said to have been one of their great captains.”

§ 157. That we may understand better the feelings with which a savage looks at a representative figure, let us recall the feelings produced by representations among ourselves.

When a lover kisses the miniature of his mistress, he is obviously influenced by an association between the appearance and the reality. Even more strongly do such associations sometimes act. A young lady known to me confesses that she cannot bear to sleep in a room having portraits on the walls; and this repugnance is not uncommon. In such cases the knowledge that portraits consist of paint and canvas only, fails to expel the suggestion of something more. The vivid representation so strongly arouses the thought of a living person, that this cannot be kept out of consciousness.

Now suppose culture absent—suppose there exist no ideas of attribute, law, cause—no distinctions between natural and unnatural, possible and impossible. This associated consciousness of a living presence will then persist. No conflict with established knowledge arising, the unresisted suggestion will become a belief.

In § 133, beliefs thus produced in savages were incidentally referred to. Here are some further examples of them. The North American Indians think portraits supernatural, and look at them with the same ceremony as at a dead person. The Okanagans “have the same aversion that has been noted on the coast” to having their portraits taken. The Mandans thought the life put into a picture was so much life taken from the original. Catlin says—

“They pronounced me the greatest medicine man in the world; for they said I had made living beings,—they said they could see their chiefs alive, in two places—those that I had made were a little alive—they could see their eyes move.”

Nor do more advanced races fail to supply kindred facts. [I-312] In Madagascar, friends of a prince, on seeing a photograph of him, took off their hats to it and verbally saluted it.

That which holds of a picture holds of an image—holds even more naturally; since the carved representation being solid, approaches closer to the reality. Where the image is painted and has eyes inserted, this notion of participation in the vitality of the person imitated becomes, in the uncritical mind of the savage, very strong. Any one who remembers the horror a child shows on seeing an adult put on an ugly mask, even when the mask has been previously shown to it, may conceive the awe which a rude effigy excites in the primitive mind. The sculptured figure of the dead man arouses the thought of the actual dead man, which passes into a conviction that he is present.

§ 158. And why should it not? If the other-self can leave the living body and re-enter it—if the ghost can come back and animate afresh the dead body—if the embalmed Peruvian, presently to be revived by his returned double, was then to need his carefully-preserved hair and nails—if the soul of the Egyptian, after its transmigrations occupying some thousands of years, was expected to infuse itself once more into his mummy; why should not a spirit go into an image? A living body differs more from a mummy in texture, than a mummy does from wood. Obviously this was the reasoning of the Egyptians who provided for the ka, or double, of a dead man, a statue or statues entombed with his dried body, as substitutes for it should it be destroyed. M. Maspéro writes:—

“Le corps qui, pendant la durée de l’existence terrestre, avait servi de support au Double, momifié maintenant et défiguré, quelque soin qu’on eût mis à l’embaumer, ne rappelait plus que de loin la forme du vivant. Il était, d’ailleurs, unique et facile à détruire: on pouvait le brûler, le démembrer, en disperser les morceaux. Lui disparu, que serait devenu le Double? Il s’appuyait sur les statues. Les statues étaient plus solides et rien n’empêchait de les fabriquer en la quantité qu’on voulait. Un seul corps était une seule chance [I-313] de durée pour le Double; vingt statues représentaient vingt-cinq chances. De là, ce nombre vraiment étonnant de statues qu’on rencontre quelquefois dans une seule tombe.”

Whence it is inferable that the Egyptians regarded the statues of gods and kings as occasional habitations for their ghosts.

That a savage thinks an effigy is inhabited we have abundant proofs. Among the Yorubans, a mother carries for some time a wooden figure of her lost child, and when she eats, puts part of her food to its lips. The Samoiedes “feed the wooden images of the dead.” The relatives of an Ostyak—

“make a rude wooden image representing, and in honour of, the deceased, which is set up in the yurt and receives divine honours for a greater or less time as the priest directs. . . . At every meal they set an offering of food before the image; and should this represent a deceased husband, the widow embraces it from time to time. . . . This kind of worship of the dead lasts about three years, at the end of which time the image is buried.”

Erman, who states this, adds the significant fact that the descendants of deceased priests preserve the images of their ancestors from generation to generation;

“and by well-contrived oracles and other arts, they manage to procure offerings for these their family penates, as abundant as those laid on the altars of the universally-acknowledged gods. But that these latter also have an historical origin, that they were originally monuments of distinguished men, to which prescription and the interest of the Shamans gave by degrees an arbitrary meaning and importance, seems to me not liable to doubt.”

These Ostyaks, indeed, show us unmistakably how the dead man’s effigy passes into the divine idol; for the worships of the two are identical. At each meal, placing the dishes before the household god, they wait (i. e., fast) till “the idol, who eats invisibly, has had enough.” Moreover, when a Samoiede goes on a journey, “his relatives direct the idol towards the place to which he is gone, in order that it may look after him.” How, among more advanced peoples in these regions, there persists the idea that the idol of the god, [I-314] developed as we have seen from the effigy of the dead man, is the residence of a conscious being, is implied by the following statement of Erman respecting the Russians of Irkutsk:—

“Whatever familiarities may be permitted between the sexes, the only scruple by which the young women are infallibly controlled, is a superstitious dread of being alone with their lovers in the presence of the holy images. Conscientious difficulties of this kind, however, are frequently obviated by putting these witnesses behind a curtain.”

Like beliefs are displayed by other races wholly unallied. After a death in a Sandwich-Island family, the survivors worship “an image with which they imagine the spirit is in some way connected;” and “Oro, the great national idol, was generally supposed to give the responses to the priests.” Of the Yucatanese we read that “when the Itzaex performed any feat of valour, their idols, whom they consulted, were wont to make reply to them;” and Villagutierre describes the beating of an idol said to have predicted the arrival of the Spaniards, but who had deceived them respecting the result. Even more strikingly shown is this implication in the Quiché legend. Here is an extract:—

“And they worshipped the gods that had become stone, Tohil, Avilix, and Hacavitz; and they offered them the blood of beasts, and of birds, and pierced their own ears and shoulders in honour of these gods, and collected the blood with a sponge, and pressed it out into a cup before them. . . . And these three gods, petrified, as we have told, could nevertheless resume a moveable shape when they pleased; which, indeed, they often did.”

Nor is it among inferior races only that conceptions of this kind are found. Dozy, describing the ideas and practices of idolatrous Arabians, quotes this story:—

“When Amrolcais set out to revenge the death of his father on the Beni-Asad, he stopped at the temple of the idol Dhou-’l-Kholosa to consult fate by means of the three arrows called command, prohibition, expectation. Having drawn prohibition, he recommenced drawing. But three times he drew prohibition. Thereupon he broke the arrows and throwing them at the idol’s head, he shouted—‘Wretch, [I-315] if the killed man had been thy father, thou wouldst not have forbidden revenging him.’ ”

Of kindred beliefs in classic times, an instance is furnished by the statements respecting the so-called vocal Memnon. Among the inscriptions made by visitors on its pedestal, here is one signed Gemellus:—“Once the son of Saturn, great Jove, had made thee monarch of the East; now thou art but a stone; and it is from a stone that thy voice proceeds.” Similarly with the beliefs of early Christians, implied by the miracles narrated in the Apocryphal Gospels. “Coming into India, the Apostle Bartholomew entered a temple, in which was the idol Ashtaroth.” . . . At the wish of the king, he agrees to expel the demon, and next day engages in a dialogue with him. . . . “Then the apostle commands him—‘If thou dost not wish to be hurled into the abyss, come forth from the image and break it, and go forth into the desert.’ ”

The proofs, then, are many and conclusive. The savage, thinking the effigy of the dead man is inhabited by his ghost, propitiates it accordingly; and as the effigy of the dead man develops into the idol of the god, the sacrifices to it are made under a kindred belief in a spiritual resident.

§ 159. What degree of likeness to a human being suffices to suggest the presence of a human soul? These images the savage makes are very rude. The carved post he sticks on a grave, or the little stone figure he hangs round his neck instead of an actual relic of a relative, resembles but remotely a human being, and not at all the individual commemorated. Still it suffices. And considering how easily the primitive mind, unchecked by scepticism, accepts the slightest suggestion, we may expect that even smaller likenesses will suffice. A dead tree outstretching its remaining arms in a strange way, or a rock of which the profile seen against the sky recalls a face, will arouse the idea of a human inhabitant. Merely noting, however, that such accidental [I-316] similarities aid in extending to various objects the notion of resident ghosts, let us observe the more potent causes of fetichistic beliefs.

In § 54 we saw how the discovery of plants and animals imbedded in rock, prepares the mind to suspect animation in certain inanimate things. Here is a fossil shell; there are the remains of a fish changed into stone. If wood, retaining all its fibrous appearance, may become flint, may not a man also turn into this dense substance? And if the dry, hard body of a mummy may be entered by its soul—if a wooden image may be so too; may not souls be present in petrified masses that look like parts of men? See these bones which have been dug up—heavy, stony, but in shape sufficiently like human bones to deceive the savage; as, in fact, such bones have, in past times, habitually deceived the civilized, leading to stories of giant races. What is to be thought of them? Are they not, like other human remains, frequented by the doubles to which they once belonged? Will they not some day be re-animated?

Be this or be it not the origin of reverence for stones, this reverence is certainly in some cases accompanied by the belief that they were once men, and that they will eventually revive as men. Already I have named the fact that the Laches “worshipped every stone as a god, as they said that they had all been men.” Arriaga says the Peruvians “worship certain heights and mountains, and very large stones . . . saying that they were once men.” Avendaño argued with them thus:—

“Your wise men say that of old in Purmupacha there were men, and now we see with our own eyes that they are stones, or hills, or rocks, or islands of the sea. . . . If these huacas originally were men, and had a father and mother, like ourselves, and then Contiviracocha has turned them into stones, they are worthless.”

Such stones stand in the same relation to the inhabiting ghosts that mummies do: witness Arriaga’s statement that the Marcayoc who is worshipped as the patron of the village, [I-317] “is sometimes a stone and sometimes a mummy.” They also stand in the same relation to ghosts that idols do: witness the statement of Montesinos, that the Ynca Rocca “caused to be thrown from the mountain [a certain idol]. . . . They say that a parrot flew out of it and entered another stone, which is still shown in the valley. The Indians have greatly honoured it since that time, and still worship it.” And this belief was definitely expressed when in 1560, the native priests, describing the ancestral ghosts or huacas as enraged with those who had become Christians, said “the times of the Yncas would be restored, and the huacas would not enter into stones or fountains to speak, but would be incorporated in men whom they will cause to speak.” The Coast Negroes betray kindred ideas. In some towns, when a person dies, a stone is taken to a certain house provided; and among the Bulloms, certain women “make occasional sacrifices and offerings of rice to the stones which are preserved in memory of the dead. They prostrate themselves before these.”

This last instance introduces us to another mode in which fetichistic conceptions arise. Already the practices of sorcerers have familiarized us with the primitive belief that each person’s nature inheres not only in all parts of his body, but in his dress and the things he has used. Probably the interpretation of odour has led to this belief. If the breath is the spirit or other-self, is not this invisible emanation which permeates a man’s clothing, and by which he may be traced, also a part of his other-self? Various derivations show us this connexion of ideas. Perfume and fume coming from a word applied to smoke or vapour, are thus brought into relation with the visible vapour of breath. Exhalation is that which breathes out of. In Latin, nidor was applicable alike to a steam and a smell; and the German duft, used for a delicate odour, originally meant vapour. Just as we now speak of the “breath of flowers” as equivalent to their fragrance; so, in early speech, did men associate smell with [I-318] expired air, which was identified with soul. Have we not, indeed, ourselves come to use the word spirit, similarly having reference to breath, for the odorous steam which distils from a thing; and may not the savage therefore naturally regard the spirit as having entered that to which the odour clings? However this may be, we find proof that not dress only, but even stones, are supposed to become permeated by this invisible emanation, existing either as breath or as odour. When a noble died in Vera Paz, “the first thing they did after his death was to put a precious stone in his mouth. Others say that they did this, not after his death, but in his last moments. The object of it was that the stone received his soul.” A kindred notion is implied by a practice of the Mexicans, who, along with a man’s remains, “put a gem of more or less value, which they said would serve him in place of a heart in the other world:” heart and soul being, with sundry American peoples, convertible terms. Under another form the idea meets us among the New Zealanders. Mr. White, who in Te Rou embodies many New Zealand superstitions, narrates a discussion concerning the ghosts of the dead, in which an old man says—

“Are not all things the offspring of the gods? Is not the kumara the god that hid himself from fear? Do you not eat the kumara? Are not fish another god who went into the water? Do you eat fish? Are not the birds also gods? Were not the gods spirits [i. e., ghosts of men]? Then why are you not afraid of the things that you eat? Anything cooked sends the spirit into the stones on which they are cooked. Then, why do old people eat out of a hangi, and off the stones which hold the spirit of the food cooked on them?”

Thus the original belief is that as a dead body, or a mummy, or an effigy, may be entered by a spirit; so, too, may a shapeless stone. Adoration of inanimate objects thus possessed by ghosts, is really adoration of the indwelling ghosts; and the powers ascribed to such objects are the powers ascribed to such ghosts.


§ 160. This notion, once established, develops in all directions. A ready explanation of everything remarkable is furnished. When ghosts, accumulating and losing their once-remembered individualities, are thought of as a multitude of invisible beings—when they are here conceived as elbowing the inhabitants of the house, there as swarming in the nooks of the forests, elsewhere as so numerous that a thing cannot be thrown aside without danger of hitting one; it happens, inevitably, that being always at hand they become the assigned causes of unfamiliar occurrences. Instances are furnished by every race.

In Africa the Bulloms regard with awe, as implying spirit-agency, “whatever appears to them strange or uncommon.” By the Congo people, certain shells are called “God’s children;” and the Negroes of Little Addoh (on the Niger), astonished at the size of a European vessel, worshipped it. The like holds in Polynesia. A sledge left by Cook or his companions was worshipped by the natives. A cocoa-nut tree in Fiji, which divided into two branches, “was consequently regarded with great veneration.” Similarly in America. Supernaturalness is alleged of “anything which a Dakotah cannot comprehend;” and by the Mandans all unusual things are deemed supernatural. If the Chippewas “do not understand anything, they immediately say, it is a spirit” and the same notion was dominant among the ancient Peruvians, who “did worship all things in nature which seemed to them remarkable and different from the rest, as acknowledging some particular deitie.”

Thus the unusualness which makes an object a fetich, is supposed to imply an indwelling ghost—an agent without which deviation from the ordinary would be inexplicable. There is no tendency gratuitously to ascribe duality of nature; but only when there is an unfamiliar appearance, or motion, or sound, or change, in a thing, does there arise this idea of a possessing spirit. The Chibchas worshipped “at lakes, rivulets, rocks, hills, and other places of striking or [I-320] unusual aspect:” saying that by certain occurrences “the demon had given a sign that they should worship him at such places.” The implication here so manifest, that one of the haunting invisible beings is the object of adoration, is again shown us by the Hindus. Sir A. C. Lyall, though he thinks that their fetichism has become a kind of Pantheism, so states the results of his Indian experiences that they perfectly harmonize with the interpretation here given. He says—

“It is not difficult to perceive how this original downright adoration of queer-looking objects is modified by passing into the higher order of imaginative superstition. First, the stone is the abode of some spirit; its curious shape or situation betraying possession. Next, this strange form or aspect argues some design, or handiwork, of supernatural beings,” etc.

So that indirect evidences from all sides, converge to the conclusion that the fetich-worship is the worship of a special soul supposed to have taken up its abode in the fetich; which soul, in common with supernatural agents at large, is originally the double of a dead man.

§ 161. But we need not rest with indirect evidence of this. Direct evidence is abundant.

Many pages back, facts were given showing that originally the fetich is nothing but the ghost. While, in § 58, we saw that the Abipones, fearing the ghost, thought “the echo was its voice;” we saw that the African, when asked why he made an offering to the echo, answered—“Did you not hear the fetish?” In East Africa the fetich-huts have food and beer placed in them “to propitiate the ghosts.” The Coast Negroes who, worshipping the dead, perform “pilgrimages to their graves to make oblations and sacrifices”—who mould clay figures of their departed chiefs—who sometimes have tubes leading down to the buried corpses, through which they daily pour libations; show us by various associated observances, that the fetich is the residence of the ghost. The natives round Sierra Leone “seldom or never [I-321] drink spirits, wine, etc., without spilling a little of it upon the ground, and wetting the greegree or fetish;” Cruikshank mentions certain foods abstained from according to the direction of the fetich; Bastian names a fetich-man who used ventriloquism in announcing the oracles;—facts all implying notions like those which elsewhere go along with ghost-worship. Speaking of a village on the Niger where the fetich was a carved image, Lander says—“We were desired to roast our bullock under him, that he might enjoy the savoury smell.” And in Dahomey “the roads, villages, and houses are filled with fetich-images and sacrifices to the fetich.” Whether the fetich is a bundle of things belonging to a relative who has died, or an effigy of this deceased person, or an idol that has lost historic individuality, or some other object, the resident spirit is nothing but a modification of an ancestral ghost, deviating more or less according to circumstances. The certainty of this conclusion is best shown by the summarized statement Beecham makes.

“The fetiches are believed to be spiritual, intelligent beings, who make the remarkable objects of nature their residence, or enter occasionally into the images and other artificial representations, which have been duly consecrated by certain ceremonies. It is the belief of the people that the fetiches not unfrequently render themselves visible to mortals. . . . They believe that these fetiches are of both sexes, and that they require food.”

And if this occasional visibility, this need for food, and this difference of sex, are not enough to show the original human nature of the fetich, it is conclusively shown by the following statement of Bastian about the Congo people.

“The natives say that the great fetich of Bamba lives in the interior of the bush, where no man sees him, or can see him. When he dies, the fetich-priests carefully collect his bones, in order to revive them, and nourish them till they again acquire flesh and blood.”

So that the fetich, besides otherwise corresponding to the ghost, corresponds as being expected to resume, in like manner, the original bodily form.


§ 162. We will now draw a corollary from this interpretation of fetichism, and observe how completely it harmonizes with the facts.

Evidence has been given that sundry low types of men have either no ideas of revival after death, or vague and wavering ideas: the conception of a ghost is undeveloped. If, as contended above, the worship of the fetich is the worship of an indwelling ghost, or a supernatural being derived from the ghost; it follows that the fetich-theory, being dependent on the ghost-theory, must succeed it in order of time. Absent where there is no ghost-theory, fetichism will arise after the ghost-theory has arisen. That it does this, proofs are abundant.

Of the Indian Hill-tribes may be named, as about the lowest known, the Juángs, who, with no word for a supernatural being, with no idea of another life, with no ancestor-worship, have also no fetichism: an accompanying absence of witchcraft being also noteworthy. The Andaman Islanders, classed with the most degraded of mankind, who are without a “notion of their own origin,” and without a notion “of a future existence,” are also without fetichism: such, at least, is the conclusion we may draw from the silence of those who describe them. Of the Fuegians, too, among whom no appearances of religion were found by Cook, no fetichism is alleged. Nor have those very inferior savages the Australians, though they believe in ghosts, reached the stage at which the ghost-theory originates this derivative theory: they do not propitiate inanimate objects. Their now-extinct neighbours, too, the Tasmanians, like them in grade, were like them in this. And even the Veddahs, who, thinking the souls of their relatives are everywhere around, have a dominant ancestor-worship, but whose intelligence and social state are extremely low, do not show us this extension of the ghost-theory.

The implications of a doctrine do not occur to the utterly stupid; but they become obvious to those who begin [I-323] to think. Hence, in proportion as the reasoning faculty is good, will be the number of erroneous conclusions drawn from erroneous premises. As was pointed out in §§ 57 and 96, it is not savages devoid of intelligence, but highly intelligent savages, such as the Fijians, who believe that a man has two souls, his shadow and his reflection; and who accept the inference that, as objects have shadows, they too must have souls. The various African peoples even taken by themselves, suffice to show that fetichism, arises only when a certain stage of mental and social evolution has been reached. No fetichism is alleged of the Bushmen; and of the African races whose state is known to us, the Bushmen are the lowest. The Damaras, among whom, according to Andersson, intelligence is “an unusual phenomenon,” and whose stupidity Galton exemplifies so vividly, have not drawn from their feebly-marked ghost-beliefs the inferences whence fetichism arises: Galton says—“of the fetish superstition there is no trace.” But fetichism meets us among the more advanced African races—the Congo people, the Inland Negroes, the Coast Negroes, the Dahomans, the Ashantees. We find it rampant where there are fortified towns, well-organized governments, large standing armies, prisons, police, and sumptuary laws, considerable division of labour, periodical markets, regular shops, and all the appliances showing some progress in civilization. Still more conspicuously is this relation exhibited in America. We do not read of fetichism among the rude Chirihuanas of ancient Peru; but among the civilized Peruvians it was immensely elaborated. Both before and after the Ynca conquest, “they worshipped herbs, plants, flowers, all kinds of trees, high hills, great rocks, and the chinks in them, hollow caves, pebbles, and small stones of different colours.” And then, if we ask where fetichism has culminated, we are referred to a people whose civilization, older in date than our own, has created vast cities, elaborate industries, a highly-structured [I-324] language, great poems, subtle philosophies. In India,

“A woman adores the basket which serves to bring or to hold her necessaries, and offers sacrifices to it; as well as to the rice-mill, and other implements that assist her in her household labours. A carpenter does the like homage to his hatchet, his adze, and other tools; and likewise offers sacrifices to them. A Brahman does so to the style with which he is going to write; a soldier to the arms he is to use in the field; a mason to his trowel.”

And this statement of Dubois, quoted by Sir John Lubbock, coincides with that of Sir A. C. Lyall, who says—“Not only does the husbandman pray to his plough, the fisher to his net, the weaver to his loom; but the scribe adores his pen, and the banker his account-books.”

How untenable is the idea that fetichism comes first among superstitions, will now be manifest. Suppose the facts reversed. Suppose that by Juangs, Andamanese, Fuegians, Australians, Tasmanians, and Bushmen, the worship of inanimate objects was carried to the greatest extent; that among tribes a little advanced in intelligence and social state, it was somewhat restricted; that it went on decreasing as knowledge and civilization increased; and that in highly-developed societies, such as those of ancient Peru and modern India, it became inconspicuous. Should we not say that the statement was conclusively proved? Clearly, then, as the facts happen to be exactly the opposite, the statement is conclusively disproved.

§ 163. Induction having shown the untruth of this current dogma, we are now prepared for seeing how entirely deduction discredits it.

Made on the strength of evidence given by early travellers, whose contact was chiefly with races partially advanced and even semi-civilized, the assertion that fetichism is primordial gained possession of men’s minds; and prepossession being nine points of belief, it has held its ground with scarcely a question. I had myself accepted it; though, as [I-325] I remember, with some vague dissatisfaction, probably arising from inability to see how so strange an interpretation arose. This vague dissatisfaction passed into scepticism on becoming better acquainted with the ideas of savages. Tabulated facts presented by the lowest races, changed scepticism into disbelief; and thought has made it manifest that the statement, disproved a posteriori, is contrary to a priori probability.

In the chapter on “The Ideas of the Animate and Inanimate,” it was shown that progressing intelligence gives increasing power to discriminate the living from the not-living; that the higher animals rarely confound the one with the other; and that to suppose the animal which is far above the rest in sagacity, gratuitously confuses the two, is unwarrantable. Were the fetichistic conception primordial, it would be possible to show how the evolution of thought necessitated its antecedence; whereas this, so far as I see, is impossible. Consider the mind of the savage as delineated in foregoing chapters—unspeculative, uncritical, incapable of generalizing, and with scarcely any notions save those yielded by the perceptions. Ask what could lead him to think of an inanimate object as having in it some existence besides that which his senses acquaint him with? He has no words for separate properties, much less a word for property in general; and if he cannot even conceive a property apart from an aggregate displaying it, how can he imagine a second invisible entity as causing the actions of the visible entity? He has neither that tendency to think which must precede such a conception, nor has he the mental power required to grasp such a conception. Only as the ghost-theory evolves, does there arise, when circumstances suggest it, this idea of an animate agent in an inanimate object. I say advisedly—when circumstances suggest it; for at first he does not gratuitously assume spiritual possession. Something anomalous is requisite to suggest the presence of a spirit. And if afterwards, in higher stages of [I-326] progress, he extends such interpretations, and thinks of multitudinous things as possessed, the antecedent is an accumulation of ghosts and derived spirits swarming everywhere.

That fetichism is a sequence of the ghost-theory might, indeed, be suspected from the evidence which our own people have furnished, and still furnish. I do not specially refer to the still extant doctrine of the real presence; nor to the belief implied by the obsolete practice of exorcising the water used in baptism; nor to the conceptions of those who in past times thought objects which behaved strangely were “possessed,” though they did not assume possession to account for the ordinary powers of objects. I refer chiefly to the evidence which modern spiritualists yield us. If tables turn and chairs move about without visible agency, spirits are the assumed agents. In presence of some action not understood, there is a revival of the fetichistic interpretation: the cause is a supernatural being, and this supernatural being is a ghost.

§ 164. Propitiation of the dead, which, originating funeral rites, develops into the observances constituting worship in general, has thus, among its other divergent results, idol-worship and fetich-worship. All stages in the genesis of these are traceable.

There are sacrifices to the recently-dead body, to the dried body or mummy, to the relics; there are sacrifices to a figure made partly of the relics and partly of other substances; there are sacrifices to a figure placed on a box containing the relics; there are sacrifices to a figure placed on the grave containing the remains. And as thus combined, the remains and the representative figure have been in kindred ways worshipped by civilized races—Egyptians, Etruscans, Romans, down to mediæval Christians; for does not the adored figure of a saint above his tomb, undeniably correspond to the carved effigy which the savage places on a grave and propitiates? That this representative [I-327] image of the dead man grows into the idol of the deity, we have good evidence. Persistent for various periods, the worship becomes in some cases permanent; and then constitutes the idolatry of the savage, which evolves into elaborate religious ceremonies performed before awe-inspiring statues in magnificent temples. Further, from the primitive notion that along with likeness in aspect there goes likeness in nature, comes a belief that the effigy is inhabited by the ghost; and from this there descends the notion that deities enter idols and occasionally speak from them.

Between idol-worship and fetich-worship there is no break. In Africa the visible fetich is often a man-shaped figure, sometimes a figure less like a man, resembling “nothing so much as one of our scare-crows;” and sometimes a thing human only in its connexions, having the character of an amulet: the faith in which, as we saw (§ 133), grows from a faith in relics, and therefore arises from the ghost-theory. That the worship of things which are strange in size, shape, aspect, or behaviour, is derivative, and goes along with belief in the presence of a spirit originally human, facts make clear. This extension accompanies growth and elaboration of the ghost-theory—occurs where ghosts are supposed to be ever-present causes of diseases, cures, accidents, benefits, etc.; and exhibits the unchecked application of an hypothesis which seems to explain everything. Beliefs thus originating are aided by the idea that shadows are souls. As we before saw (§ 96), this idea into which primitive men are naturally betrayed, they extend to other shadows than those cast by their own bodies. Gradually reason forces this implication on them; and acceptance of it strengthens those conceptions of object-souls otherwise reached. Proof that the thing worshipped in the remarkable object is a ghost, is in some cases joined with proof that it is an ancestral ghost. The huacas of the Peruvians were their forefathers. [I-328] Garcilasso says “an Indian is not looked upon as honourable unless he is descended from a fountain, river, or lake (or even the sea); or from a wild animal, such as a bear, lion, tiger, eagle, or the bird they call cuntur [condor], or some other bird of prey; or from a mountain, cave, or forest;” and these huacas whence they descended, they worshipped.

That idolatry and fetichism are aberrant developments of ancestor-worship, thus made sufficiently clear, will become clearer still on passing to the kindred groups of facts which now follow.






§ 165. In the chapter on “Primitive Ideas,” it was pointed out that in the animal kingdom the metamorphoses which actually occur, are, at first sight, more marvellous than many which are wrongly supposed to occur—that the contrasts between a maggot and a fly, an egg and a bird, are greater than the contrasts between a child and a dog, a man and a bull.

Encouraged, then, by the changes he daily sees, and not deterred by such cognitions as long-accumulating experiences establish, the savage yields to any suggestion, however caused, that a creature has assumed a different shape. In some cases the supposed change is from one of the lower animals into another; as in Brazil, where, Burton says, “the people universally believe that the humming-bird is transmutable into the humming-bird hawk-moth.” But mostly, the transformations are of men into animals, or of animals into men.

All races furnish evidence. We will first take a number of examples, and then consider the interpretations.

§ 166. The belief that human beings disguise themselves as brutes, is in some cases specified generally; as concerning the Thlinkeets, who “will kill a bear only in case of great necessity, for the bear is supposed to be a man that has taken the shape of an animal.” And the converse idea [I-330] in its general form occurs among the Karens, who think “the waters are inhabited by beings whose proper form is that of dragons [? crocodiles], but that occasionally appear as men, and who take wives of the children of men.” Usually, however, only persons distinguished by power of some kind, or believed to be so, have this ability ascribed to them.

Regarding all special skill as supernatural, sundry African peoples think the blacksmith (who ranks next to the medicine-man) works by spirit-agency; and in Abyssinia, “blacksmiths are supposed able to turn themselves into hyænas and other animals.” So strong is this belief that it infects even European residents: Wilkinson instances a traveller who asserted that he had seen the metamorphosis. More commonly it is the sorcerers exclusively of whom this power is alleged. The Khonds believe “witches have the faculty of transforming themselves into tigers.” In case of “an alligator seizing upon a child whilst bathing in the river, or a leopard carrying off a goat,” the Bulloms “are of opinion that it is not a real leopard or alligator which has committed the depredation, but a witch under one of these assumed forms.” Among the Mexicans “there were sorcerers and witches who were thought to transform themselves into animals.” In Honduras they “punish sorcerers that did mischief; and some of them are said to have ranged on the mountains like tigers or lions, killing men, till they were taken and hanged.” And the Chibchas “pretended to have great sorcerers who might be transformed into lions, bears, and tigers, and devour men like these animals.” To chiefs, as well as to sorcerers, this faculty is in some places ascribed. The Cacique Thomagata, one of the Chibcha rulers, was believed “to have had a long tail, after the manner of a lion or a tiger, which he dragged on the soil.” Africa, too, yields evidence.

“There are also a great many lions and hyænas, and there is no check upon the increase of the former, for the people, believing that [I-331] the souls of their chiefs enter into them, never attempt to kill them; they even believe that a chief may metamorphose himself into a lion, kill any one he chooses, and then return to the human form; therefore, when they see one they commence clapping their hands, which is the usual mode of salutation.”

In some cases this supposed power is shared by the chief’s relatives. Schweinfurth, when at Gallabat, having shot a hyæna, was reproached by the sheikh because his, the sheikh’s, mother, was a “hyæna-woman.”

Instead of change of form there is, in other cases, possession. We saw how the primitive dream-theory, with its wandering double which deserts the body and re-enters it, brings, among many sequences, the belief that wandering doubles can enter other bodies than their own; and the last chapter exhibited some wide extensions of this doctrine: representative figures, and even inanimate objects not having human shapes, being supposed permeable by human ghosts. Naturally, then, animals are included among the things men’s souls go into. At Tete, in Africa, the people believe “that while persons are still living they may enter into lions and alligators, and then return again to their own bodies;” and the Guiana tribes think some jaguars “are possessed by the spirits of men.”

Of course, along with beliefs in possession by the doubles of living persons, there go beliefs in possession by the doubles of dead persons. The Sumatrans imagine that—

“tigers in general are actuated with the spirits of departed men, and no consideration will prevail on a countryman to catch or to wound one, but in self-defence, or immediately after the act of destroying a friend.”

Among existing American races, the Apaches “hold that every rattlesnake contains the soul of a bad man or is an emissary of the Evil Spirit;” and “the Californians round San Diego will not eat the flesh of large game, believing such animals are inhabited by the souls of generations of people that have died ages ago: ‘eater of venison!’ is a term of reproach among them.” With the ancient American [I-332] races it was the same. Here is one out of many instances.

“The people of Tlascala believed that the souls of persons of rank went, after their death, to inhabit the bodies of beautiful and sweet singing birds, and those of the nobler quadrupeds; while the souls of inferior persons were supposed to pass into weazles, beetles,” etc.

There are like beliefs among Africans. When Hutchinson doubted the assertion that men’s souls pass into monkeys and crocodiles, he was answered—“It be Kalabar ‘fash,’ and white man no saby any ting about it.”

Passing over various developments of this general notion which early civilizations show us, such as the Scripture story of the expelled devils who entered into swine, and the were-wolf legends of the middle ages; let us turn to the interpretations. We have seen that his experiences prepare the savage for supposing metamorphoses, if circumstances suggest them; but we must not assume him to suppose them without suggestive circumstances. What, then, are these? We shall find three kinds; leading to three groups of allied, but partially-different, beliefs.

§ 167. “There are Amatongo who are snakes,” say the Zulus; and, as we have repeatedly seen, Amatongo is their name for ancestral ghosts. But why do these people think that snakes are transformed ancestors? Some extracts from Bp. Callaway’s cross-examination, I place in an order which will prepare the reader for the answer.

“The snakes into which men turn are not many; they are distinct and well known. They are the black Imamba, and the green Imamba, which is called Inyandezulu. Chiefs turn into these. Common people turn into the Umthlwazi.”

“These snakes are known to be human beings when they enter a hut; they do not usually enter by the doorway. Perhaps they enter when no one is there, and go to the upper part of the hut, and stay there coiled up.”

“If the snake has a scar on the side, some one who knew a certain dead man of that place who also had such a scar, comes forward [I-333] and says, ‘It is So-and-so. Do you not see the scar on his side?’ It is left alone, and they go to sleep.”

“Those which are men are known by their frequenting huts, and by their not eating mice, and by their not being frightened at the noise of men.”

Now join with these statements the facts set forth in §§ 110, 137, and the genesis of this belief becomes manifest. All over the world there prevails the idea that the ghost of the dead man haunts the old home. What, then, is meant by the coming of these snakes into the huts? Are they not returned relations? Do not the individual marks they sometimes bear yield proof? Just as an Australian settler who had a bent arm, was concluded to be the other-self of a dead native who had a bent arm (§ 92); so here, the scar common to the man and the snake proves identity. When, therefore, the Zulus say—“Neither does a snake that is an Itongo excite fear in men. . . . When men see it, it is as though it said as they look at it, ‘Be not afraid. It is I’;” we are shown that recognition of the snake as a human being, come back in another shape, is suggested by several circumstances: frequentation of the house being the chief. This recognition is utilized and confirmed by the diviners. Some persons who, through them, sought supernatural aid, remarked—“We wondered that we should continually hear the spirits, which we could not see, speaking in the wattles, and telling us many things without our seeing them.” Elsewhere a man says—“The voice was like that of a very little child; it cannot speak aloud, for it speaks above, among the wattles of the hut.” The trick is obvious. Practising ventriloquism, the diviner makes the replies of the ancestral ghost seem to come from places in which these house-haunting snakes conceal themselves.

Though most men are supposed to turn into the harmless snakes which frequent huts, some turn into the “imamba which frequents open places.” “The imamba is said especially to be chiefs;” it is “a poisonous snake,” and has “the stare of an enemy, which makes one afraid.” Whence it [I-334] appears that as special bodily marks suggest identity with persons who bore kindred marks, so traits of character in snakes of a certain species, lead to identification with a class of persons. This conclusion we shall presently find verified by facts coming from another place in Africa.

Among the Amazulu, belief in the return of ancestors disguised as serpents, has not led to worship of serpents as such: propitiation of them is mingled with propitiation of ancestral ghosts in an indefinite way. Other peoples, too, present us with kindred ideas, probably generated in like manner, which have not assumed distinctly religious forms; as witness the fact that “in the province of Culiacan tamed serpents were found in the dwellings of the natives, which they feared and venerated.” But, carrying with us the clue thus given, we find that along with a developed cult and advanced arts, a definite serpent-worship results. Ophiolatry prevails especially in hot countries; and in hot countries certain kinds of ophidia secrete themselves in dark corners of rooms, and even in beds. India supplies us with a clear case. Serpent-gods are there common; and the serpent habitually sculptured as a god, is the cobra. Either in its natural form or united to a human body, the cobra with expanded hood in attitude to strike, is adored in numerous temples. And then, on inquiry, we learn that the cobra is one of the commonest intruders in houses. Yet another instance is furnished by the Egyptian asp, a species of cobra. Figuring everywhere as this does in their sacred paintings and sculptures, we find that, greatly reverenced throughout Egypt, it was a frequenter of gardens and houses, and was so far domesticated that it came at a signal to be fed from the table. [*]


The like happens with other house-haunting creatures. In many countries lizards are often found indoors; and among the Amazulu, the “Isalukazana, a kind of lizard,” is the form supposed to be taken by old women. The New Zealanders believe that the spirits of their ancestors re-visit them as lizards; and I learn from a colonist that these are lizards which enter houses. Certain Russian foresters, again, “cherish, as a kind of household gods, a species of reptile, which has four short feet like a lizard, with a black flat body. . . . These animals are called ‘givoites,’ and on certain days are allowed to crawl about the house in search of the food which is placed for them. They are looked upon with great superstition.” Then, too, we have the wasp, which is one of the animal-shapes supposed to be assumed by the dead among the Amazulu; and the wasp is an insect which often joins the domestic circle to share the food on the table. Alongside this belief I may place a curious passage from the flood-legend of the Babylonians. Hasisadra, describing his sacrifice after the deluge, says—“The gods collected at its burning, the gods collected at its good burning; the gods, like flies, over the sacrifice gathered.” Once more, of house-haunting creatures similarly regarded, we have the dove. Describing animal-worship among the ancients, Mr. M‘Lennan remarks that “the dove, in fact . . . was almost as great a god as the serpent.” The still-extant symbolism of Christianity shows us the surviving effect of this belief in the ghostly character of the dove.

§ 168. By most peoples the ghost is believed now to revisit the old home, and now to be where the body lies. If, [I-336] then, creatures which frequent houses are supposed to be metamorphosed ancestors, will not creatures habitually found with corpses be also considered as animal-forms assumed by the dead? That they will, we may conclude; and that they are, we have proofs.

The prevalence of cave-burial among early peoples everywhere, has been shown. What animals commonly occur in caves? Above all others, those which shun the light—bats and owls. Where there are no hollow trees, crevices and caverns are the most available places for these night-flying creatures; and often in such places they are numerous. An explorer of the Egyptian cave known from its embalmed contents as “Crocodilopolis,” tells me that he was nearly suffocated with the dust raised by bats, the swarms of which nearly put out the torches. Now join with these statements the following passage from the Izdubar legend translated by Mr. Smith:—

“Return me from Hades, the land of my knowledge; from the house of the departed, the seat of the god Irkalla; from the house within which is no exit; from the road the course of which never returns; from the place within which they long for light—the place where dust is their nourishment and their food mud. Its chiefs also, like birds, are clothed with wings.”

In Mr. Talbot’s rendering of the legend of the descent of Ishtar, Hades, described as “a cavern of great rocks,” is again said to be “the abode of darkness and famine, where earth is their food: their nourishment clay: light is not seen: in darkness they dwell: ghosts, like birds, flutter their wings.” Amid minor differences, the agreement respecting the cavernous nature of the place, its gloom, its lack of food, its dust, and the winged structure of its inhabitants, clearly points to the development of the burial-cave with its tenanting creatures, into Hades with its inhabiting spirits. In the same way that, as we before saw, Sheol, primarily a cave, expanded into an under-world; so here we see that the winged creatures habitually found along with the corpses in the cave, and supposed to be the transformed dead, originated [I-337] the winged ghosts who inhabit the under-world. Verification is yielded by an already-quoted passage from the Bible, in which sorcerers are said to chirp like bats when consulting the dead: the explanation being that their arts, akin to those of the Zulu diviners lately named, had a like aim. The ventriloquists, says Delitzsch, “imitated the chirping of bats, which was supposed to proceed from the shades of Hades.” Further verification comes to us from the legends of the Greeks. The spirits of the dead are said in the Odyssey to twitter like bats and clamour “as it were fowls flying every way in fear.” The far East yields confirmatory evidence. In past times the Philippine Islanders had the ideas and customs of ancestor-worship highly developed; and they buried in caves, which were held sacred. Mr. Jagor narrates his visit to a cavern “tenanted by multitudes of bats.” The few natives who dared enter, “were in a state of great agitation, and were careful first to enjoin upon each other the respect to be observed by them towards Calapnitan”—literally “lord of the bats.”

The experience that bats are commonly found in caves, while owls more generally frequent the dark corners of deserted houses, may have tended to differentiate the associated conceptions. “Mother of ruins” is an Arabian name for the owl. Mr. Talbot, in translations embodying the religious beliefs of the Assyrians, has the following prayer uttered on a man’s death:—“Like a bird may it [the soul] fly to a lofty place!” With this we may join the fact that, in common with modern Arabs, their ancient kindred preferred to bury in high places. We may also join with it the following passage from M. Caussin de Perceval:—

“In their opinion the soul, when leaving the body, fled away in the form of a bird which they called Hâma or Sada (a sort of owl), and did not cease flying round the tomb and crying pitifully.”

The Egyptians also, along with familiar knowledge of these cave-hiding and ruin-haunting creatures, had a belief in winged souls. One of their wall-paintings given by Wilkinson, [I-338] represents, over the face of a corpse, a human-headed bird about to fly away, carrying with it the sign of life and the symbol of transmigration. Moreover, on their mummy cases they figured either a bird with out-stretched wings, or such a bird with a human head, or a winged symbol. Thus it seems likely that by them, too, the creatures often found in the places of the dead were supposed to be forms assumed by the dead.

Possibly these ancient peoples had not enough knowledge of insect metamorphoses to be struck by the illusive analogy on which modern theologians dwell; but, if they observed them, one kind must have seemed to furnish a complete parallel. I refer to that of various moths: the larva buries itself in the earth, and after a time there is found near the chrysalis-case a winged creature. Why, then, should not the winged creature found along with the human body which has been buried in a cave, be concluded to have come out of it? [*]

§ 169. Before dealing with supposed transformations of a third kind, like the above as identifying animals with deceased men, but unlike them as being otherwise suggested, two explanatory descriptions are needed: one of primitive language and the other of primitive naming.

The savage has a small vocabulary. Consequently of, the things and acts around, either but few can have signs, or those signs must be indiscriminately applicable to different things and acts: whence inevitable misunderstandings. If, as Burton says of the Dacotahs, “colours are expressed by a comparison with some object in sight,” an intended [I-339] assertion about a colour must often be taken for an assertion about the illustrative object. If, as Schweinfurth tells us of the Bongo dialect, one word means either “shadow” or “cloud,” another “rain” or “the sky,” another “night” or “to-day;” the interpretations of statements must be in part guessed at, and the guesses must often be wrong. Indefiniteness, implied by this paucity of words, is further implied by the want of terms expressing degree. A Damara cannot understand the question whether of two stages the next is longer than the last. The question must be—“The last stage is little; the next, is it great?” and the only reply is—“It is so,” or “It is not so.” In some cases, as among the Abipones, superlatives are expressed by raising the voice. And then the uncertainties of meaning which such indefinitenesses cause, are made greater by the rapid changes in primitive dialects. Superstitions lead to frequent substitutions of new words for those previously in use; and hence statements current in one generation, otherwise expressed in the next, are misconstrued. Incoherence adds to the confusion. In the aboriginal languages of South Brazil, “there are no such things as declensions and conjugations, and still less a regular construction of the sentences. They always speak in the infinitive, with, or mostly without, pronouns or substantives. The accent, which is chiefly on the second syllable, the slowness or quickness of pronunciation, certain signs with the hand, the mouth, or other gestures, are necessary to complete the sense of the sentence. If the Indian, for instance, means to say, ‘I will go into the wood,’ he says ‘Wood-go:’ pushing out his mouth to indicate the quarter which he intends to visit.” Clearly, no propositions that involve even moderate degrees of discrimination, can be communicated by such people. The relative homogeneity of early speech, thus implied by the absence of modifying terminations to words or the auxiliaries serving in place of them, is further implied by the absence of general [I-340] and abstract words. Even the first grades of generality and abstractness are inexpressible. Both the Abipones and the Guaranis “want the verb substantive to be. They want the verb to have. They have no words whereby to express man, body, God, place, time, never, ever, everywhere.” Similarly, the Koossa language has “no proper article, no auxiliary verbs, no inflections either of their verbs or substantives. . . . The simple abstract proposition, I am, cannot be expressed in their language.”

Having these a posteriori verifications of the a priori inference, that early speech is meagre, incoherent, indefinite, we may anticipate countless erroneous beliefs caused by misapprehensions. Dobrizhoffer says that among the Guaranis, “Aba che has three meanings—I am a Guarani, I am a man, or I am a husband; which of these is meant must be gathered from the tenor of the conversation.” On asking ourselves what will happen with traditions narrated in such speech, we must answer that the distortions will be extreme and multitudinous.

§ 170. Proper names were not always possessed by men: they are growths. It never occurred to the uninventive savage to distinguish this person from that by vocal marks. An individual was at first signified by something connected with him, which, when mentioned, called him to mind—an incident, a juxta-position, a personal trait.

A descriptive name is commonly assumed to be the earliest. We suppose that just as objects and places in our own island acquire their names by the establishment of what was originally an impromptu description; so, names of savages, such as “Broad face,” “Head without hair,” “Curly head,” “Horse-tail,” are the significant sobriquets with which naming begins. But it is not so. Under pressure of the need for indicating a child while yet it has no peculiarities, it is referred to in connexion with some circumstance attending its birth. The Lower Murray Australians derive their [I-341] names either from some trivial occurrence, from the spot where they were born, or from a natural object seen by the mother soon after the birth of the child. This is typical. Damara “children are named after great public incidents.” “Most Bodo and Dhimáls bear meaningless designations, or any passing event of the moment may suggest a significant term.” The name given to a Kaffir child soon after birth, “usually refers to some circumstance connected with that event, or happening about the same time.” Among the Comanches, “the children are named from some circumstance in tender years;” and the names of the Chippewayan boys are “generally derived from some place, season, or animal.” Even with so superior a type as the Bedouins, the like happens: “a name is given to the infant immediately on his birth. The name is derived from some trifling accident, or from some object which has struck the fancy of the mother or any of the women present at the child’s birth. Thus, if the dog happened to be near on this occasion, the infant is probably named Kelab (from Kelb, a dog).”

This vague mode of identification, which arises first in the history of the race, and long survives as a birth-naming, is by-and-by habitually followed by a re-naming of a more specific kind: a personal trait that becomes decided in the course of growth, a strange accident, or a remarkable achievement, furnishing the second name. Among the peoples above mentioned, the Comanches, the Damaras, the Kaffirs illustrate this. Speaking of the Kaffirs, Mann says—“Thus ‘Umgodi’ is simply ‘the boy who was born in a hole.’ That is a birth name. ‘Umginqisago’ is ‘the hunter who made the game roll over.’ That is a name of renown.” Omitting multitudinous illustrations, let us note some which immediately concern us. Of the additional names gained by the Tupis after successes in battle, we read—“They selected their appellations from visible objects, pride or ferocity influencing their choice:” whence obviously results naming after savage animals. Among animal-names [I-342] used by the Karens are—‘Tiger,’ ‘Yellow-Tiger,’ ‘Fierce-Tiger,’ ‘Gaur,’ ‘Goat-antelope,’ ‘Horn-bill,’ ‘Heron,’ ‘Prince-bird,’ and ‘Mango-fish:’ the preference for the formidable beast being obvious. In New Zealand a native swift of foot is called ‘Kawaw,’ a bird or fowl; and the Dacotah women have such names as the ‘White Martin,’ the ‘Young Mink,’ the ‘Musk-rat’s Paw.’ All over the world this nicknaming after animals is habitual. Lander speaks of it among the Yorubans; Thunberg, among the Hottentots; and that it prevails throughout North America every one knows. As implied in cases above given, self-exaltation is sometimes the cause, and sometimes exaltation by others. When a Makololo chief arrives at a village, the people salute him with the title, ‘Great Lion.’ King Koffi’s attendants exclaim—“Look before thee, O Lion.” In the Harris papyrus, King Mencheper-ra (Tothmes III) is called ‘the Furious Lion;’ and the name of one of the kings of the second Egyptian dynasty, Kakau, means “the bull of bulls.” In early Assyrian inscriptions we read—“Like a bull thou shalt rule over the chiefs:” a simile which, as is shown in another case, readily passes into metaphor. Thus in the third Sallier papyrus it is said of Rameses—“As a bull, terrible with pointed horns he rose;” and then in a subsequent passage the defeated address him—“Horus, conquering bull.”

Remembering that this habit survives among ourselves, so that the cunning person is called a fox, the rude a bear, the hypocritical a crocodile, the dirty a pig, the keen a hawk, and so on—observing that in those ancient races who had proper names of a developed kind, animal-nicknaming still prevailed; let us ask what resulted from it in the earliest stages.

§ 171. Verbal signs being at first so inadequate that gesture-signs are needful to eke them out, the distinction between metaphor and fact cannot be expressed, much less [I-343] preserved in tradition. If, as shown by instances Mr. Tylor gives, even the higher races confound the metaphorical with the literal—if the statement in the Koran that God opened and cleansed Mahomet’s heart, originates a belief that his heart was actually taken out, washed, and replaced—if from accounts of tribes without governors, described as without heads, there has arisen among civilized people the belief that there are races of headless men; we cannot wonder if the savage, lacking knowledge and speaking a rude language, gets the idea that an ancestor named “the Tiger” was an actual tiger. From childhood upwards he hears his father’s father spoken of by this name. No one suspects he will misinterpret it: error being, indeed, a general notion the savage has scarcely reached. And there are no words serving to convey a correction, even if the need is perceived. Inevitably, then, he grows up believing that his father descended from a tiger—thinking of himself as one of the tiger stock. Everywhere the results of such mistakes meet us.

“A characteristic feature in Central Asiatic traditions,” say the Michells, “is the derivation of their origin from some animal.” According to Brooke, the Sea-Dyaks shrink superstitiously from eating certain animals; because “they suppose these animals bear a proximity to some of their forefathers, who were begotten by them or begot them.” Among the Bechuana tribes “the term Bakatla means, ‘they of the monkey;’ Bakuena, ‘they of the alligator;’ Batlápi, ‘they of the fish:’ each tribe having a superstitious dread of the animal after which it is called.” The Patagonians possess “a multiplicity of these deities; each of whom they believe to preside over one particular caste or family of Indians, of which he is supposed to have been the creator. Some make themselves of the caste of the tiger, some of the lion, some of the guanaco, and others of the ostrich.” Leaving the many illustrations supplied by other regions, we will look more nearly at those coming [I-344] from North America. The tribes north of the Columbia “pretend to be derived from the musk-rat.” “All the aboriginal inhabitants of California, without exception, believe that their first ancestors were created directly from the earth of their respective present dwelling-places, and, in very many cases, that these ancestors were coyotes” [prairie-wolves]. Of the Zapotecs we read that “some, to boast of their valour, made themselves out the sons of lions and divers wild beasts.” By the Haidahs, “descent from the crows is quite gravely affirmed and steadfastly maintained.” “Among the Ahts of Vancouver Island, perhaps the commonest notion of origin is that men at first existed as birds, animals, and fishes.” The Chippewayans “derive their origin from a dog. At one time they were so strongly imbued with respect for their canine ancestry, that they entirely ceased to employ dogs in drawing their sledges.” The Koniagas “have their legendary Bird and Dog,—the latter taking the place occupied in the mythology of many other tribes by the wolf or coyote.”

In some cases, accounts are given of the transmutations. Californian Indians descending from the prairie-wolf, explain the loss of their tails: they say, “an acquired habit of sitting upright, has utterly erased and destroyed that beautiful member.” Those North Californians who ascribe their origin in part to grizzly bears, asert that in old times these walked “on their hind legs like men, and talked, and carried clubs, using the fore-limbs as men use their arms.” Even more strangely are these ideas of relationship shown by Franklin’s account of the Dog-rib Indians:—

“These people take their names, in the first instance, from their dogs. A young man is the father of a certain dog, but when he is married and has a son, he styles himself the father of the boy. The women have a habit of reproving the dogs very tenderly when they observe them fighting. ‘Are you not ashamed,’ say they, ‘to quarrel with your little brother?’ ”


§ 172. This last illustration introduces us to various sequences from the conception of animal-ancestry, thus arising by misinterpretation of nicknames.

Animals must think and understand as men do; for are they not derived from the same progenitors? Hence the belief of the Papagos, that in primeval days “men and beasts talked together: a common language made all brethren.” Hence the practice of the Kamschadales, who, when fishing, “entreat the whales or sea-horses not to overthrow their boats; and in hunting, beseech the bears and wolves not to hurt them.” Hence the habit of the Dacotahs, who ask snakes to be friendly; and of whom Schoolcraft says—“I have heard Indians talk and reason with a horse, the same as with a person.” Hence the notion betrayed by the negro attendants of Livingstone, who tells us—“I asked my men what the hyænas were laughing at; as they usually give animals credit for a share of intelligence. They said they were laughing because we could not take the whole [of the elephant], and that they would have plenty to eat as well as we.”

A second sequence is that animals, thus conceived as akin to men, are often treated with consideration. The Chippewas, thinking they will have to encounter in the other world the spirits of slain animals, apologized to a bear for killing him, asked forgiveness, and pretended that an American was to blame; and, similarly, the Ostyaks, after destroying a bear, cut off his head, and paying it “the profoundest respect,” tell the bear that the Russians were his murderers. Among the Kookies, “the capture of an elephant, tiger, bear, wild hog, or any savage wild beast, is followed by a feast in propitiation of its manes.” Kindred ceremonies are performed by the Stiens of Cambodia, the Sumatrans, the Dyaks, the Kaffirs, the Siamese, and even the Arabs.

Naturally, as a further sequence, there comes a special regard for the animal which gives the tribal name, and is [I-346] considered a relative. As the ancestor conceived under the human form is thought able to work good or ill to his descendants, so, too, is the ancestor conceived under the brute-form. Hence “no Indian tracing his descent from the spirit mother and the grizzly . . . will kill a grizzly bear.” The Osages will not destroy the beaver: believing themselves derived from it. “A tribe never eats of the animal which is its namesake,” among the Bechuanas. Like ideas and practices occur in Australia in a less settled form. “A member of the family will never kill an animal of the species to which his kobong [animal-namesake] belongs, should he find it asleep; indeed, he always kills it reluctantly, and never without affording it a chance of escape.” Joined with this regard for the animal-namesake considered as a relative, there goes belief in its guardianship; and hence arises the faith in omens derived from birds and quadrupeds. The ancestor under the brute form, is supposed to be solicitous for the welfare of his kindred; and tells them by signs or sounds of their danger.

§ 173. Do we not in these observances see the beginnings of a worship? If the East Africans think the souls of departed chiefs enter into lions and render them sacred; we may conclude that sacredness will equally attach to the animals whose human souls were ancestral. If the Congo people, holding this belief about lions, think “the lion spares those whom he meets, when he is courteously saluted;” the implication is that there will arise propitiations of the beast-chief who was the progenitor of the tribe. Prayers and offerings may be expected to develop into a cult, and the animal-namesake into a deity.

When, therefore, among American Indians, whose habit of naming after animals still continues, and whose legends of animal-progenitors are so specific, we find animals taking rank as creators and divinities—when we read that “ ‘raven’ and ‘wolf’ are the names of the two gods of the Thlinkeets, [I-347] who are supposed to be the founders of the Indian race;” we have just the result to be anticipated. And when of this tribe we further read that “the Raven trunk is again divided into sub-clans, called the Frog, the Goose, the Sea-Lion, the Owl, and the Salmon,” while “the Wolf family comprises the Bear, Eagle, Dolphin, Shark, and Alca;” we see that apotheosis under the animal form, follows the same course as apotheosis under the human form. In either case, more recent progenitors of sub-tribes are subordinate to the ancient progenitors of the entire tribe.

Guided by these various clues we may, I think, infer that much of the developed animal-worship of the ancient historic races, grew out of this misinterpretation of nicknames. Even now, among partially-civilized peoples, the re-genesis of such worship is shown us. In Ashantee certain of the king’s attendants, whose duty it is to praise him, or “give him names,” cry out among other titles—“Bore,” (the name of a venomous serpent) “you are most beautiful, but your bite is deadly.” As these African kings ordinarily undergo apotheosis—as this laudatory title “Bore,” may be expected to survive in tradition along with other titles, and to be used in propitiations—as the Zulus, who, led by another suggestion, think dead men become snakes, distinguish certain venomous snakes as chiefs; we must admit that from this complimentary nickname of a king who became a god, may naturally grow up the worship of a serpent: a serpent who, nevertheless, had a human history. Similarly when we ask what is likely to happen from the animal-name by which the king is honoured in Madagascar. “God is gone to the west—Radama is a mighty bull,” were expressions used by the Malagasy women in their songs in praise of their king, who was absent on a warlike expedition. Here we have the three titles simultaneously applied—the god, the king, the bull. If, then, the like occurred in ancient Egypt—if the same papyrus which shows us Rameses II invoking his divine ancestor, also contains the title “conquering bull,” [I-348] given to Rameses by the subjugated—if we find another Egyptian king called “a resolute Bull, he went forward, being a Bull king, a god manifest the day of combats;” can we doubt that from like occurrences in earlier times arose the worship of Apis? Can we doubt that Osiris-Apis was an ancient hero-king, who became a god, when, according to Brugsch, the Step-pyramid, built during the first dynasty, “concealed the bleached bones of bulls and the inscriptions chiselled in the stone relating to the royal names of the Apis,” and, as he infers, “was a common sepulchre of the holy bulls:” re-incarnations of this apotheosized hero-king? Can we doubt that the bovine deities of the Hindus and Assyrians similarly originated?

So that misinterpretations of metaphorical titles, which inevitably occur in early speech, being given, the rise of animal-worship is a natural sequence. Mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, all yield nicknames; are all in one place or other regarded as progenitors; all acquire, among this or that people, a sacredness rising in many cases to adoration. Even where the nickname is one of reproach—even where the creature is of a kind to inspire contempt rather than respect, we see that identification with the ancestor explains worship of it. The Veddahs, who are predominantly ancestor-worshippers, also worship a tortoise. Though among them the reason is not traceable, we find an indication of it elsewhere. Mr. Bates, during his Amazon explorations, had two attendants surnamed Tortoise; and their surname had descended to them from a father whose slowness had suggested this nickname. Here we see the first step towards the formation of a tortoise tribe; having the tortoise for ancestor, totem, deity.

§ 174. Some strange facts, completely explicable on the hypothesis above set forth, may be added. I refer to the worship of beings represented as half man half brute.

If, in the genealogy of future Ashantee kings, tradition [I-349] preserves the statement that their ancestor was the venomous serpent “Bore”—if there goes down to posterity the fact that “Bore” was a ruler, a law-maker, an articulate speaking person—if legend says both that he was a snake and that he was a man; what is likely to happen? Implicitly believing his seniors, the savage will accept both these assertions. In some cases he will sit down contentedly under the contradiction; in others he will attempt a compromise. Especially if he makes a graphic or sculptured effigy, will he be led to unite the incongruous characters as best he can—will produce a figure partly human, partly reptilian. It may be reasonably anticipated that if Malagasy stories and songs tell of the conquering Radama as “a mighty bull,” as a king, as a god, development of the resulting cult, joined with development of the plastic arts, will end in a representation of the god Radama either as a man, or as a bull, or as a bull-headed man, or as a creature having a bovine body with a human head.

In another manner does misinterpretation of metaphors suggest this type of deity. Ancestors who survive in legends under their animal-names, and of whom the legends also say that they took to wife certain ancestors bearing either different animal-names or human names, will be supposed to have had offspring combining the attributes of both parents. A passage from Bancroft’s account of the Aleutians shows us the initial stage of such a belief.

“Some say that in the beginning a Bitch inhabited Unalaska, and that a great Dog swam across to her from Kadiak; from which pair the human race have sprung. Others, naming the bitch-mother of their race Mahakh, describe a certain Old Man, called Iraghdadakh, who came from the north to visit this Mahakh. The result of this visit was the birth of two creatures, male and female, with such an extraordinary mixing up of the elements of nature in them that they were each half man half fox.”

Now such a legend, or such a one as that of the Quichés concerning the descent of mankind from a cave-dwelling woman and a dog who could transform himself into a handsome [I-350] youth, or such a one as that of the Dikokamenni Kirghiz, who say they are descended “from a red greyhound and a certain queen with her forty handmaidens,” can hardly fail to initiate ideas of compound gods. Peoples who advance far enough to develop their rude effigies of ancestors placed on graves, into idols inclosed in temples, will, if they have traditions of this kind, be likely to represent the creators of their tribes as dog-headed men or human-faced dogs.

In these two allied ways, then, the hybrid deities of semi-civilized peoples are explicable. The Chaldeans and Babylonians had in common their god Nergal, the winged man-lion, and also Nin, the fish-god—a fish out of which grew near its head a human head, and near its tail human feet. The adjacent Philistines, too, had their kindred god Dagon, shown with the face and hands of a man and the tail of a fish. Then in Assyria there was the winged man-bull, representative of Nin; and in Phœnicia there was Astarte, sometimes represented as partially human and partially bovine. Egypt had a great variety of these compound supernatural beings. In addition to the god Ammon, figured as a man with a ram’s head, Horus, with the head of a hawk, the goddesses Muth and Hathor with that of a lion and that of a cow, Thoth with that of an ibis, Typhon with that of an ass, and brute-headed demons too numerous to mention; we have the various sphinxes, which to a lion’s body unite the heads of men, of rams, of hawks, of snakes, etc. We have also more involved compounds; as winged mammals with hawks’ heads, and winged crocodiles with hawks’ heads. Nay, there was one named Sak, which, says Wilkinson, “united a bird, a quadruped, and a vegetable production in its own person.” The explanation is evident. We have seen that to the late king of Ashantee both “Lion” and “Snake” were given as names of honour; and the multiplication of names of honour was carried to a great extent by the Egyptians.


§ 175. To abridge what remains of this exposition, I will merely indicate the additional groups of supporting facts.

The Egyptians, whose customs were so persistent and whose ancestor-worship was so elaborate, show us, just where we might expect them, all the results of this misinterpretation. They had clans whose sacred animals differed, and who regarded each other’s sacred animals with abhorrence: a fact pointing to an early stage when these animals gave the names to chiefs of antagonistic tribes. Animal-naming continued down to late periods in their history: after their kings had human proper names, they still had animal-names joined with these. The names of some of their sacred animals were identical with those given in honour. They embalmed animals as they embalmed men. They had animal-gods; they had many kinds of hybrid gods.

Where we find most dominant the practice of naming after animals, and where there result these legends of descent from animals and regard for them as divinities, we also find developed to the greatest extent, the legends about animal-agency in human affairs. As Bancroft says concerning the Indians of the Pacific States—“Beasts and birds and fishes fetch and carry, talk and act, in a way that leaves even Æsop’s heroes in the shade.” Numerous such facts answer to the hypothesis.

The hypothesis explains, also, the cases in which the order of genesis is inverted. “The Salish, the Nisquallies, and the Yakimas . . . all hold that beasts, fishes, and even edible roots are descended from human originals.” Clearly this is a conception which the misinterpretation of nicknames may originate. If “the Bear” was the founder of a tribe whose deeds were preserved in tradition, the alternative interpretations might be that he was the bear from whom men descended, or that he was the man from whom bears descended. Many of the metamorphoses of classic mythology probably thus originated, when the human antecedents, [I-352] either of parentage or adventures, were so distinct as to negative the opposite view.

Of course the doctrine of metempsychosis becomes comprehensible; and its developments no longer look so grotesque. Where a man who had several animal-names was spoken of in this legend as the eagle and in that as the wolf, there would result the idea that he was now one and now the other; and from this suggestion, unchecked credulity might not unnaturally elaborate the belief in successive transformations.

Stories of women who have borne animals, similarly fall into their places. The Land-Dyaks of Lundu consider it wrong to kill the cobra, because “one of their female ancestors was pregnant for seven years, and ultimately brought forth twins—one a human being, the other a cobra.” The Batavians “believe that women, when they are delivered of a child, are frequently at the same time delivered of a young crocodile as a twin.” May we not conclude that twins of whom one gained the nickname of the crocodile, gave rise to a legend which originated this monstrous belief?

If the use of animal-names preceded the use of human proper names—if, when there arose such proper names, these did not at first displace the animal-names but were joined with them—if, at a still later stage, animal-names fell into disuse and the conventional surnames became predominant; then it seems inferable that the brute-god arises first, that the god half-brute and half-human belongs to a later stage, and that the anthropomorphic god comes latest. Amid the entanglements due to the mixtures of mythologies, it is difficult to show this; but there seems reason for suspecting that it has been so among peoples who originally practised animal-naming extensively.

§ 176. We conclude, then, that in three ways is the primitive man led to identify the animal with the ancestor.

The other-self of the dead relative is supposed to come [I-353] back occasionally to his old abode; how else is it possible for the survivors, sleeping there, to see him in their dreams? Here are creatures which commonly, unlike wild creatures in general, come into houses—come in, too, secretly in the night. The implication is clear. That snakes, which especially do this, are the returned dead, is inferred by peoples in Africa, Asia, and America: the haunting of houses being the common trait of the kinds of snakes reverenced or worshipped; and also the trait of certain lizards, insects, and birds similarly regarded.

The ghost, sometimes re-visiting the house, is thought also to linger in the neighbourhood of the corpse. Creatures found in caves used for burials, hence come to be taken for the new shapes assumed by departed souls. Bats and owls are conceived to be winged spirits; and from them arise the ideas of devils and angels.

Lastly, and chiefly, comes that identification of the animal with the ancestor, which is caused by interpreting metaphorical names literally. Primitive speech is unable to transmit to posterity the distinction between an animal and a person named after that animal. Hence the confusion of the two; hence the regard for the animal as progenitor; hence the growth of a worship. Besides explaining animal-gods, this hypothesis accounts for sundry anomalous beliefs—the divinities half-brute, half-human; the animals that talk, and play active parts in human affairs; the doctrine of metempsychosis, etc.

By modification upon modification, leading to complications and divergences without limit, evolution brings into being products extremely unlike their germs; and we here have an instance in this derivation of animal-worship from the propitiation of ghosts.

Note.—Some have concluded that animal-worship originates from totemism: a totem being an animal, plant, or inorganic object, chosen as a distinctive symbol by a tribe or by a man. Among some peoples, individuals, led by signs, fix on particular animals as guardians; and thereafter treat them [I-354] as sacred. It is assumed that tribal totems have originated in similar acts of deliberate choice; and that in each case the belief in descent from the animal, plant, or other object chosen, originates subsequently.

This hypothesis inverts the facts: belief in descent is primary and totemism is secondary. Doubtless there are cases, in which individual savages fix on special objects as their totems; but this no more proves that totemism thus arose, than does the fixing on a coat of arms by a wealthy trader prove that heraldic distinctions were at the outset established by deliberate selections.

The totem-theory incidentally propounds a problem more difficult than that which it professes to solve. It raises the question—Why did there occur so purely gratuitous an act as that of fixing on a symbol for the tribe? That by one tribe out of multitudes so strange a whim might be displayed, is credible. But that by tribes unallied in type and scattered throughout the world, there should have been independently adopted so odd a practice is incredible.

Not only is the hypothesis untenable as implying a result without a comprehensible cause, but it is untenable as being at variance with the nature of the primitive mind. The savage invents nothing, initiates nothing. He simply does and believes whatever his seniors taught him; and he deviates into anything new unintentionally. An hypothesis which assumes the contrary is out of court.






§ 177. Whether produced by fasting, fever, hysteria, or insanity, any extreme excitement is, by savage and semi-civilized peoples, ascribed to a possessing spirit: this we saw in §§ 123—31. Similar is the interpretation of an unusual mental state caused by a nervous stimulant. It is thought that a supernatural being, contained in the solid or liquid swallowed, produces it.

Speaking of opium-eaters, Vámbéry says—“What surprised me most was that these wretched people were regarded as eminently religious, of whom it was thought that from their love to God and the Prophet they had become mad, and stupefied themselves in order that in their excited state they might be nearer the Beings they loved so well.” So, too, the Mandingoes intoxicate themselves to enter into relation with the godhead: the accompanying belief being that the exaltation experienced is a divine inspiration. This was the view definitely expressed by the Arafura (Papuan Islander) who, when told about the Christian God, said—“Then this God is certainly in your arrack, for I never feel happier than when I have drunk plenty of it.”

May we not hence expect certain derivative beliefs respecting plants which yield intoxicating liquors? Obviously; and our search for them will not be fruitless.

§ 178. As a typical case may be taken the worship of the Soma. This plant, represented as growing in certain [I-356] mountains, as gathered by moonlight, and as drawn with ceremonies to the place of sacrifice, was crushed between stones, and its juice expressed and filtered. When fermented, the juice (in some places described as sweet) produced an intoxicating liquor which was drunk by the devotees, who, judging from the words, “a rishi, a drinker of the Soma,” were of the priestly class. The exhilarating effects of the beverage were attributed to inspiration by a supernatural being, who was therefore lauded and adored. In his essay on the subject, partly translated by Dr. Muir, Windischmann describes the Soma as “the holiest offering of the ancient Indian worship” (ii, 471); or, as Muir says, “the rishis had come to regard Soma as a god, and apparently to be passionately devoted to his worship.” Here, from the Sanscrit Texts of the latter writer, are passages showing the genesis of the belief. First may be placed some implying the exaltation caused by the fermented Soma-juice.

Rig Veda vi, 47, 3. “This [soma] when drunk, stimulates my speech [or hymn]; this called forth the ardent thought”

(iii, 264).

R. V. ix, 25, 5. “The ruddy Soma, generating hymns, with the powers of a poet”

(iii, 265).

R. V. viii, 48, 3. “We have drunk the soma, we have become immortal, we have entered into light, we have known the gods”

(iii, 265).

Not only the rishis are inspired by Soma, but also their deities. “The gods drink the offered beverage,” and are “thrown into a joyous intoxication.” Indra “performs his great deeds under its influence.” It is said—“We summon his soul [that of Varuna] with Soma.” Elsewhere the contained supernatural being is addressed personally.

R. V. ix, 110, 7. “The former [priests] having strewed the sacred grass, offered up a hymn to thee, O Soma, for great strength and food”

(iii, 223).

R. V. ix, 96, 11. “For through thee, O pure Soma, our wise forefathers of old performed their sacred rights”

(iii, 222).

R. V. ix, 96, 18. “Soma, rishi-minded, rishi-maker, bestower of good, master of a thousand songs, the leader of sages”

(iii, 251).


How literal was the belief that by a draught of soma the drinker became possessed, is proved by the prayer—“Soma . . . do thou enter into us, full of kindness.” And then, showing how the resulting mental power was regarded as a divine afflatus, we have the passage in R. V. ix, 97, 7—“Uttering, like Uśanas, the wisdom of a sage, the god (Soma) declares the births of the gods.” Other passages, along with this deification of the Soma, join the belief that he is present in the beverage partaken of alike by the other gods and by men. Instance, in R. V. ix, 42, 2, the words—“This god, poured forth to the gods, with an ancient hymn, purifies with his stream.” Further, there are implied identifications of this supernatural being with a once-living person. One of the less specific in R. V. ix, 107, 7, runs—“A rishi, a sage, intelligent, thou (Soma) wast a poet, most agreeable to the gods.” In other places his identity is more specifically stated. Thus, in the Taittirīya Brāhmana, ii, 3, 10, 1, it is said—“Prajāpati created king Soma. After him the three Vedas were created.” And still more specific are the legends which describe king Soma as having wives, and narrate his disagreements with some of them. Much more exalted, however, is the character elsewhere given to him. “He is immortal, and confers immortality on gods and men;” “the creator and father of the gods;” “king of gods and men.” Yet along with this ascription of supreme divinity goes the belief that he is present in the Soma-juice. Here is a passage combining all the attributes:—

R. V. ix, 96, 5 and 6. “Soma is purified; he who is the generator of hymns, of Dyaus, of Prithivī, of Agni, of Sūrya, of Indra, and of Vishnu. Soma, who is a brăhmăn-priest among the gods (or priests), a leader among the poets, a rishi among sages, a buffalo among wild beasts, a falcon among vultures, an axe amid the forests, advances to the filter with a sound”

(iii, 266).

The origin of these conceptions dates back to a time when the Aryan races had not widely diverged; for like conceptions occur in the Zend-Avesta. Though instead of Soma, [I-358] the name there used is Haoma, there is so general an agreement as to show identity of the plant and of the worship. Windischmann says the Haoma is “not a plant only, but also a powerful deity;” and also that “in both works (Zend-Avesta and Rig Veda) the conceptions of the god and the sacred juice blend wonderfully with each other.”

That certain plants yielding intoxicating agents are therefore supposed to contain supernatural beings, is a conclusion supported by other instances—that of the vine being one. Speaking of Soma as “the Indian Dionysus,” Dr. Muir quotes from the Bacchæ of Euripides certain passages showing analogous conceptions. Of Dionysus it is said:—

“He discovered and introduced among men the liquid draught of the grape, which puts an end to the sorrows of wretched mortals”

(v, 260).

“He, born a god, is poured out in libations to gods”

(v, 260).

“And this deity is a prophet. For Bacchic excitement and raving have in them much prophetic power. For when this god enters in force into the body, he causes those who rave to foretell the future”

(iii, 265).

That the facts are to be thus interpreted is shown by certain allied but less developed beliefs found elsewhere. In Peru, tobacco “has been called the sacred herb”—a nervous stimulant was regarded with reverence. Similarly with another plant which has an invigorating effect, coca. “The Peruvians still look upon it [coca] with feelings of superstitious veneration. In the time of the Incas it was sacrificed to the Sun, the Huillac Umu, or high priest, chewing the leaf during the ceremony.” Among the Chibchas, too, hayo (coca) was used as an inspiring agent by the priests; and certain people chewed and smoked tobacco to produce the power of divination. In North Mexico, a kindred notion is implied by the fact that some of the natives “have a great veneration for the hidden virtues of poisonous plants, and believe that if they crush or destroy one, some harm will happen to them.” And at the present time in the Philippine Islands, the Ignatius bean, which contains strychnia and is [I-359] used as a medicine, is worn as an amulet and held capable of miracles. [*]

§ 179. The attribution to a plant of a human personality, and the consequent tendency towards worship of the plant, has other origins. Here is one of them.

In § 148, after giving some extracts from the cosmogony of the Amazulu, including the statement that Unkulunkulu, their creator, descended from a reed, or a bed of reeds, I cited the interpretation of Bp. Callaway: remarking that we should hereafter find a more natural one. This more natural one is not derivable from traditions furnished by the Amazulu alone; but comparison of their traditions with those of neighbouring races discloses it.


Already it has been shown that in South Africa, as in other parts of the world, stories obviously descending from ancestral troglodytes, refer to caves as places of creation. Instances before given may be supported by others. Respecting the Bechuanas, Moffat says—

“Morimo [the native name for a god] as well as man, with all the different species of animals, came out of a hole or cave in the Bakone country, to the north, where, say they, their footmarks are still to be seen in the indurated rock, which was at that time sand.”

Again, the beliefs of the Basutos are thus given by Casalis:—

“A legend says that both men and animals came out of the bowels of the earth by an immense hole, the opening of which was in a cavern, and that the animals appeared first. Another tradition, more generally received among the Basutos, is, that man sprang up in a marshy place, where reeds were growing.”

And now observe the unexpected way in which these two traditions of the Basutos are reconciled with one another, as well as with the traditions of the Bechuanas and the Amazulu. Here is a passage from Arbousset and Daumas:—

“This spot is very celebrated amongst the Basutos and the Lighoyas, not only because the litakus of the tribes are there, but because of a certain mythos, in which they are told that their ancestors came originally from that place. There is there a cavern surrounded with marsh reeds and mud, whence they believe that they have all proceeded.”

So that these several statements refer to the same place—the place where Unkulunkulu “broke off in the beginning”—where he “broke off the nations from Uthlanga” [a reed]—where the tribes separated (the word used means literally to separate). And while in some traditions the cave became dominant, in others the surrounding bed of reeds was alone recollected. Men came out of the reeds—men descended from reeds—men descended from a reed; became one form of the legend.

Among the Amazulu there seems no resulting worship of the reed; and as, worshipping their near ancestors, they [I-361] do not worship their remotest ancestor Unkulunkulu, it is consistent that they should not worship the plant whence he is said to have proceeded. Another South African race, however, worship a plant similarly regarded as an original ancestor. Of the Damaras, Galton tells us “a tree is supposed to be the universal progenitor, two of which divide the honour” (Andersson says there are several). Elsewhere he adds—“We passed a magnificent tree. It was the parent of all the Damaras. . . . The savages danced round and round it in great delight.” In another place he thus gives the Damara creed:—“In the beginning of things there was a tree, . . . and out of this tree came Damaras, Bushmen, oxen, and zebras. . . . The tree gave birth to everything else that lives.” Unconnected with anything further, this appears to be an unaccountable belief. But a clue to the origin of it is yielded by the following note in Andersson’s Ngami. “In my journey to the Lake Ngami, . . . I observed whole forests of a species of tree called Omumborombonga, the supposed progenitor of the Damaras.” If, now, we make the reasonable supposition that these tribes descended from a people who lived in forests of such trees (and low types, as Veddahs, Juangs, and wild tribes in the interior of Borneo, are forest-twellers), we may infer that a confusion like that between a reed and a bed of reeds, originated this notion of descent from a tree.

The inference drawn from these two allied cases might be questionable were it unsupported; but it is supported by the inference from a much stronger case. Bastian tells us that the Congoese proper, according to their traditions, have sprung from trees; and we are also told that “the forest from which the reigning family of Congo originated, was afterwards an object of veneration to the natives.” Here, then, emergence from a forest is obviously confounded with descent from trees; and there is a consequent quasi-worship both of the forest and of its component tree: individual [I-362] trees of the species being planted in their marketplaces.

On recalling the before-named fact, that even Sanscrit indiscriminately applies to the same process the words making and begetting; we shall not doubt that an inferior language will fail to maintain in tradition the distinction between emerging from a forest of trees of a certain kind and emerging from a certain kind of tree. Doubt, if any remains, will disappear when we come to sundry analogous cases of confusion between a locality whence the race came, and a conspicuous object in that locality, which so becomes the supposed parent of the race.

§ 180. Before passing to the third origin of plant-worship, which, like the third origin of animal-worship, is linguistic, I must remind the reader of the defects of language conducing to it, and exemplify some others.

According to Palgrave, “the colours green, black, and brown are habitually confounded in common Arabic parlance.” Hunter says “Santali, being barren of abstract terms, has no word for ‘time.’ ” The Kamschadales have “but one term for the sun and the moon,” and have “scarcely any names for fish or birds, which are merely distinguished by the moon in which they are the most plentiful.” Such instances strengthen the conclusion that undeveloped speech cannot express the distinction between an object and a person named after it.

But here let us observe that this inference need not be left in the form of an implication: it may be directly drawn. In early stages of linguistic progress there can exist no such word as name; still less a word for the act of naming. Even the ancient Egyptian language had not risen to the power of expressing any difference between “My name” and “I name or call.” Understood in the abstract, the word name is a symbol of symbols. Before a word can be conceived as a name, it must be thought of not simply as a sound associated [I-363] with a certain object, but it must be thought of as having the ability to remind other persons of that object; and then this general property of names must be abstracted in thought from many examples, before the conception of a name can arise. If now we remember that in the languages of inferior races the advances in generalization and abstraction are so slight that, while there are words for particular kinds of trees, there is no word for tree, and that, as among the Damaras, while each reach of a river has its special title, there is none for the river as a whole, much less a word for river; or if, still better, we consider the fact that the Cherokees have thirteen verbs to express washing different parts of the body and different things, but no word for washing, dissociated from the part or thing washed; we shall see that social life must have passed through sundry stages, with their accompanying steps in linguistic progress, before the conception of a name became possible.

Inductive justification is not wanting. Unfortunately, in most vocabularies of the uncivilized, travellers have given us only such equivalents for our words as they contain: taking no note of the words we possess for which they have no equivalents. There is not this defect, however, in the vocabularies compiled by Mr. F. A. de Röepstorff. From these it appears that the tribes in Great Nicobar, in Little Nicobar, in Teressa, and in the Andaman Islands, have no words corresponding to our word name.

The inference, then, is inevitable. If there is no word for name, it is impossible for the narrators of legends to express the distinction between a person and the object he was named after. The results of the confusion we have now to observe in its relations to plant-worship.

§ 181. By the Tasmanians, “the names of men and women were taken from natural objects and occurrences around, as, for instance, a kangaroo, a gum-tree, snow, hail, thunder, the wind.” Among the Hill-tribes of India the [I-364] like occurs: “Cotton” and “White Cotton” are names of persons among the Karens. Similarly in North America. Among Catlin’s portraits occur those of “The Hard Hickory” a Séneca warrior, Pshán-sháw (“the Sweet-scented grass”) a Riccarrée girl, Shée-de-a (“Wild Sage”) a Pawneepićt girl, Mongshóng-shaw (“the Bending Willow”) a Púncah woman. And in South America it is the same. The Arawaks have individuals known as “Tobacco,” “Tobacco-leaf,” “Tobacco-flower;” and by the ancient Peruvians one of the Yncas was called “Sayri,” a tobacco-plant.

On joining with these facts the fact that by the Pueblos, one of the several tribes into which they are divided is called the “Tobacco-plant race,” we cannot fail to recognize an effect of this naming after plants. Associated as this clan of Pueblos is with other clans named after the bear, the prairie-wolf, the rattle-snake, the hare, which have severally descended from men called after, and eventually identified with, these animals, the “Tobacco-plant race” has doubtless descended from one who was called after, and eventually identified with, the tobacco-plant. In like manner the “Reed-grass race,” of these same people, may be concluded to have had a kindred derivation; as also, among the tribes of the river Isánna, the “Mandiocca” race.

Now if an animal regarded as original progenitor, is therefore reverentially treated; so, too, may we expect a plant-ancestor will be: not, perhaps, so conspicuously, since the powers of plants to affect the fates of human beings are less conspicuous. But the idea of the sacredness of certain plants is likely thus to originate, and to generate quasi-religious observances.

A converse misinterpretation must here be noted. Already we have seen (§ 175) that by the Salish, the Nisquallies, the Yakimas, not only birds and beasts, but also edible roots are supposed to have had human ancestors; and the way in which misconstruction of names might lead to this supposition was indicated. But there exists a habit more [I-365] specially conducing to beliefs of this class. With various peoples it is customary for the parent to take a name from the child, and to be known after its birth as father or mother of So-and-so: an instance was given in § 171, and the Malays and Dyaks furnish others. Now if the child has either an animal-name or a plant-name, the literal rendering in tradition of the statement that a certain man was “the father of the turtle,” or a certain woman “the mother of maize,” would lead to the belief that this animal or this plant had a human progenitor. In some cases a figurative use of these names of parenthood, leads in a still stranger way to the same error, and to many kindred errors. An individual is regarded as the producer, or generator, of some attribute by which he or she is distinguished; and is hence called the parent of that attribute. For example, Mason tells us of the Karens—

“When the child grows up, and develops any particular trait of character, the friends give it another name, with ‘father’ or ‘mother’ attached to it. Thus, a boy is very quick to work, and he is named ‘Father of swiftness.’ If he is a good shot with a bow and arrow, he is called ‘Father of shooting.’ When a girl is clever to contrive, she is named ‘Mother of contrivance.’ If she be ready to talk, she becomes ‘Mother of talk.’ Sometimes the name is given from the personal appearance. Thus a very white girl is called ‘Mother of white cotton;’ and another of an elegant form is named ‘Mother of the pheasant.’ ”

The Arabs have a like habit. Here then we have kinds of names which, misunderstood in after times, may initiate beliefs in the human ancestry not only of plants and animals, but of other things.

§ 182. An indirect proof that the attribution of spirits to plants, and the resulting plant-worship, have arisen in one or other of the ways shown, must be added.

Did plant-worship arise from an alleged primeval fetichism—were it one of the animistic interpretations said to result from the tendency of undeveloped minds to ascribe [I-366] duality to all objects; there would be no explanation of the conceived shape of the plant-spirit. The savage thinks of the other-self of a man, woman, or child, as like the man, woman, or child, in figure. If, then, the conception of plant-spirits were, as alleged, sequent upon an original animism, preceding and not succeeding the ghost-theory, plant-spirits ought to be conceived as plant-shaped; and they ought to be conceived as having other attributes like those of plants. Nothing of the kind is found. They are not supposed to have any plant-characters; and they are supposed to have many characters unlike those of plants. Observe the facts.

In the East there are stories of speaking trees: to the indwelling doubles is attributed a faculty which the trees themselves have not. The Congo-people place calabashes of palm-wine at the feet of their sacred trees, lest they should be thirsty: they ascribe to them a liking not shown by trees, but treat them as they do their dead. In like manner the statement quoted by Sir J. Lubbock from Oldfield, who, at Addacoodah, saw fowls and many other things suspended as offerings to a gigantic tree; the statement of Mr. Tylor, who, to an ancient cypress in Mexico, found attached by the Indians, teeth and locks of hair in great numbers; the statement of Hunter that once a year, at Beerbhoom, the Santals “make simple offerings to a ghost who dwells in a Bela-tree;” unite to show that not the tree, but the resident being, is propitiated; and that this has characters utterly unlike those of a tree, and completely like those of a human being. Further, in some Egyptian wall-paintings, female forms are represented as emerging from trees and dispensing blessings.

Still more conclusive is the direct evidence. The Sarawak people believe men are sometimes metamorphosed into trees; and Low further says that the Land-Dyaks venerate certain plants, building small bamboo altars near them, to which is placed a ladder to facilitate the ascent of the spirits to the offerings, consisting of food, water, etc., placed on [I-367] the altar on festive occasions. Equally specific is the conception of the Iroquois. By them the spirit of corn, the spirit of beans, the spirit of squashes, “are supposed to have the forms of beautiful females:” recalling the dryads of classic mythology, who, similarly conceived as human-shaped female spirits, were sacrificed to in the same ways that human spirits in general were sacrificed to. And then, lastly, we have the fact that by the Santals these spirits or ghosts are individualized. At their festivals the separate families “dance around the particular trees which they fancy their domestic lares chiefly haunt.”

Harmonizing with the foregoing interpretations, these facts are incongruous with the animistic interpretation.

§ 183. Plant-worship, then, like the worship of idols and animals, is an aberrant species of ancestor-worship—a species somewhat more disguised externally, but having the same internal nature. Though it develops in three different directions, there is but one origin.

The toxic excitements produced by certain plants, or by extracts from them, or by their fermented juices, are classed with other excitements, as caused by spirits or demons. Where the stimulation is agreeable, the possessing spirit, taken in with the drug, is regarded as a beneficent being—a being sometimes identified with a human original and gradually exalted into a divinity who is lauded and prayed to.

Tribes that have come out of places characterized by particular trees or plants, unawares change the legend of emergence from them into the legend of descent from them: words fitted to convey the distinction not being contained in their vocabularies. Hence the belief that such trees are their ancestors; and hence the regard for them as sacred.

Further, the naming of individuals after plants becomes a cause of confusion. Identification of the two in tradition can be prevented only by the use of verbal qualifications that are impossible in rude languages; and from the unchecked [I-368] identification there arise ideas and sentiments respecting the plant-ancestor, allied to those excited by the animal-ancestor or the ancestor figured as human.

Thus the ghost-theory, supplying us with a key to other groups of superstitions, supplies us with a key to the superstitions constituting this group—superstitions otherwise implying gratuitous absurdities which we may not legitimately ascribe even to primitive men.






§ 184. Under this title which, literally interpreted, covers the subject-matters of the last two chapters, but which, as conventionally used, has a narrower meaning, it remains to deal with superstitious beliefs concerning the more conspicuous inorganic objects and powers.

If not prepossessed by other theories, the reader will anticipate parallelism between the genesis of these beliefs and the genesis of those already dealt with. That their derivation is wholly unlike all derivations thus far traced, will seem improbable. He will, indeed, see that some of the reasons for identifying the adored object with a departed human being, no longer apply. Sun and Moon do not come into the old home or haunt the burial-cave, as certain animals do; and therefore cannot for this reason be regarded as spirits of the dead. Seas and mountains have not, in common with certain plants, the trait that parts of them when swallowed produce nervous exaltation; and ascription of divine natures to them cannot thus be accounted for. But there remain, as common causes, the misinterpretation of traditions and the misinterpretation of names. Before dealing with these linguistic sources of Nature-worship, let me point out a further imperfection in undeveloped speech which co-operates with the other imperfections.

In the Personal Recollections of Mrs. Somerville, she says that her little brother, on seeing the great meteor of [I-370] 1783, exclaimed, “O, Mamma, there’s the moon rinnin’ awa.” This description of an inorganic motion by a word rightly applied only to an organic motion, illustrates a peculiarity of the speech used by children and savages. A child’s vocabulary consists mainly of words referring to those living beings which chiefly affect it; and its statements respecting non-living things and motions, show a lack of words free from implications of vitality. The statements of uncivilized men are similarly characterized. The inland negroes who accompanied Livingstone to the west coast, and on their return narrated their adventures, described their arrival at the sea by the words—“The world said to us ‘I am finished; there is no more of me.’ ” Like in form and like in implication were the answers given to a correspondent who was in Ashantee during the late war.

“I exclaimed, ‘We ought to be at Beulah by now, surely. But what’s that?’ The answer came from our guide. ‘That, sar, plenty of water live, bimeby we walkee cross him.’ ‘Where’s Beulah, then?’ ‘Oh, Beulah live other side him big hill.’ ”

So, too, is it with the remark which a Bechuana chief made to Casalis—“One event is always the son of another, . . . and we must never forget the genealogy.” The general truth that the poorer a language the more metaphorical it is, and the derivative truth that being first developed to express human affairs, it carries with it certain human implications when extended to the world around, is well shown by the fact that even still our word “to be” is traced back to a word meaning “to breathe.” Manifestly this defect in early speech conspires with the defects we have already observed, in favouring personalization. If anything raises the suspicion that an inorganic mass was once a human being, or is inhabited by the ghost of one, the necessity of using words implying life, fosters the suspicion. Taken alone, this defect has probably little influence. Though a fetichistic system logically elaborated, may lead to the conclusion that boiling water is alive; yet I see no [I-371] evidence that the child who remarks of the boiling water that “it says bubble, bubble,” is led by the use of the word “says” to believe the water a living being; nor is there any indication that the negro who represented the Earth as saying “I am finished,” therefore conceived the Earth as a speaking creature. All we can safely say is that, given personalizations otherwise caused, and the use of these life-implying words will confirm them. In the case of Nature-worship, as in the cases of Animal-worship and Plant-worship, the misleading beliefs due to language, take their rise from positive statements accepted on authority, and unavoidably misinterpreted.

Yet another cause of misinterpretation is the extremely variable use of words in undeveloped speech, and consequent wide differences of interpretation given to them. Here is a passage from Krapf which well exemplifies this:—

“To the question, what precise meaning the Wanika attach to the word Mulungu? one said that Mulungu was thunder; some thought it meant heaven, the visible sky; some, again, were of opinion that Mulungu was the being who caused diseases; whilst others, however, still held fast to a feeble notion of a Supreme Being as expressed by that word. Some, too, believe that every man becomes a Mulungu after death.”

Now when we are also told that Mulungu is the name applied by the East Africans to their king—when we find that the same word is employed to mean thunder, the sky, the chief man, an ordinary ghost, it becomes manifest that personalization of the great natural objects and powers, is not only easy but almost inevitable.

In thus foreshadowing the conclusion that the worship of conspicuous objects and powers around, conceived as persons, results from linguistic errors, I appear to be indicating agreement with the mythologists. But though misconstruction of words is on both hypotheses the alleged cause, the misconstruction is different in kind and the erroneous course of thought opposite in direction. The mythologists hold that the powers of nature, at first conceived and worshipped [I-372] as impersonal, come to be personalized because of certain characters in the words applied to them; and that the legends concerning the persons identified with these natural powers arise afterwards. Contrariwise, the view here held is that the human personality is the primary element; that the identification of this with some natural power or object is due to identity of name; and that the worship of this natural power thus arises secondarily.

That the contrast between these two modes of interpretation may be clearly understood, let us take an illustration.

§ 185. All winter the beautiful Sunshine, pursued by the dark Storm, was ever hiding herself—now behind the clouds, now below the mountains. She could not steal forth from her concealment for more than a short time without being again chased with swift footsteps and loud thundering noise; and had quickly to retreat. After many moons, however, the Storm, chasing less furiously and seeing her more clearly, became gentler; and Sunshine, gaining courage, from time to time remained longer visible. Storm failing to capture by pursuit, and softened by her charms, made milder advances. Finally came their union. Then the Earth rejoiced in the moist warmth; and from them were born plants which covered its surface and made it gay with flowers. But every autumn Storm begins to frown and growl; Sunshine flies from him; and the pursuit begins again.

Supposing the Tasmanians had been found by us in a semi-civilized state with a mythology containing some such legend as this, the unhesitating interpretation put upon it, after the method now accepted, would be that the observed effects of mingled sunshine and storm were thus figuratively expressed; and that the ultimate representation of Sunshine and Storm as persons who once lived on the Earth, was due to the natural mythopœic tendency, which took its direction from the genders of the words.


Contrariwise, how would such a supposed Tasmanian legend be explained in pursuance of the hypothesis here set forth? As already shown, birth-names among uncivilized races, taken from the incidents of the moment, often refer to the time of day and the weather. Catlin gives us portraits of Ojibbeway Indians named “The Driving Cloud,” “The Moonlight Night,” “The Hail Storm.” Among names which Mason enumerates as given by the Karens, are “Evening,” “Moon-rising,” etc. Hence there is nothing anomalous in the fact that “Ploo-ra-na-loo-na,” meaning Sunshine, is the name of a Tasmanian woman; nor is there anything anomalous in the fact that among the Tasmanians “Hail,” “Thunder,” and “Wind” occur as names, as they do among the American Indians as shown by Catlin’s portraits of “The Roaring Thunder,” “The Red Thunder,” “The Strong Wind,” “The Walking Rain.” The inference here drawn, therefore, harmonizing with all preceding inferences, is that the initial step in the genesis of such a myth, would be the naming of human beings Storm and Sunshine; that from the confusion inevitably arising in tradition between them and the natural agents having the same names, would result this personalizing of these natural agents, and the ascription to them of human origins and human adventures: the legend, once having thus germinated, being, in successive generations, elaborated and moulded into fitness with the phenomena.

Let us now consider more closely which of these two hypotheses is most congruous with the laws of mind, and with the facts as various races present them.

§ 186. Human intelligence, civilized and savage, in common with intelligence at large, proceeds by the classing of objects, attributes, acts, each with its kind. The very nature of intelligence, then, forbids the assumption that primitive men will gratuitously class unlike things as akin to one another. In proportion as the unlikeness is great [I-374] must there be great resistance to putting them in the same group. And if things wholly unallied are bracketed as of the same nature, some strong mental bias must furnish the needful coercive force.

What likeness can we find between a man and a mountain? Save that they both consist of matter, scarcely any. The one is vast, the other relatively minute; the one is of no definite shape, the other symmetrical; the one is fixed, the other locomotive; the one is cold, the other warm; the one is of dense substance, the other quite soft; the one has little internal structure and that irregular, the other is elaborately structured internally in a definite way. Hence the classing of them in thought as akin, is repugnant to the laws of thought; and nothing but unlimited faith can cause a belief in their alleged relationship as progenitor and progeny. There are, however, misinterpreted statements which lead to this belief.

Read first the following passages from Bancroft:—

“Ikánam, the creator of the universe, is a powerful deity among the Chinooks, who have a mountain named after him from a belief that he there turned himself into stone.”

“The Californian tribes believe . . . the Navajos came to light from the bowels of a great mountain near the river San Juan.”

“The citizens of Mexico and those of Tlatelolco were wont to visit a hill called Cacatepec, for they said it was their mother.”

Of the Mexicans Prescott writes:—“A puerile superstition of the Indians regarded these celebrated mountains as gods, and Iztaccihuatl as the wife of her more formidable neighbour,” Popocatepetl. Of the Peruvians, who worshipped the snow-mountains, we read that at Potosi “there is a smaller hill, very similar to the former one, and the Indians say that it is its son, and call it . . . the younger Potosi.” Now observe the clue to these beliefs furnished by Molina. He says the principal huaca of the Yncas was that of the hill, Huanacauri, whence their ancestors were said to have commenced their journey. It is described as “a great figure [I-375] of a man.” “This huaca was of Ayar-cachi, one of the four brothers who were said to have come out of the cave at Tampu.” And a prayer addressed to it was:—“O Huanacauri! our father, may . . . thy son, the Ynca, always retain his youth, and grant that he may prosper in all he undertakes. And to us, thy sons,” etc.

One way in which a mountain comes to be worshipped as ancestor, is here made manifest. It is the place whence the race came, the source of the race, the parent of the race: the distinctions implied by the different words here used being, in rude languages, inexpressible. Either the early progenitors of a tribe were dwellers in caves on the mountain; or the mountain, marking conspicuously the elevated region they migrated from, is identified as the object whence they sprang. We find this connexion of ideas elsewhere. Various peoples of India who have spread from the Himalayas to the lower lands, point to the snowy peaks as the other world to which their dead return. Among some, the traditional migration has become a genesis, and has originated a worship. Thus the Santals regard the eastern Himalayas as their natal region; and Hunter tells us that “the national god of the Santals is Màrang Buru, the great mountain,” who is “the divinity who watched over their birth,” and who “is invoked with bloody offerings.”

When we remember that even now among ourselves, a Scotch laird, called by the name of his place, is verbally identified with it, and might in times when language was vague have readily become confounded in legend with the high stronghold in which he lived; when we remember, too, that even now, in our developed language, the word “descend” means either coming down from a higher level or coming down from an ancestor, and depends for its interpretation on the context; we cannot, in presence of the above facts, doubt that mountain-worship in some cases arises from mistaking the traditional source of the race for the traditional parentage of the race. This interpretation [I-376] strengthens, and is strengthened by, a kindred interpretation of tree-worship given in the last chapter.

There is another possible linguistic cause for conceptions of this kind. “Mountain” and “Great Mountain” are used by primitive men as names of honour: the king of Pango-Pango (Samoa) is thus addressed. Elsewhere I have suggested that a personal name arising in this way, may have initiated the belief of the New Zealand chief, who claimed the neighbouring volcano, Tongariro, as his ancestor: such ancestor possibly having acquired this metaphorical name as expressive of his fiery nature. One further fact may be added in support of the belief that in some cases mountain-worship thus arises as an aberrant form of ancestor-worship. Writing of the Araucanians, and stating that “there is scarcely a material object which does not furnish them with a discriminative name” of a family, Thompson specifies “Mountains” as among their family names.

§ 187. Save in respect of its motion, which, however, is of utterly different character, the Sea has even less in common with a man than a mountain has: in form, in liquidity, in structurelessness, it is still more unlike a person. Yet the Sea has been personalized and worshipped, alike in the ancient East and in the West. Arriaga says of the Peruvians that “all who descend from the Sierra to the plains worship the sea when they approach it, and pull out the hair of their eyebrows, and offer it up, and pray not to get sick.” Whence this superstition?

We have inferred that confusing the derivation from a place with the derivation of parenthood, has led to the worship both of mountains and of the trees composing a forest once dwelt in. Ocean-worship seems to have had, in some cases, a parellel genesis. Though when we call sailors “seamen,” our organized knowledge and developed language save us from the error which literal interpretation might cause; yet a primitive people on whose shores there arrived [I-377] unknown men from an unknown source, and who spoke of them as “men of the sea,” would be very apt thus to originate a tradition describing them as coming out of the sea or being produced by it. The change from “men of the sea” to “children of the sea” is an easy one—one paralleled by figures of speech among ourselves; and from the name “children of the sea” legend would naturally evolve a conception of the sea as generator or parent. Trustworthy evidence in support of this conclusion, I cannot furnish. Though concerning Peruvians, the Italian Benzoni says—“They think that we are a congelation of the sea, and have been nourished by the froth;” yet this statement, reminding us of the Greek myth of Aphrodite, is attributed to a verbal misconstruction of his. Still it may be held that by a savage or semi-civilized people, who are without even the idea of lands beyond the ocean-horizon, there can hardly be formed any other conception of marine invaders, who have no apparent origin but the ocean itself.

That belief in descent from the Sea as a progenitor sometimes arises through misinterpretation of individual names, is likely. Indirect evidence is yielded by the fact that a native religious reformer who appeared among the Iroquois about 1800 was called “Handsome Lake;” and if “lake” may become a proper name, it seems not improbable that “ocean” may do so. There is direct evidence too; namely the statement of Garcilasso, already quoted in another connexion (§ 164), that the Sea was claimed by some clans of Peruvians as their ancestor.

§ 188. If asked to instance a familiar appearance still less human in its attributes than a mountain or the sea, we might, after reflection, hit on the one to be next dealt with, the Dawn, as perhaps the most remote imaginable: having not even tangibility, nor definite shape, nor duration. Was the primitive man, then, led by linguistic needs to personalize the Dawn? And, having personalized it, did he invent [I-378] a biography for it? Affirmative answers are currently given; but with very little warrant.

Treating of the dawn-myth, Prof. Max Müller, in his Lectures on the Science of Language, takes first Saramâ as one embodiment of the dawn. He quotes with qualified assent Prof. Kuhn’s “conclusion that Saramâ meant storm.” He does not doubt that “the root of Saramâ is sar, to go.” He says:—“Admitting that Saramâ meant originally the runner, how does it follow that the runner was meant for storm?” Recognizing the fact that an allied word meant wind and cloud, he alleges that this is habitually masculine in Sanscrit; but admits that if the Veda gave Saramâ the “qualities of the wind” this incongruity “would be no insurmountable objection.” He then gives Saramâ’s adventures in search of the cows; and says it yields no evidence that Samarâ is “representative of the storm.” After saying that in a fuller version of the story, Saramâ is described as “the dog of the gods” sent by Indra “to look for the cows”—after giving from another source the statements that Saramâ, refusing to share the cows with them, asks the robbers for a drink of milk, returns and tells a lie to Indra, is kicked by him, and vomits the milk, Prof. Max Müller gives his own interpretation. He says:—

“This being nearly the whole evidence on which we must form our opinion of the original conception of Saramâ, there can be little doubt that she was meant for the early dawn, and not for the storm.”

Here, then, we have a sample of myth-rendering. It is agreed that the root is sar, to go; from which one distinguished philologist infers that Saramâ meant the runner and therefore the storm (allied words meaning wind and cloud); while another distinguished philologist thinks this inference erroneous. Saramâ in the legend is a woman; and in some versions a dog. It is, however, concluded that she is the dawn, because an epithet applied to her means quick; and because another epithet means fortunate; and because she appears before Indra; and because of sundry metaphors [I-379] which, if cows stand for clouds, may be applied figuratively to mean the dawn. On the strength of these vague agreements Prof. Max Müller thinks—

“The myth of which we have collected the fragments is clear enough. It is a reproduction of the old story of the break of day. The bright cows, the rays of the sun or the rain-clouds—for both go by the same name—have been stolen by the powers of darkness, by the Night and her manifold progeny,” etc., etc.

Thus, notwithstanding all the discrepancies and contradictions, and though the root of the name gives no colour to the interpretation, yet because of certain metaphors (which in primitive speech are so loosely used as to mean almost anything) we are asked to believe that men personalized a transitory appearance as unlike humanity as can be conceived.

Whatever difficulties stand in the way of the alternative interpretation, it has facts instead of hypotheses to start from. It may be that sometimes Dawn is a complimentary metaphorical name given to a rosy girl; though I can give no evidence of this. But that Dawn is a birth-name, we have clear proof. Naming the newly-born from concurrent events, we have seen to be a primitive practice. Of names so originating among the Karens, Mason instances “Harvest,” “February,” “Father-returned.” As we saw (§ 185), he shows that times of the day are similarly utilized; and among the names hence derived, he gives “Sunrise.” South America supplies an instance. Hans Stade was present at the naming of a child among the Tupis, who was called Koem—the morning (one of its forefathers having also been similarly named); and Captain Burton, the editor, adds in a note that Coéma piranga means literally the morning-red or Aurora. Another case occurs in New Zealand. Rangihaeata, a Maori chief’s name, is interpreted “heavenly dawn;” (“lightning of heaven” being another chief’s name). If, then, Dawn is an actual name for a person—if it has probably often been given to those born early in the [I-380] morning; the traditions concerning one of such who became noted, would, in the mind of the uncritical savage, lead to identification with the Dawn; and the adventures would be interpreted in such manner as the phenomena of the Dawn made most feasible. Further, in regions where this name had been borne either by members of adjacent tribes, or by members of the same tribe living at different times, incongruous genealogies and conflicting adventures of the Dawn would result.

§ 189. Is there a kindred origin for the worship of Stars? Can these also become identified with ancestors? This seems difficult to conceive; and yet there are facts justifying the suspicion that it has been so.

The Jews regarded stars as living beings who in some cases transgressed and were punished; and kindred notions of their animation existed among the Greeks. If we ask for the earlier forms of such beliefs, which now appear so strange, savages supply them. The Patagonians say “that the stars are old Indians.” “In Fiji large ‘shooting stars’ are said to be gods; smaller ones, the departing souls of men.” The Hervey Islanders think that the ghosts of warriors killed in battle, go to the top of a mountain and “leap into the azure expanse, where they float as specks. Hence this elysium of the brave is often called speckland” [i.e., star-land: they become stars]. The South Australians think “the constellations are groups of children.” “Three stars in one of the constellations are said to have been formerly on the Earth: one is the man, another his wife, and the smaller one their dog; and their employment is that of hunting opossums through the sky.” The implication that human beings get into the heavens, recurs in the Tasmanian tradition that fire was brought by two black fellows, who threw the fire among the Tasmanians, and after staying awhile in the land, became the two stars, Castor and Pollux. Possibly the genesis of this story was that the coupled lights [I-381] of these stars were fancied to be the distant fires lighted by these men after they went away. Such a conception occurs among the North Americans, who say that the Milky Way is “the ‘Path of Spirits,’ ‘the Road of Souls,’ where they travel to the land beyond the grave, and where their campfires may be seen blazing as brighter stars.” It harmonizes, too, with the still more concrete belief of some North Americans, that their medicine-men have gone up through holes in the sky, have found the Sun and Moon walking about there like human creatures, have walked about with them, and looked down through their peepholes upon the Earth below.

Definite explanation of such ideas is difficult so long as we frame hypotheses only; but it becomes less difficult when we turn to the facts. These same peoples have a legend yielding us a feasible solution. First noting that Robinson describes certain other Californians as worshipping for their chief god something in the form of a stuffed coyote, read this legend of the Coyote, current among one of the Californian tribes—the Cahrocs. The Coyote was—

“so proud that he determined to have a dance through heaven itself, having chosen as his partner a certain star that used to pass quite close by a mountain where he spent a good deal of his time. So he called out to the star to take him by the paw and they would go round the world together for a night; but the star only laughed, and winked in an excessively provoking way from time to time. The Coyote persisted angrily in his demand, and barked and barked at the star all round heaven, till the twinkling thing grew tired of his noise and told him to be quiet and he should be taken nxet night. Next night the star came quite up close to the cliff where the Coyote stood, who leaping was able to catch on. Away they danced together through the blue heavens. Fine sport it was for a while; but oh, it grew bitter cold up there for a Coyote of the earth, and it was an awful sight to look down to where the broad Klamath lay like a slack bow-string and the Cahroc villages like arrow-heads. Woe for the Coyote! his numb paws have slipped their hold on his bright companion; dark is the partner that leads the dance now, and the name of him is Death. Ten long snows the Coyote is in falling, and [I-382] when he strikes the earth he is ‘smashed as flat as a willow-mat.’—Coyotes must not dance with stars.”

When we remember that this conception of the heavens as resting on, or adjacent to, the mountain tops, is general among the uncivilized and semi-civilized; and that access to the heavens after some such method as the one described, presents no difficulty to the uncritical mind of the primitive man; the identification of stars with persons will seem less incomprehensible. Though the ancestral coyote meets with a catastrophe, like catastrophes are not necessarily alleged of other ancestral animals who thus get into the heavens. Special hills, and special groups of stars seen to rise from behind them, being identified as those referred to in the legends, the animal-ancestors said to have ascended may become known as constellations. Here, at least, seems a feasible explanation of the strange fact, that the names of animals and men were, in early times, given to clusters of stars which in no way suggest them by their appearances.

That misinterpretation of proper names and metaphorical titles has played a part in this case, as in other cases, is possible. One of the Amazon tribes is called “Stars.” The name of a Dyak chief is rendered—“the bear of Heaven.” And in Assyrian inscriptions, Tiglath-pileser is termed “the bright constellation,” “the ruling constellation.” Literal acceptance of legends containing such names has, in the earliest stages, probably lead to identification.

If ancestors, animal or human, supposed to have migrated to the heavens, become identified with certain stars, there result the fancies of astrology. A tribal progenitor so translated, will be conceived as still caring for his descendants; while the progenitors of other tribes (when conquest has united many) will be conceived as unfriendly. Hence may result the alleged good or ill fortune of being looked down upon at birth by this or that star.


§ 190. Supposed accessibility of the heavens makes similarly easy the identification of the Moon with a man or with a woman.

Sometimes the traditional person is believed to reside in the Moon; as by the Loucheux branch of the Tinneh, who, while supplicating him for success in hunting, say that he “once lived among them as a poor ragged boy.” More frequently, however, there is an alleged metamorphosis. The Esquimaux think Sun, Moon, and Stars “are spirits of departed Esquimaux, or of some of the lower animals;” and the South Australians believe that the Sun, Moon, etc., are living beings who once inhabited the earth. Clearly, then, certain low races, who do not worship the heavenly bodies, have nevertheless personalized these by vaguely identifying them with ancestors in general. Biographies of the Moon do not here occur; but we find biographies among races which are advanced enough to keep up traditions. The Chibchas say that when on Earth, Chia taught evil, and that Bochica, their deified instructor, “translated her to heaven, to become the wife of the Sun and to illuminate the nights without appearing at daytime [on account of the bad things she had taught], and that since then there has been a Moon.” The Mexican story was that, “together with the man who threw himself into the fire and came out the Sun, another went in a cave and came out the Moon.”

Has identification of the Moon with persons who once lived, been caused by misinterpretation of names? Indirect evidence would justify us in suspecting this, even were there no direct evidence. In savage and semi-civilized mythologies, the Moon is more commonly represented as female than as male; and it needs no quotations to remind the reader how often, in poetry, a beautiful woman is either compared to the Moon or metaphorically called the Moon. And if, in primitive times, Moon was used as a complimentary name for a woman, erroneous identification of person [I-384] and object, naturally originated a lunar myth wherever the woman so named survived in tradition.

To this, which is a hypothetical argument, is to be added an argument based on fact. Whether it supplies complimentary names or not, the Moon certainly supplies birth-names. Among those which Mason enumerates as given by the Karens, is “Full Moon.” Obviously, peoples who distinguish children by the incidents of their birth, using, as in Africa, days of the week, and as we have seen in other cases, times of the day, will also use phases of the Moon. And since many peoples have this custom, birth-names derived from phases of the Moon have probably been common, and subsequent identifications with the Moon not rare.

And here a significant correspondence may be noted. Birth-names derived from the Moon will habitually refer to it either as rising or setting, or else as in one of its phases—waxing, full, waning: a state of the Moon, rather than the Moon itself, will be indicated. Now the Egyptian goddess Bubastis, appears to have been the new Moon (some evidence implies the full)—at any rate a phase. The symbolization of Artemis expresses a like limitation; as does also that of Selene. And in his Mythology of the Aryan Nations, Sir G. W. Cox tells us that Iô is “pre-eminently the horned” or young Moon; while Pandia is the full Moon. How do these facts harmonize with the current interpretation? Is the tyranny of metaphor so great that, of itself, it compels this change of personality?

§ 191. Naturally, we may expect to find that, in common with the Stars and the Moon, the Sun has been personalized by identification with a traditional human being.

Already implied by some of the above-quoted statements respecting the Moon, this is implied more distinctly by statements now to be quoted. The original parent of the Comanches, like themselves but of gigantic stature, lives, they say, in the Sun. So, too, “the Chechemecas called the [I-385] Sun their father.” Of the Olchones, Bancroft says—“The sun here begins to be connected, or identified by name, with that great spirit, or rather, that Big Man, who made the earth and who rules in the sky;” and he also says of the Tinneh that “some of them believe in a good spirit called Tihugun, ‘my old friend,’ supposed to reside in the sun and in the moon.” By the Salive, one of the Orinoco tribes, the Sun is named “the man of the Earth above.” Among the less civilized American peoples, then, the implication of original existence on Earth and subsequent migration to the sky, is general only. Their conception is on a level with that of the African (a Barotse), who, when asked whether a halo round the Sun portended rain, replied—“O no, it is the Barimo (gods or departed spirits) who have called a picho; don’t you see they have the Lord (sun) in the centre?”: the belief doubtless being that as the rest of the celestial assemblage had once been on Earth, so, too, had their chief. But among more advanced American peoples, the terrestrial personality of the Sun is definitely stated:—

“According to the Indians [of Tlascala] the Sun was a god so leprous and sick that he could not move. The other gods pitied him, and constructed a very large oven and lighted an enormous fire in it, to put him out of pain by killing him, or to purify him.”

The Quiché tradition is that after “there had been no sun in existence for many years,”

“the gods being assembled in a place called Teotihuacan, six leagues from Mexico, and gathered at the time round a great fire, told their devotees that he of them who should first cast himself into that fire, should have the honour of being transformed into a sun.”

There is a legend concerning the ancestor of the cazique of Mizteca, who,

“shot there against the great light even till the going down of the same; then he took possession of all that land, seeing he had grievously wounded the sun, and forced him to hide behind the mountains.”

More specific still is a kindred story of the Mexicans, forming the sequel to one above cited. When the god who became [I-386] the Sun by throwing himself into the fire, first rose, he stood still; and when the other gods sent a messenger ordering him to go on,

“the Sun replied that it would not go on until it had destroyed them. Both afraid and angry at this answer, one of them, called Citli, took a bow and three arrows, and shot at its fiery head; but the Sun stooped, and thus avoided being hit. The second time he wounded its body, and also the third time. In rage, the Sun took one of the arrows and shot at Citli, piercing his forehead, and thus killing him on the spot.”

Nor does this exhaust the cases which Mexican traditions furnish. After expounding the Sun-myths in which he figures, Waitz concludes that “Quetzalcoatl was originally a man, a priest in Tula, who rose as a religious reformer among the Toltecs, but was expelled by the adherents of Tezcatlipoca.”

By the mythologists these stories, in common with kindred stories of the Aryans, are said to result from personalizations figuratively expressing the Sun’s doings; and they find no difficulty in believing that men not only gratuitously ascribed human nature to the Sun, but gratuitously identified him with a known man. Doubtless the Mexican tradition “that at one time there were five suns; and the fruits of the earth did not grow well, and the men died,” will in some way be explained as harmonizing with their hypothesis. Here, however, the interpretation adopted, like preceding interpretations, does not imply that these legends grew out of pure fictions; but that, however much transformed, they grew out of facts. Even were there no direct evidence that solar myths have arisen from misapprehensions of narratives respecting actual persons, or actual events in human history, the evidence furnished by analogy would warrant the belief. But the direct evidence is abundant. In some cases we are left in doubt how the supposed connexion with the Sun originated, as in the case of the Damaras, who have “five or six different ‘eandas’ or descents”—some [I-387] “who come from the sun,” and some “who come from the rain;” but in other cases there is an obvious clue to the connexion.

One source of these solar myths, is the literal acceptance of figurative statements concerning the quarter whence the race came. Already we have concluded that emergence of a people from a forest, confounded in tradition with emergence from the trees forming it, has led to the worship of trees as ancestors; and that the story of migration from a distant mountain has become, through defect of language, changed into the story of descent from the mountain as a progenitor. The like has happened with peoples who have migrated from a locality marked by the Sun. On referring to § 112, where are given the ideas of various peoples respecting that other world whence their forefathers came, and to which they expect to return after death, it will be seen that its supposed direction is usually either East or West: the obvious cause being that the places of sunrise and sunset, ranging through considerable angles of the horizon on either side, serve as general positions to which more northerly and southerly ones are readily approximated by the inaccurate savage, in the absence of definite marks. “Where the Sun rises in heaven,” is said, by the Central American, to be the dwelling-place of his gods, who were his ancestors (§ 149); and the like holds in many cases. Of the Dinneh (or Tinneh), Franklin says each tribe, or horde, adds some distinctive epithet taken from the name of the river, or lake, on which they hunt, or the district from which they last migrated. Those who come to Fort Chipewyan term themselves “Saw-eesaw-dinneh—Indians from the rising Sun.” Now may we not suspect that such a name as “Indians from the rising Sun,” will, in the legends of people having an undeveloped speech, generate a belief in descent from the Sun? We ourselves use the expression “children of light;” we have the descriptive name “children of the mist” for a clan living in a foggy locality; nay, we apply [I-388] the phrase “children of the Sun” to races living in the tropics. Much more, then, will the primitive man in his poverty-stricken language, speak of those coming from the place where the Sun rises as “children of the Sun.” That peoples even so advanced as the Peruvians did so, we have proof.

“The universal tradition pointed to a place called Paccari-tampu, as the cradle or point of origin of the Yncas. It was from Cuzco, the nearest point to the sun-rising; and as the sun was chosen as the pacarisca [origin] of the Yncas, the place of their origin was at first assigned to Paccari-tampu. But when their conquests were extended to the Collao, they could approach nearer to the sun, until they beheld it rising out of lake Titicaca; and hence the inland sea became a second traditional place of royal origin.”

When with this we join the facts that the Yncas, who otherwise carried ancestor-worship to so great an extent, were predominantly worshippers of the Sun as ancestor; and that when the Ynca died he was “called back to the mansions of his father, the Sun;” we have warrant for concluding that this belief in descent from the Sun resulted from misapprehension of the historical fact that the Ynca-race emerged from the land where the Sun rises. Kindred evidence comes from certain names given to the Spaniards. The Mexicans “called Cortes the offspring of the Sun;” and as the Spaniards came from the region of the rising Sun, we have a like cause preceding a like effect. Though apparently not for the same reason, the Panches, too, made solar heroes of the Spaniards. “When the Spaniards first entered this kingdom, the natives were in a great consternation, looking upon them as the children of the Sun and Moon” says Herrera: a statement made in other words of the Chibchas by Simon, and by Lugo, who tells us that in their language, “Suâ means the Sun, and Suê the Spaniard. The reason why this word suê is derived from suâ is that the ancient Indians, when they saw the first Spaniards, said that they were children of the Sun.”

In this case, too, as in preceding cases, misinterpretation [I-389] of individual names is a factor. In the essay which contained a rude outline of the argument elaborated in the foregoing chapters, I contended that by the savage and semi-civilized, “Sun” was likely to be given as a title of honour to a distinguished man. I referred to the fact that such complimentary metaphors are used by poets: instancing from Henry VIII the expression—“Those suns of glory, those two lights of men;” to which I might have added the lines from Julius Cæsar

“O setting sun,
As in thy red rays thou dost sink to-night,
So in his red blood Cassius’ day is set;
The sun of Rome is set!”

And I argued that among primitive peoples speaking more figuratively than we do, and greatly given to flattery, “the Sun” would probably be a frequent name of laudation. Facts justifying this inference were not then at hand; but I can now give several. Egyptian records furnish some of them; as instance the address to the Egyptian king by an envoy from the Bakhten—“Glory to thee, Sun of the Nine bow barbarians, Let us live before thee;” and then the gods Amen, Horus and Tum, are all identified with the Sun. Here, again, is a sentence from Prescott’s Mexico.

“The frank and joyous manners [of Alvarado] made him a great favourite with the Tlascalans; and his bright, open countenance, fair complexion, and golden locks gave him the name of Tonatiuh, the Sun.”

The Peruvians gave a modification of the name to those who were mentally superior; as is shown by the statement that they “were so simple, that any one who invented a new thing was readily recognized by them as a child of the Sun.” And then we have evidence that in these regions the title, sometimes given in compliment, was sometimes arrogantly assumed. In the historic legend of the Central Americans, the Popol Vuh, is described the pride of Vukub-Cakix, who boasted that he was Sun and Moon.

Once more we have, as a root for a Sun-myth, the birth-name. [I-390] Among the Karens occurs the name “Yellow Rising Sun;” and though Mason speaks of “a handsome young person” as thus called, so implying that it is a complimentary name, yet considering that these people use “Evening,” “Moon-rise,” “Sun-rise,” “Full Moon,” as birth-names, it seem probable that “Rising Sun” is a birth-name. Catlin’s portraits of North Americans yield some good evidence. There is among them an Esquimaux man named “the Rising Sun,” which, as the Esquimaux have no chiefs or warriors, is not likely to have been a complimentary name; and there is a Minatarrée girl called “The Mid-day Sun,” which is not likely to have been a title of honour for a girl. Manifestly it would be anomalous were celestial incidents thus used, with the exception of the most striking one.

And now mark a significant congruity and a significant incongruity, parallel to those we marked in the case of the Moon’s phases. Birth-names taken from the Sun must refer to the Sun at some part of his course—the rising Sun, the soaring Sun, the setting Sun, according to the hour of the birth; and complimentary names taken from the Sun, may express various of his attributes, as “the glory of the Sun,” “the Sun’s brightness,” etc. That names of this class have been used is, indeed, a known fact. Among complimentary titles of Egyptian kings in the Select Papyri, we find—“the Sun of creation,” “the Sun becoming victorious,” “the Sun orderer of creation.” Hence no difficulty is presented by the fact that “the Egyptians made of the Sun several distinct deities; as the intellectual Sun, the physical orb, the cause of heat, the author of light, the power of the Sun, the vivifying cause, the Sun in the firmament, and the Sun in his resting-place.” On the other hand, how do the mythologists reconcile such facts with their hypothesis? Was the linguistic necessity for personalizing so great that eight distinct persons were required to embody the Sun’s several attributes and states? Must we conclude that the Aryans, too, were led [I-391] solely by the hypostasis of descriptions to suppose Hyperion, “the high-soaring Sun,” to be one individual, and Endymion, “the Sun setting,” to be another individual: both being independent of “the separate divinity of Phoibos Apollôn”? Did the mere need for concreting abstracts, force the Greeks to think that when the Sun was thirty degrees above the horizon he was one person who had such and such adventures, and that by the time he had got within ten degrees of the horizon he had changed into a person having a different biography? That the mythologists cannot think this I will not say; for their stores of faith are large. But the faith of others will, I imagine, fall short here, if it has not done so before.

§ 192. When the genesis of solar myths after the manner I have described, was briefly indicated as a part of the general doctrine set forth in the essay above referred to, sundry resulting correspondences with the traits of such myths were pointed out. The fact that conspicuous celestial objects, in common with the powers of nature at large, were conceived as male and female, was shown to be a sequence. The fact that in mythologies the Sun has such alternative names as “the Swift One,” “the Lion,” “the Wolf,” which are not suggested by the Sun’s sensible attributes, was shown to be explicable on the hypothesis that these were additional complimentary names given to the same individual. Further, the strange jumbling of celestial phenomena with the adventures of earth-born persons, was accounted for as a result of endeavours to reconcile the statements of tradition with the evidence of the senses. And once more it was suggested that by aggregation of local legends concerning persons thus named, into a mythology co-extensive with many tribes who were united into a nation, would necessitate conflicting genealogies and biographies of the personalized Sun. While able then to illustrate but briefly these positions, I alluded to evidence which was forthcoming. [I-392] Of such evidence I have now given an amount which fulfils the tacit promise made; and goes far to justify the inference drawn. I did not then, however, hope to do more than make the inference highly probable. But while collecting materials for the foregoing chapters, I have come upon a passage in the records of the ancient Egyptians which, I think, gives conclusiveness to the argument. It is in the third Sallier Papyrus. This document, recording the triumphs of Ramses II, has already yielded us illustrations of the ancient belief in the supernatural strength given by an ancestral ghost who has become a god; and more recently I have quoted from it a phrase exemplifying the complimentary application of an animal-name to a conquering monarch. Here, from an address of the subjugated people, praying for mercy, I quote in full the significant sentence:—

“Horus, conquering bull, dear to Ma, Prince guarding thy army, valiant with the sword, bulwark of his troops in day of battle, king mighty of strength, great Sovran, Sun powerful in truth, approved of Ra, mighty in victories, Ramses Miamon.”

The whole process described above as likely to occur, is shown in this record as actually occurring. Observe all the correspondences. The deity to whom, as we saw, Ramses says he has sacrificed 30,000 bulls, and to whom he prays for supernatural aid, is regarded as his ancestor. “I call on thee my father Ammon,” he says; and the defeated say to him—“truly thou art born of Ammon, issue of his body.” Further, Ramses, described as performing the feats of a god, is spoken of as though a god: the defeated call him “giver of life for ever like his father Ra.” Thus regarded as divine, he receives, as we find warriors among the semi-civilized and savage still doing, many complimentary titles and metaphorical names; which, being joined to the same individual, become joined to one another: Ramses is at once the King, the Bull, the Sun. And while this record gives the human genealogy of Ramses and his achievements on Earth, its expressions point to his subsequent apotheosis; and imply [I-393] that his deeds will be narrated as the deeds of the “conquering bull” and of “the Sun.” Remembering that at the deaths even of ordinary Egyptians, there were ceremonial eulogies by priests and others, who afterwards, at fixed intervals, repeated their praises; we cannot doubt that in laudations of a king who became a god after death, carried on in still more exaggerated language than during his life, there persisted these metaphorical titles: resulting in such hymns as that addressed to Amen—“The Sun the true king of gods, the Strong Bull, the mighty lover (of power).”

To me it seems obvious that in this legend of the victorious Ramses, king, conqueror, bull, sun, and eventually god, we have the elements which, in an early stage of civilization, generate a solar myth like that of Indra; who similarly united the characters of the conquering hero, the bull, the sun. To say that when orally transmitted for generations among a less-advanced people, a story such as this would not result in a human biography of the Sun, is to deny a process congruous with the processes we find going on; and is to assume an historical accuracy that was impossible with a language which, like that of the Egyptians even in historic times, could not distinguish between a name and the act of naming. While to allege, instead, that the Sun may not only be affiliated on human parents, but may be credited with feats of arms as a king, while he is also a brute, and this solely because of certain linguistic suggestions, is to allege that men disregard the evidence of their senses at the prompting of reasons relatively trivial.

§ 193. Little, then, as first appearances suggest it, the conclusion warranted by the facts, is that Nature-worship, like each of the worships previously analyzed, is a form of ancestor-worship; but one which has lost, in a still greater degree, the external characters of its original.

Partly by confounding the parentage of the race with a conspicuous object marking the natal region of the race, [I-394] partly by literal interpretation of birth-names, and partly by literal interpretation of names given in eulogy, there have been produced beliefs in descents from Mountains, from the Sea, from the Dawn, from animals which have become constellations, and from persons once on Earth who now appear as Moon and Sun. Implicitly believing the statements of forefathers, the savage and semi-civilized have been compelled grotesquely to combine natural powers with human attributes and histories; and have been thus led into the strange customs of propitiating these great terrestrial and celestial objects by such offerings of food and blood as they habitually made to other ancestors.






§ 194. In the foregoing five chapters the genesis of deities has been so fully set forth by implication, that there seems no need for a chapter dealing directly with the subject. But though we have dealt with those classes of deities in which human personalities are greatly disguised, there remains to be dealt with the class of those deities which have arisen by simple idealization and expansion of human personalities. For while some men have, by misinterpretation of traditions, had their individualities merged in those of natural objects; the individualities of other men have survived with man-like attributes.

This last class, always co-existing with the other classes, eventually becomes predominant: probably, as before hinted, through the agency of proper names that are less and less connotative and more and more denotative. So long as men were named after objects around, they failed to survive in tradition under their human forms; and the worship of them as ancestors became the worship of the things they were nominally identified with. But when there arose such proper names as were not also borne by objects, men began to be preserved in story as men. It became possible for ghosts to retain their anthropomorphic individualities long after the deaths of contemporaries; and so an anthropomorphic pantheon resulted.

Already, in the chapter on “Ancestor-worship in General,” [I-396] the initiation of this class of deities has been indicated; and now, having traced the evolution of the other classes, we must trace the evolution of this most important class.

§ 195. Like an animal, a savage fears whatever is strange in appearance or behaviour. Along with the unparalleled quality he sees, there is no knowing what other unparalleled qualities may go. He feels endangered by these capacities which transcend those he is familiar with; and behaves to the possessor of them in a way betraying his consciousness of danger. As we saw, he regards as supernatural whatever he cannot comprehend. His mental attitude is well illustrated by the two Bechuanas, who, when taken over a ship, said it “was for certain an uncreated thing—a thing come of itself, and never made by human hands.” This supposed supernaturalness of the unaccountable, holds alike of a remarkable object and of a remarkable man. If the North American Indians “do not understand anything, they immediately say it is a spirit;” and a man of special talent “is said to be a spirit.”

In various cases we find the native equivalent for god is thus indiscriminately applied to an incomprehensible object and to a person whose powers are incomprehensible. The Fijian name for a divine being, kalou, means also “anything great or marvellous.” And while, in pursuance of this conception, the Fijians declared a printing-press to be a god, they also applied the word to their European visitors: “You are a kalou,” “Your countrymen are gods.” So, too, it is with the Malagasy, who speak of their king as a god, and by whom whatever is new or useful or extraordinary is called a god. Silk, “rice, money, thunder and lightning, and earthquakes, are all called gods. Their ancestors and a deceased sovereign they designate in the same manner.” A book, too, is a god; and “velvet is called by the singular epithet—Son of God.” It is the same with the man-worshipping Todas. Respecting the meanings of Dêr, Swâmi (gods, [I-397] lords), as used by them, Marshall says “there is a tendency for everything mysterious or unseen to ripen into Dêr; cattle, relics, priests, are . . . confused in the same category, until it would seem that Dêr, like Swâmi, is truly an adjective-noun of eminence.”

And now we shall no longer find it difficult to understand how the title god, is, in early stages of progress, given to men in ways which seem so monstrous. Not meaning by the title anything like what we mean, savages naturally use it for powerful persons, living and dead, of various kinds. Let us glance at the several classes of them.

§ 196. We may fitly begin with individuals whose superiorities are the least definite—individuals who are regarded by others, or by themselves, as better than the rest.

A typical case is furnished by the Todas above named. Col. Marshall, describing the palal, a holy milkman or priest among them, thus gives part of a conversation with one:—

“ ‘Is it true that Todas salute the sun?’ I asked. ‘Tschâkh!’ he replied, ‘those poor fellows do so; but me,’ tapping his chest, ‘I, a god! why should I salute the Sun?’ At the time, I thought this a mere ebullition of vanity and pride, but I have since had opportunity of testing the truth of his speech. The pâlâl for the time being is not merely the casket containing divine attributes, but is himself a God.

And “the palal, being himself a God, may with propriety mention the names of his fellow-Gods, a licence which is permitted to no one else to do.” This elevation to godhood of a living member of the tribe, who has some undefined superiority, is again exemplified in Central America. Montgomery describes the Indians of Taltique as adoring such a god.

“This was no other than an old Indian, whom they had dressed up in a peculiar way, and installed in a hut, where they went to worship him, offering him the fruits of their industry as a tribute, and performing in his presence certain religious rites, according to their ancient practice.”


Clearly people who are so awe-struck by one of their number as to propitiate him in this way, probably under the belief that he can bring good or evil on them, may thus originate a deity. For if the ghost in general is feared, still more feared will be the ghost of a man distinguished during life. Probably there is no ancestor-worship but what shows this tendency to the evolution of a predominant ghost from a predominant human being. We have seen how, by the Amazulu, the remembered founder of the family is the one chiefly propitiated; and the implication is that this founder was in some way superior. We have seen, too, how among the Central Americans, Tamagastad and Cipattonal were the remotest ancestors known; and their doings were probably unusual enough to cause recollection of them. Here I may add, as obviously of kindred origin, the god of the Kamschadales. They “say that Kut, whom they sometimes call god and sometimes their first father, lived two years upon each river, and left the children that river on which they were born, for their proper inheritance.”

Such facts show us in the most general way, how the conception of a deity begins to diverge from the conception of a remarkable person; feared during his life and still more feared after his death. We will now pass to the special ways in which genesis of this conception is shown.

§ 197. If, at first, the superior and the divine are equivalent ideas, the chief or ruler will tend to become a deity during his life and a greater deity after his death. This inference is justified by facts.

Already I have referred (§ 112) to the Maori chief who scornfully repudiated an earthly origin, and looked forward to re-joining his ancestors, the gods. It is thus elsewhere in Polynesia. “I am a god,” said Tuikilakila, the chief of Somosomo. And of these Fijians, Williams says:—

“Indeed, there is very little difference between a chief of high rank and one of the second order of deities. The former regards [I-399] himself very much as a god, and is often spoke of as such by his people, and, on some occasions, claims for himself publicly the right of divinity.”

So, too, the Tahitians give indirect praises to the king quite as exalted as any used in worship of deities. The king’s—

“houses were called the aorai, the clouds of heaven; anuanua, the rainbow, was the name of the canoe in which he voyaged; his voice was called thunder; the glare of the torches in his dwelling was denominated lightning; and when the people saw them in the evening, as they passed near his abode, instead of saying the torches were burning in the palace, they would observe that the lightning was flashing in the clouds of heaven.” [*]

The like holds in Africa. In Benin the king is not only the representative of god upon earth, but god himself; and is worshipped by his subjects in both natures. “The king of Loango is respected like a deity, being called Samba and Pongo, that is, God.” The people of Msambara say—“We are all slaves of the Zumbe [king] who is our Mulungu [god].” So was it with the ancient American races. In Peru Huayna Ccapac “was so feared and obeyed, that they almost looked upon him as their god, and his image was set up in many towns:” he “was worshipped of his subjects for a god, being yet alive.” And the statement of Garcilasso that out of various chiefs and petty kings, the good were worshipped, is confirmed by Balboa. Nor do only races of inferior types deify living men. Palgrave exemplifies deification of them among the Semites as follows:—

“ ‘Who is your God?’ said an Arab traveller of my acquaintance to a Mesaleekh nomade, not far from Basra. ‘It was Fādee,’ answered [I-400] the man, naming a powerful provincial governor of those lands, lately deceased; ‘but since his death I really do not know who is God at the present moment.’ ”

That Aryans have had like conceptions, we are reminded by such facts as that Greek kings of the East, besides altars erected to them, had θεός stamped on their coins, and that Roman emperors were worshipped when alive. Nay, cases occur even now. When the Prince of Wales was in India, Hindu poets “were apostrophizing him as an Avatâr, or Incarnation of the Deity.”

Of course, as above said, identification of the superior with the divine, which leads to propitiation of living chiefs and kings as gods, leads to more marked propitiation of them after death. In Peru a dead king was immediately regarded as a god, and had his sacrifices, statues, etc. Of the Yucatanese, Cogolludo, saying that Ytzamat was a great king, adds:—“This king died, and they raised altars to him, and it was an oracle which gave them answers.” In Mexico the people of Cholula considered Quetzalcoatl [feathered serpent] “to be the principal god,” and they “said that Quetzalcoatl, though he was a native of Tula, came from that place to people the provinces of Tlaxcala, Huexotzingo and Cholula.” Again, “Huitzilopochtli, [‘humming-bird, left’] afterwards a supreme deity of the Aztecs . . . was originally a man, whose apotheosis may be clearly traced.” Polynesia supplies kindred illustrations. The Sandwich Islanders regarded the spirit of one of their ancient kings as a tutelar deity. In Tonga they hold “that there are other Hotooas, or gods, viz., the souls of all deceased nobles and matabooles, who have a like power of dispensing good and evil, but in an inferior degree.” And “the New Zealanders believed that several high chiefs after death became deified, and that from them all punishments in this world for evil doings were sent.” In Africa it is the same. We have seen that among the Coast Negroes, king Adólee looks for aid to the ghost of his father, and [I-401] that in Dahomey the living king sacrifices victims that they may carry to the late king in the other world, reports of what has been done. That is, these dead kings have become gods. In like manner the king of Shoa prays at his father’s shrine; and “in Yoruba, Shango, the god of thunder, is regarded as a cruel and mighty king who was raised to heaven.” Asia, too, furnishes examples. Drew names a temple erected to Golab Singh the conqueror.

Evidently, then, the apotheosis of deceased rulers among ancient historic races, was but the continuation of a primitive practice. When we learn that “Ramses Hek An (a name of Ramses III) means ‘engendered by Ra [Sun], prince of An (Heliopolis),’ ” and when, in the Harris papyrus, we find this Ramses III saying of his father, “the gods appointed their son arising from their limbs to (be) prince of the whole land in their seat;” we cannot but recognize a more developed form of those conceptions which savage and semi-civilized exhibit all over the world. When in the Babylonian legend of the flood, we, on the one hand, meet with the statements—“the gods feared the tempest and sought refuge,” “the gods like dogs fixed in droves prostrate” (implying that the gods differed little from men in their powers and feelings); and when, on the other hand, we find that the conquering Izdubar, the hero of the legend, afterwards becomes a god, and that Bel, who made the deluge, was “the warrior Bel;” we cannot doubt that the early Babylonians, too, worshipped chiefs who, gods while alive, became greater gods after death. [*]

§ 198. Power displayed by the political head of a tribe, and in higher stages of progress by a king, is not the only [I-402] kind of power. Hence, if at first the divine means simply the superior, men otherwise distinguished than by chieftainship, will be regarded as gods. Evidence justifies this conclusion. Sorcerers, and also persons who show unparalleled skill, are deified.

That medicine-men, whose predominance has no other origin than their craft, are treated as gods during their lives, we have but little direct evidence. Sometimes, where the medicine-man is also political head, he appears to be propitiated in both capacities; as in Loango, where the king is god, and where “they believe he can give rain when he has a mind. In December the people gather to beg it of him, every one bringing his present.” But we have proof that the medicine-man becomes a deity after death. Indeed, some facts raise the suspicion that his ghost is the one which first grows into predominance as a being to be feared. The Fuegians, to whom otherwise no definite religious ideas are ascribed, believe in “a great black man . . . wandering about the woods and mountains, . . . who influences the weather according to men’s conduct:” evidently a deceased weather-doctor. So, too, by the neighbouring Patagonians, wandering demons are believed to be “the souls of their wizards.” A god of the Chippewas, Manabosho, is represented as sounding his magic drum and rattles “to raise up supernatural powers to help him:” he uses in the other world those appliances which, as a sorcerer, he used in this. Again, the Cahrocs have “some conception of a great deity called Chareya, the Old Man Above: . . . he is described as wearing a close tunic, with a medicine-bag.” In Africa the Damaras furnish a definite instance. Galton says—“We passed the grave of the god Omakuru; the Damaras all threw stones on the cairn, . . . singing out, ‘Father Omakuru.’ ” “He gives and withholds rain.” The apotheosis of the medicine-man in Polynesia, is shown by the Sandwich Islanders, who have a tradition that a certain man, whom they deified after his death, obtained all their medicinal [I-403] herbs from the gods. To this man the doctors address their prayers. So of the ancient Mexicans Mendieta writes—“Others said that only such men had been taken for gods who transformed themselves or . . . appeared in some other shape, and in it spoke or did something beyond human power.” And similarly in China, Taouism “deifies hermits and physicians, magicians, and seekers after the philosopher’s stone,” etc. But the best examples are furnished by our own Scandinavian kinsmen. As described in the Heimskringla, [*] Odin was manifestly a medicine-man. We read that “when Odin of Asaland came to the north, and the gods with him,” he “was the cleverest of all, and from him all the others learned their magic arts.” We read further that when the Vanaland people beheaded Memir, a man of great understanding, “Odin took the head, smeared it with herbs so that it should not rot, and sang incantations over it. Thereby he gave it the power that it spoke to him, and discovered to him many secrets.”

“Odin died in his bed in Sweden; and when he was near his death he made himself be marked with the point of a spear, and said he was going to Godheim, and would give a welcome there to all his [I-404] friends, and all brave warriors should be dedicated to him, and the Swedes believed that he was gone to the ancient Asgaard, and would live there eternally. Then began the belief in Odin and the calling upon him . . . Odin was burnt, and at his pile there was great splendour.”

Niord of Noatun is also described as continuing the sacrifices after Odin; and the Swedes believed he “ruled over the growth of seasons.”

“In his time all the diars or gods died, and blood-sacrifices were made for them. Niord died on the bed of sickness, and before he died made himself be marked for Odin with the spear-point.

“Freyr took the kingdom after Niord; . . . there were good seasons in all the land, which the Swedes ascribed to Freyr, so that he was much more worshipped than the other gods. . . . Now when Freyr died they bore him secretly into the mound, but told the Swedes he was alive; and they kept watch over him for three years. They brought all the taxes into the mound. . . . Peace and good seasons continued.”

In these extracts there are various instructive implications. The dominant race, coming from the East, returned there at death. While living they were worshipped; as we see superior men are, and have been, elsewhere. Such among them as were accounted powerful magicians, were more especially worshipped. After death these gained the character of great gods in virtue of their repute as great medicine-men; and were propitiated for a continuance of their supernatural aid. Of course, with the mythologists these stories of the lives, deaths, and funeral rites, of reputed magicians, go for nothing. They think them products of the mythopœic tendency; and are not astonished at the correspondence between alleged fictions and the facts which existing savages show us. I suppose they are prepared similarly to dispose of the case of Æsculapius, which shows us so clearly an apotheosis of this kind. Referred to by Homer as a doctor (in early stages synonymous with medicine-man) and known at a later time as locally propitiated by a tribe the members of which counted their links of descent from him, he presently came to have songs and temples in his [I-405] honour, and eventually developed into a great god worshipped throughout a wide region.

“As we advance into the Hellenistic and Roman periods, it is easy to perceive that a vast chauge has come over the spirit of his divinity. Everywhere in Asia his effigy begins to appear upon the currency, and men have begun to invoke him, not only as a healer of bodily disease and pain, but as a present help in every trouble, a rescuer from every kind of ill. The slave is emancipated in his temples; the sailor in peril implores his aid, and to him the soldier ransomed from the foe dedicates a thank-offering; men hail him Saviour and King; and at last the devotee, exalting him high above all gods, exclaims, ‘Asklepios, thou my master, whom I so often have invoked in prayer by night and day,’ ‘great is thy power and manifold, for thou art He’ who dost guide and govern the Universe, Preserver of the world and Bulwark of the immortal Gods!”

In presence of such evidence of the development of a doctor into a deity, harmonizing with that which existing savage races furnish of the derivation of deities from medicine-men, we may reasonably conclude that the stories concerning the early doings of the Scandinavian gods originated in distorted accounts of actual events—are not fictions due to the need for personalizing the powers of nature.

Between the medicine-man and the teacher of new arts, there is but a nominal distinction; for, as we have seen, the primitive man thinks that any ability beyond the ordinary is supernatural: even the blacksmith is a kind of magician to the African. Hence we may expect to find deifications of those whose superiority was shown by their greater knowledge or skill; and we find them in many places. The Brazilians “ascribe the origin of agriculture to their teacher Tupan, who seems to be identical with the founder . . . of the race, and with the Supreme Being, so far as they have any idea of such.” A Chinook tradition is that “a kind and powerful spirit called Ikánam, . . . taught them how to make canoes as well as all other implements and utensils; and he threw great rocks into the rivers and made falls, to obstruct the salmon in their ascent, so that they might be [I-406] easily caught.” The Mexican god Quetzalcoatl was “a divinity who, during his residence on earth, instructed the natives in the use of metals, in agriculture, and in the arts of government.” Further, the Mexicans apotheosized Chicomecoatl as the first woman who made bread; Tzaputlatena as the inventress of the vxitl-resin; Opuchtli as the inventor of some fishing implements; Yiacatecutli as the originator of trade; and Napatecutli as the inventor of rush mats. The Central Americans, too, had their gods and goddesses Chac, Ixazalvoh, Itzamná, Ixchebelyax, who were the inventors of agriculture, of cotton-weaving, of letters, of painting. In the earliest records of historic peoples we meet with like facts. The Egyptian gods, Osiris, Ombte, Neph, and Thoth are said to have taught arts. The Babylonian god Oannes is similarly represented as having been an instructor. And it is needless to enumerate the Greek and Roman deities described as teachers of one or other new process, or inventors of this or that new appliance.

Still, then, we have the same truth under another aspect. Power exceeding previously-known powers, excites awe; and the possessor of it, feared during his life, is still more feared after his death.

§ 199. In treating of those who, within the tribe, as medicine-men, or men of unusual ability, have acquired repute leading to deification, I have unawares entered on the next class of facts—facts showing us that the immigrant member of a superior race becomes a god among an inferior race.

At the present time it occasionally happens that Europeans, such as shipwrecked sailors or escaped convicts, thrown among savage peoples, gain ascendency over them by the knowledge and skill they display; and when we remember that after the deaths of such men, their powers, exalted in legend, are sure to make their ghosts feared more than ordinary ghosts, we shall recognize another source from [I-407] which deities arise. That men of low type even now class strangers of high type as gods, we have abundant proofs. It is said by the Bushmen—“Those white men are children of God; they know everything.” The East Africans exclaim to Europeans—“Truly ye are gods;” and Europeans are thus spoken of in Congo. A chief on the Niger, seeing whites for the first time, thought them “children of heaven.” When Thompson and Moffat wished to see a religious ceremony peculiar to the Bechuana women, the women said—“These are gods, let them walk in.” Even among so superior an African race as the Fulahs, some villages, says Barth, “went so far as to do me the honour . . . of identifying me with their god ‘Féte,’ who, they thought, might have come to spend a day with them” (staying to dinner, like Zeus with the Ethiopians). Other races furnish kindred instances. Some Khond women said of Campbell’s tent—“It is the house of a god.” The “Nicobarians have such a high idea of the power of Europeans, that to them they attribute the creation of their islands, and they think it depends on them to give fine weather.” [*] Remarking of the Fijians that “there appears to be no certain line of demarcation between gods and living men,” Erskine tells us that one of the chiefs said to Mr. Hunt—“If you die first, I shall make you my god.” Mr. Alfred Wallace, who has had extensive opportunities of studying primitive men, says of the Arru Islanders—

“I have no doubt that to the next generation, or even before, I myself shall be transformed into a magician or a demi-god, a worker of miracles, and a being of supernatural knowledge. They already believe that all the animals I preserve will come to life again; and to their children it will be related that they actually did so. An unusual spell of fine weather setting in just at my arrival, has made them believe I can control the seasons.”


And then, lastly, we have the fact that an apotheosis like that which Mr. Wallace anticipates, has already occurred in a neighbouring island. The Dyaks attribute supernatural power to Rajah Brooke: he is invoked along with the other gods.

With such abundant proofs that the genesis of gods out of superior strangers is now going on, we cannot, without perversity, regard as fictions those stories found in many countries, which represent certain gods as having brought knowledge and arts from elsewhere. The Mexican god, Quetzalcoatl, who came from the west, was “a tall white man, with broad forehead, large eyes, long black hair, and great round beard,” who, having instructed them and reformed their manners, departed by the way he came. So, too, the great god of the Chibchas, Bochica, was a white man with a beard, who gave them laws and institutions, and who disappeared after having long lived at Sogamoso. In South America it is the same. Humboldt tells us that “Amalivaca, the father of the Tamanacs, that is, the creator of the human race (for every nation regards itself as the root of all other nations) arrived in a bark.” He afterwards re-embarked.

In some cases the remarkable strangers who thus become a people’s gods, are regarded as the returned ghosts of their own remarkable men. Ghosts and gods being originally undifferentiated in thought; and neither of them being always distinguishable from living persons; it happens, as was shown in § 92, that the whites are, by Australians, Polynesians, and Africans, held to be the doubles of their own dead. When we read that among the Wanikas, “Mulungu,” the word applied like the Kaffir “Uhlunga” to the Supreme God, also denotes any good or evil revenant; we see how it happens that Europeans are called indiscriminately ghosts and gods. Hence the naturalness of the fact that in the Sandwich Islands, when “Captain Cook arrived, it was supposed, and reported, that the good Rono was returned, [I-409] hence the people prostrated themselves before him.” Hence, too, the idea implied by Camargo’s account of the Mexicans, that, “as soon as the Spaniards had disembarked, news came to the very smallest villages that the gods had arrived:” the belief being “that their god Quetzalcoatl had come” back with his companions. And hence, again, the reason that the Chibchas at Turmequé “showed to the Spaniards the veneration and worship they showed to the gods, making incense to them.”

Thus we find re-illustrated under other conditions, the same general truth that the primitive god is the superior man, either indigenous or foreign; propitiated during his life and still more after his death.

§ 200. From this deification of single men of higer races, there is a natural transition to the deification of conquering races, not individually but bodily. The expression “gods and men,” occurring in the traditions of various peoples, is made readily interpretable.

We assume that, as a matter of course, every tribe of savages has a word meaning a human being, applicable equally to members of their own tribe and to members of other tribes; but, as usual, we are misled by assimilating their thoughts and language to ours. Often their name for men is their tribal name. Already we have seen that in South America, among the Guaranis, the same word means man and Guarani. The North American people who call themselves Thlinkeets, have no word but this to signify human beings; and an adjacent people, the Tinneh, furnish a parallel case. Pim and Seemann tell us that—

“The distinctive appellation of the Mosquitoes amongst themselves is ‘Waikna’ ‘man,’ and all the other tribes imitate them in this conceit; indeed, it is a common practice amongst the Indians of the American continent, from the dwellers furthest north, Esquimaux, who call themselves ‘Innuit’ ‘men,’ par excellence, as far south as the Araucanians, the Patagonians, and even the wretched natives of Tierra del Fuego.”


Similarly in Africa, the native name for the Kaffir tribes is Abantu, Bantu (plural of ntu, a man); and for the Hottentot tribes the designation is Koi-koin (i. e., “men of men,” from koi, a man). In Asia it is thus with the Karens: “a few of the tribes only have distinctive names for themselves, and all, when speaking of each other, use the word for man to designate themselves.” The Kamschadales, again, “have no designation either for themselves or their country. They called themselves simply men, as considering themselves either the only inhabitants of the earth, or so far surpassing all others as to be alone worthy of this title.” Indeed, Nilsson, generalizing such facts, says that “all rude nations apply the designation ‘men’ to themselves only, all others being differently designated.”

What will happen when savages who call themselves “men” are conquered by savages otherwise called, but proved by the conquest to have that superiority which in the primitive mind is equivalent to divinity? Clearly, the names of conquering and conquered will become equivalent in their meanings to “gods and men.” In some cases, indeed, the name by which the conquerors call themselves will necessitate this. We read of the Tupis that “Tupa is their word for father, for the Supreme Being, and for thunder; it passed by an easy process from the first of these meanings to the last, and the barbarous vanity of some tribes compounded from it a name for themselves.” So that if these children of Tupa, which means “children of God,” subjugate a people whose name is equivalent to “men,” the distinction of the two as “gods and men” becomes inevitable.

With such evidence before us, what shall we think about the “gods and men” who figure in the legends of higher races? On learning from Nilsson that in Scandinavia there are distinct traces of the antagonism of aboriginal races to colonists, as early as the stone and bronze periods; and on then reading in Scandinavian traditions about Odin, Freyr, [I-411] Niord, and the rest, coming from Godheim (god’s-home or land) to Menheim (men’s-home or land); ruling there and being worshipped; dying there believing that they were going back to Godheim, just as barbarous peoples everywhere believe that they return after death to fatherland; we shall conclude that these “gods and men” were simply conquering and conquered races: all mythological interpretations notwithstanding. When we find that, as given by Pausanias, a popular legend among the Greeks was that the ancient Arcadians “were guests and table-companions of the gods,” we shall not set this down as a fiction devised after the gods had been created by personalizing the powers of nature; but shall infer that the tradition had its root in those conquests of earlier races by later implied in Hesiod—conquests such as must certainly have been going on, and must certainly have left exaggerated narratives. So, too, when “the sons of god saw the daughters of men” in Hebrew story. If we recall the reprobation which has everywhere been visited on the intermarriage of a conquering caste and a subject caste—if we remember that in Greek belief it was a transgression for the race of gods to fall in love with the race of men—if we add the fact that in our own feudal times union of nobles with serfs was a crime; we shall have little difficulty in seeing how there originated the story of the fall of the angels.

Any one who, after considering this evidence, remembers that from the names and natures ascribed by existing savage peoples to Europeans, legends of “gods and men” are even now arising, will, I think, scarcely hesitate. Remaining doubt will disappear on reading the legend of the Quichés, which gives, with sufficient clearness, the story of invaders who, seizing an elevated region, and holding in terror the natives of the lower lands, became the deities of the surrounding country, and their mountain residence the local Olympus. (See Appendix A.)


§ 201. This brings us once more to the Aryan gods, as seen from another point of view. That we may judge which hypothesis best fits the facts, let us observe how the early Greeks actually conceived their gods: ignoring the question how they got their conceptions. And let us compare their pantheon with the pantheon of another race—say that of the Fijians. Any one who objects to the comparison as insulting, needs only to be reminded that cannibalism was ascribed to some of their deities by the Greeks; and that human sacrifices to Zeus were continued down to late times.

The Greek god is everywhere presented to us under the guise of a powerful man; as is the Fijian. Among the Fijians, “gods sometimes assume the human form, and are thus seen by men;” and how common was a like theophany among the Greeks, the Iliad shows us page after page. So like a man was the Greek god, that special insight, supernaturally given, was required to distinguish him; and, as we have seen, it is difficult to find what is the difference between a god and a chief among the Fijians. In the Fijian pantheon there are grades and divided functions—a chief god, mediating gods, gods over different things and places: thus paralleling the Greek pantheon, which was a hierarchy with a distribution of ranks and duties. Fijian deities may be classed into gods proper and deified mortals—some whose apotheosis has dropped out of memory and some whose apotheosis is remembered; and there were apotheosized mortals, too, among the Greek deities. A descriptive title of one of the Fijian gods is “the Adulterer”—a title applicable to sundry Greek gods. Another name is “the Woman-stealer”—a name not undeserved by Zeus. Yet a further sobriquet borne by a Fijian god is “Fresh-from-the-slaughter;” which would answer for Ares, who is called “the Blood-stainer.” The Fijian gods love and hate, are proud and revengeful, and make war, and kill and eat one another; and if we include the earlier generations of Greek gods, kindred atrocities are told of them. Though fighting does not [I-413] remain conspicuous, still there is the conspiracy from which Zeus was saved by Thetis; and there is perpetual squabbling and vituperation: even Zeus being vilified by his daughter Athene, as well as by the divine shrew Here. The Fijian gods play one another tricks, as did also the gods of the Greeks. Sometimes the Fijians “get angry with their deities and abuse and even challenge them to fight;” and among the Greeks, too, there was abuse of the gods even to their faces, as of Aphrodite by Helen, and if there was not challenging to fight, still there was fighting with, and even victory over, gods, as of Diomede over Ares, and there was threatening of gods, as when Laomedon refusing to pay Poseidon his wages, said he would cut off his ears. The Fijians have a story of a god who tumbled out of a canoe, and, being picked up by a woman, was taken to a chief’s house to dry himself—a story against which we may set that of Dionysus, who, frightened by the Thracian Lycurgus, took refuge in the sea, and who when seized by pirates was carried bound on board their vessel. Though Dionysus unbound himself, we are reminded that in other cases gods remained subject to men; as was Proteus, and as was even Ares, when Otus and Ephialtes kept him in prison thirteen months, and as was Apollo when a slave to Laomedon. Thus, however material and human are the Fijian gods, living, eating, acting as men do; the gods of the Greeks are represented as no less material and human. They talk, and banquet, and drink, and amuse themselves during the day, and go to bed at sunset: “the Olympian thunderer, Zeus, went to his couch” and slept. They are pierced by men’s weapons. Ares’ wound is healed by a “pain-assuaging plaster;” and Aphrodite, after some loss of blood and being distracted with pain, borrows her brother’s chariot and drives off to Olympus to be similarly doctored. All their attributes and acts are in keeping with this conception. In battle Here simulates Stentor in appearance and voice; Apollo shouts from Pergamus to exhort the Trojans: Iris [I-414] comes “running down from Olympus;” and the celestial chariots, made in earthly fashion of earthly materials, are drawn by steeds that are lashed and goaded, through the gates of Heaven which creak. The single fact that Zeus is on visiting terms with “the milk-fed men of Thrace,” suffices of itself to show how little the divine was distinguished from the human, and how essentially parallel were the Greek conceptions to the conceptions which the Fijians now show us.

Here, then, is the question. Similar as these conceptions are, were they similarly generated? Beyond all doubt the Fijian pantheon has arisen by that apotheosis of men which was still going on when travellers went among them; and if we say that by the Greeks, who also apotheosized men, a pantheon was generated in like manner, the interpretation is consistent. We are forbidden to suppose this, however. These Greek gods, with their human structures, dispositions, acts, histories, resulted from the personalization of natural objects and powers. So that, marvellous to relate, identical conceptions have been produced by diametrically opposite processes! Here we see an ascending growth of men into gods; there we see a descending condensation of natural powers into gods; and the two sets of gods, created by these two contrary methods, are substantially the same!

Even in the absence of all the foregoing chapters, those who are not wedded to an hypothesis will, I think, say that evidence widely different in amount and quality from that which the mythologists offer, is required to demonstrate so astonishing a coincidence.

§ 202. Must we recognize a single exception to the general truth thus far verified everywhere? While among all races in all regions the conceptions of deities have been naturally evolved in the way shown; must we conclude that a small clan of the Semitic race had given to it supernaturally, [I-415] a conception which, though superficially like the rest, was in substance absolutely unlike them?

Education, the social sanction, and an authority possessed of imposing credentials, lead nearly all to assume that the genesis of their own idea of deity differs fundamentally from the genesis of every other idea. So unhesitatingly, indeed, do they assume this, that they think it impious to ask whether any parallelism exists. In the case of another creed they can see the mischief which arises from refusal to examine. The saying of Euripides that “in things which touch the gods it is not good to suffer captious reason to intrude,” will readily draw from them the remark that a faith profound enough to negative criticism, fosters superstition. Still more on finding that the cannibal Fijians, accepting humbly the established dogmas respecting their bloodthirsty deities, assert that “punishment is sure to overtake the sceptic;” they can see clearly enough how vile may be the belief which defends itself by interdicting inquiry, but, looking at the outsides of other creeds, antagonistically, and at their own creed from within, sympathetically, they cannot think possible that in their case a kindred mischief may result from a kindred cause. On reading that when the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, the natives, thinking them gods, offered up human beings to them, it is allowable to ask whether the ideas and motives of these people were analogous to those of the Scandinavian king On, when he immolated his son to Odin; but it is not allowable to ask whether like ideas and motives prompted Abraham’s intention to sacrifice Isaac. The above-cited fact that Barth was taken by the Fulahs for their god, Féte, may properly raise the question whether, if there had arisen a quarrel between his party and the Fulahs in which he was worsted by one of their chiefs, there might not have grown up a legend akin to that which tells how the god Ares was worsted by Diomede; but it is highly improper to raise the question whether the story of Jacob’s struggle with the Lord had an origin of allied kind. [I-416] Here, however, pursuing the methods of science, and disregarding foregone conclusions, we must deal with the Hebrew conception in the same manner as with all others; and must ask whether it had not a kindred genesis.

What the primitive Semitic notion of a deity was, we may prepare ourselves to see by contemplating the notion of a deity which is entertained by wandering Semites at the present time. Already I have quoted from Mr. Palgrave one illustration of it, and here is another.

“ ‘What will you do on coming into God’s presence for judgment after so graceless a life?’ said I one day to a spirited young Sherarat. . . . ‘What will we do?’ was his unhesitating answer, ‘why, we will go up to God and salute him, and if he proves hospitable (gives us meat and tobacco), we will stay with him; if otherwise, we will mount our horses and ride off.’ . . . Were I not afraid of an indictment for profaneness, I might relate fifty similar anecdotes at least.”

Clearly, then, the existing Semitic idea of deity, is no higher than that which other races have shown us; and the question is, whether the ancient Semites had an idea not only absolutely unlike that of all other races but absolutely unlike that of their modern kindred.

To find a clear answer in traditions recorded by different writers at different dates—traditions with which are incorporated stories and conceptions derived from adjacent more civilized peoples; is of course difficult. The difficulty is increased by the established habit of carrying back developed ideas to the interpretation of early statements; as by commentators who explain away certain highly concrete descriptions of divine actions as “anthropomorphic language suited to the teaching of man in a state of simple and partial civilization.” If, however, we reject non-natural interpretations, and infer, as analogy warrants, that the most crudely anthropomorphic descriptions are the original ones, we shall find the difficulty less.

Abraham is described as doing that which primitive men, and especially nomads, are often compelled to do by [I-417] increase of numbers—leaving his kindred and migrating to a new dwelling-place: separating, as he afterwards separated from Lot, to get pasturage. That he thinks himself supernaturally prompted, apparently by a vision, recalls the ideas of kindred Semites now existing, of whom Baker tells us that “if in a dream a particular course of action is suggested, the Arab believes that God has spoken and directed him.” The new territory he migrates to, the story represents as made over to him; and the question is—Was Abraham dealing with a terrestrial potentate, or with the Power by which planets gravitate and stars shine?

The words applied to this giver of the territory are expressive simply of superiority. Elohim, in some cases translated gods, is applied also to kings, judges, powerful persons, and to other things great or high. So, too, Adonai is indiscriminately used (as “Lord” is among ourselves), to a being regarded as supernatural and to a living man. Kuenen says the meaning of Shaddai is “ ‘the mighty one,’ or perhaps still more exactly, ‘the violent one:’ ” a title harmonizing with the titles of Assyrian kings, who delight in comparing themselves to whirlwinds and floods. Even the more exalted names find their parallels in those of neighbouring rulers. When, in the cuneiform inscriptions, we find Tiglath-pileser called “king of kings, lord of lords,” we see that there is nothing exceptional in the title “god of gods, and lord of lords, a great god, a mighty and terrible:” a description implying that the Hebrew god is one of many, distinguished by his supremacy.

By this being who bears titles such as are borne by terrestrial potentates, Abraham is promised certain benefits to be given in return for homage. When he complains that the promise has not been fulfilled, he is pacified by renewed promises. Finally, a covenant is made—Abraham is to have “all the land of Canaan,” while the giver is “to be a god unto” him. The supposition that such an agreement was entered into between the First Cause of things and a shepherd [I-418] chief, would be an astounding one were it admissible; but it is excluded by the words used. The expression “a god” negatives the conception on either side of a supreme universal power. If, however, instead of supposing that “a god” is here used to mean a supernatural being, we suppose that it is used, as by the existing Arab, to mean a powerful ruler, the statement becomes consistent.

Still more clearly have we the same implications in the ceremony by which the covenant is established. Abraham, and each of his male descendants, and each of his male slaves, is circumcised. The mark of the covenant, observe, is to be borne not only by Abraham and those of his blood, but also by those of other blood whom he has bought. The mark is a strange one, and the extension of it is a strange one, if we assume it to be imposed by the Creator of the Universe, on a favoured man and his descendants; and on this assumption it is no less strange that the one transgression for which every “soul shall be cut off,” is not any crime, but is the neglect of this rite. Such a ceremony, however, insisted on by a living potentate under penalty of death, is not strange; for, as we shall hereafter see, circumcision is one of various mutilations imposed as marks on subject persons by terrestrial superiors.

And now, passing from collateral to direct evidence, observe the idea which Abraham is himself represented as forming of this being with whom he has covenanted. While he sat at his tent door, “three men stood by him.” Nothing implies that they were unlike other men or much unlike one another. He “bowed himself toward the ground,” and addressed one of them “my lord.” Asking them to rest and to wash their feet, he said he would “fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts.” So that, regarding them as tired, travel-stained, and hungry travellers, Abraham treats these “three men” according to those rites of hospitality still observed by the Arabs. There is no indication that Abraham suspects supernaturalness in any of the three; nor, [I-419] when Sarah laughs at the promise that she shall have a son, does it seem that she, either, imagines she is in the presence of anything more than a human being. It is true that Abraham, addressing this visitor with the title given to superior persons, believes him able to do things we class as supernatural—ascribes to him the character common to primitive potentates, who are frequently magicians as well as rulers, like Solomon—ascribes to him powers such as savages now think are possessed by Europeans. But though, while showing him the road to Sodom, Abraham talks in a way implying this belief, he implies no more. The question, mark, is not that which theologians raise—Who actually were these “three men?” was the chief of them Jehovah? or his angel? or the Son? The question is what Abraham thought; or is described as thinking by those who preserved the tradition. Either alternative has the same ultimate implication. If this person to whom Abraham salaams as his lord, with whom he has made the covenant, is a terrestrial ruler, as implied by the indirect evidence, the conclusion is reached that the ancient Semitic idea of a deity was like the modern Semitic idea cited above. And if, otherwise, Abraham conceives this person not as a local ruler but as the Maker of All Things, then he believes the Earth and the Heavens are produced by one who eats and drinks and feels weary after walking: his conception of a deity still remains identical with that of his modern representative, and with that of the uncivilized in general.

§ 203. And so the universality of anthropomorphism has the sufficient cause that the divine man as conceived, had everywhere for antecedent a powerful man as perceived. The abundant evidence above given that the primitive mind frames the notion in this way, may be enforced by facts showing that it fails to frame any other notion.

When Burton, encamped among the Eesa, heard an old woman with the toothache exclaiming, “O Allah, may thy [I-420] teeth ache like mine”—when he tells us that the wilder Bedouins ask where Allah is to be found that they may spear him, “because he lays waste their homes and kills their cattle”—when, according to Moffat, the Hottentots, notwithstanding missionary instruction, regard the Christian god as “a notable warrior of great physical strength”—when, as Hunter narrates, a Santal, responding to a missionary’s account of God’s omnipotence, said, “and what if that Strong One should eat me;” we are not only taught that the undeveloped mind conceives God as a powerful man, but that it is incapable of any higher conception. Even a people so cultured as the ancient Egyptians failed to conceive of gods as differing fundamentally from men. Says Renouf—“All the gods are liable to be forced to grant the prayers of men, through fear of threats which it is inconceivable to us that any intelligence but that of idiots should have believed.”

A like implication everywhere meets us in the aboriginal belief that gods are mortal. In a Quiché legend, given by Bancroft, we read—“so they died like gods; and each left to the sad and wondering men who were his servants, his garments for a memorial.” The writers of the Vedic hymns, says Muir, “looked upon the gods” as “confessedly mere created beings;” and they, like men, were made immortal by drinking soma. In the legend of Buddha it is stated that the prince, inquiring about a corpse, was told by his guide—“This is the final destiny of all flesh: gods and men, rich and poor, alike must die.” We saw that the Scandinavian gods died and were burnt—returning thereafter to Asgard. So, too, the Egyptian gods lived and died: there are frescoes at Philæ and at Abydos showing the burial of Osiris. And though in the Greek pantheon, the death of gods is exemplified only in the case of Pan, yet their original mortality is implied by the legends; for how could Apollo have been a slave to Laomedon, if he then had that power of assuming and throwing-off the material form at will, which is [I-421] possessed in common by the Greek god and the primitive ghost?

How deeply rooted are these ideas of deities, is further shown by the slowness with which culture changes them. Down to civilized times the Greeks thought of their gods as material persons. About 550 bc they believed in a living woman palmed upon them as Athene; and in 490 bc, to Phidippides on his way from Athens to Sparta, Pan, meeting him, complains of neglect. Mahomet had to forbid the adoration which certain of his followers offered him; and about ad 1000 the Caliph Hakem was worshipped while living, and is still worshipped by the Druses. Paul and Barnabas were treated as gods by the priest and people of Lystra. And the sculpture, painting, and literature of mediæval Europe, show how grossly anthropomorphic was the conception of deity which prevailed down to recent centuries. Only alluding to the familiar evidence furnished by the mystery-plays, it will suffice if I instance the Old-French verses which describe God’s illness as cured by laughter at a dancing rhymer (see Appendix A). Nor among some Catholic peoples are things much better now. Just as the existing savage beats his idol if his hopes are not fulfilled—just as the ancient Arcadian was apt “to scourge and prick Pan if he came back empty-handed from the chase;” so, an Italian peasant or artizan will occasionally vent his anger by thrashing a statue of the Madonna: as in Milan in Sept., 1873, and as at Rome not long before. Instead of its being true that ideas of deity such as are entertained by cultivated people, are innate; it is, contrariwise, true that they arise only at a comparatively advanced stage, as results of accumulated knowledge, greater intellectual grasp, and higher sentiment.

§ 204. Behind the supernatural being of this order, as behind supernatural beings of all other orders, we thus find that there has in every case been a human personality.


Anything which transcends the ordinary, a savage thinks of as supernatural or divine: the remarkable man among the rest. This remarkable man may be simply the remotest ancestor remembered as the founder of the tribe; he may be a chief famed for strength and bravery; he may be a medicine-man of great repute; he may be an inventor of something new. And then, instead of being a member of the tribe, he may be a superior stranger bringing arts and knowledge; or he may be one of a superior race predominating by conquest. Being at first one or other of these, regarded with awe during his life, he is regarded with increased awe after his death; and the propitiation of his ghost, becoming greater than the propitiation of ghosts which are less feared, develops into an established worship.

There is no exception then. Using the phrase ancestor-worship in its broadest sense as comprehending all worship of the dead, be they of the same blood or not, we conclude that ancestor-worship is the root of every religion. [*]






§ 205. That seeming chaos of puerile assumptions and monstrous inferences, making up the vast mass of superstitious beliefs everywhere existing, thus falls into order when, instead of looking back upon it from our advanced stand-point, we look forward upon it from the stand-point of the primitive man.

Interpreters of early conceptions err in ways like those in which teachers of the young err. Never having studied Psychology, the pedagogue has but the dimmest notion of his pupil’s mind; and, thinking of the undeveloped intellect as though it had ideas which only the developed intellect can have, he presents it with utterly incomprehensible facts—generalizations before there exist in it the things to be generalized, and abstractions while there are none of the concrete experiences from which such abstractions are derived: so causing bewilderment and an appearance of stupidity. Similarly, narrators of primitive legends and speculators about the superstitions of savages, carry with them the general notions civilization has developed, and, crediting the savage with these, either express an unreasoning wonder that he should think as he does, or else, seeking to explain his thoughts, give explanations which ascribe to him ideas he cannot have.

When, however, we cease to figure his mental processes in terms of our own, the confusion disappears. When, verifying [I-424] a priori inference by a posteriori proof, we recognize the fact that the primitive man does not distinguish natural from unnatural, possible from impossible; knows nothing of physical law, order, cause, etc.; and that while he shows neither rational surprise nor the curiosity which prompts examination, he lacks fit words for carrying on inquiry, as well as the requisite power of continued thinking; we see that instead of being a speculator and maker of explanations, he is at first an almost passive recipient of conclusions forced on him. Further, we find that he is inevitably betrayed into an initial error; and that this originates an erroneous system of thought which elaborates as he advances.

How natural is the evolution of this system of thought, we shall perceive on now recapitulating, in the briefest way, the results reached in the foregoing eighteen chapters.

§ 206. Changes in the sky and on the earth, occurring hourly, daily, and at shorter or longer intervals, go on in ways about which the savage knows nothing—unexpected appearances and disappearances, transmutations, metamorphoses. While seeming to show that arbitrariness characterizes all actions, these foster the notion of a duality in the things which become visible and vanish, or which transform themselves; and this notion is confirmed by experiences of shadows, reflections, and echoes.

The impressions thus produced by converse with external nature, favour a belief set up by a more definite experience—the experience of dreams. Having no conception of mind, the primitive man regards a dream as a series of actual occurrences: he did the things, went to the places, saw the persons, dreamt of. Untroubled by incongruities, he accepts the facts as they stand; and, in proportion as he thinks about them, is led to conceive a double which goes away during sleep and comes back. This conception of his own duality seems confirmed by the somnambulism occasionally witnessed.


More decisively does it seem confirmed by other abnormal insensibilities. In swoon, apoplexy, catalepsy, and the unconsciousness following violence, it appears that the other-self, instead of returning at call, will not return for periods varying from some minutes to some days. Occasionally after one of these states, the other-self tells what has happened in the interval; occasionally no account of its adventures can be got; and occasionally prolonged absence raises the doubt whether it has not gone away for an indefinite period.

The distinction between these conditions of temporary insensibility and the condition of permanent insensibility, is one which, sometimes imperceptible to instructed persons, cannot be perceived by the savage. The normal unconsciousness of sleep from which a man’s double is readily brought back, is linked by these abnormal kinds of unconsciousness from which the double is brought back with difficulty, to that lasting kind of unconsciousness from which the double cannot be brought back at all. Still, analogy leads the savage to infer that it will eventually come back. And here, recalling the remark often made among ourselves after a death, that it is difficult to believe the deceased, lying not more quietly than he has often done, will never move again, let me point out how powerful over the primitive mind must be the association between this sleep-like quiescence and the waking that habitually follows—an association which, even alone, must go far towards suggesting resurrection. Such resurrection, shown by the universal fear of the dead to be vaguely imagined even by the lowest races, becomes clearly imagined in proportion as the idea of a wandering duplicate is made definite by the dream-theory.

The second-self ascribed to each man, at first differs in nothing from its original. It is figured as equally visible, equally material; and no less suffers hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain. Indistinguishable from the person himself, capable of being slain, drowned, or otherwise destroyed a second [I-426] time, the original ghost, soul, or spirit, differentiates slowly in supposed nature. Having at the outset but a temporary second life, it gradually acquires a permanent one; while it deviates more and more in substance from body: becoming at length etherealized.

This double of the dead man, originally conceived as like him in all other respects, is conceived as having like occupations. If of predatory race, it fights and hunts as before; if of pastoral, it continues to tend cattle, and drink milk; if of agricultural, it resumes the business of sowing, reaping, etc. And from this belief in a second life thus like the first, and also like in the social arrangements it is subject to, there result the practices of leaving with the corpse food, drink, clothes, weapons, and of sacrificing at the grave domestic animals, wives, slaves.

The place in which this life after death is believed to be passed, varies with the antecedents of the race. Often ghosts are thought of as mingling with their descendants, and portions of meals are daily set aside for them; sometimes the adjacent forests are their imagined haunts, and they are supposed to consume the offerings of food left there; while in other cases the idea is that they have gone back to the region whence the race came. This other-world is reached by a journey over land, or down a river, or across the sea, towards this or that point of the compass, according as the traditions determine. Hence at the grave are left fit appliances for the journey—canoes for the voyage, or horses to ride, dogs to guide, weapons for defence, money and passports for security. And where burial on a mountain range entails belief in this as a residence of ancestral ghosts, or where such range has been held by a conquering race, the heavens, supposed to be accessible from the mountain-tops, come to be regarded as the other-world, or rather as one of the other-worlds.

The doubles of dead men, at first assumed to have but temporary second lives, do not, in that case, tend to form [I-427] in popular belief an accumulating host; but they necessarily tend to form such a host when permanent second lives are ascribed to them. Swarming everywhere, capable of appearing and disappearing at will, and working in ways that cannot be foreseen, they are thought of as the causes of all things which are strange, unexpected, inexplicable. Every deviation from the ordinary is attributed to their agency; and their agency is alleged even where what we call natural causation seems obvious.

Regarded as workers of remarkable occurrences in the surrounding world, they are regarded as workers also of unusual actions in living persons. The body, deserted by its other-self during insensibility, normal or abnormal, can then be entered by the other-self of someone else, living or dead; and hence to the malicious doubles of dead men are ascribed epilepsy and convulsions, delirium and insanity. Moreover, this theory of possession, accounting for all those bodily actions which the individual does not will, makes comprehensible such acts as sneezing, yawning, etc., and is extended to diseases at large and to death; which is habitually ascribed to an invisible enemy.

While the entrance of friendly spirits into men, giving supernatural strength or knowledge, is desired and prayed for, this entrance of spirits which inflict evils, physical and mental, is of course dreaded; and when it is believed to have occurred, expulsion is the only remedy. The exorcist, by loud noises, frightful grimaces, abominable stenches, etc., professes to drive out the malicious intruder. And this simple form of exorcism is followed by the developed form in which a more powerful spirit is called in to help. Whence, also, there eventually grow up the practices of the sorcerer; who, using means to coerce the souls of the dead, commissions them to work his evil ends.

But while primitive men, regarding themselves as at the mercy of surrounding ghosts, try to defend themselves by the aid of the exorcist and the sorcerer, who deal with ghosts [I-428] antagonistically; there is simultaneously adopted a contrary behaviour towards ghosts—a propitiation of them. Two opposite ways of treating the corpse show us the divergence of these two opposite policies. In some cases the avowed aim is to prevent revival of the deceased, so that he may not trouble the living: a kind of motive which, where he is supposed to have revived, prompts antagonistic dealings. But in most cases the avowed aim is to secure the welfare of the deceased on resuscitation: a kind of motive which prompts propitiatory observances.

Out of this motive and these observances come all forms of worship. Awe of the ghost makes sacred the sheltering structure for the tomb, and this grows into the temple; while the tomb itself becomes the altar. From provisions placed for the dead, now habitually and now at fixed intervals, arise religious oblations, ordinary and extraordinary—daily and at festivals. Immolations and mutilations at the grave, pass into sacrifices and offerings of blood at the altar of a deity. Abstinence from food for the benefit of the ghost, develops into fasting as a pious practice; and journeys to the grave with gifts, become pilgrimages to the shrine. Praises of the dead and prayers to them, grow into religious praises and prayers. And so every holy rite is derived from a funeral rite.

After finding that the earliest conception of a supernatural being, and the one which remains common to all races, is that of a ghost; and after finding that the ways of propitiating a ghost were in every case the originals of the ways of propitiating deities; the question was raised whether the ghost is not the type of supernatural being out of which all other types are evolved. The facts named in justification of an affirmative answer were of several classes. From the lips of primitive peoples themselves, were quoted proofs that out of ghost-worship in general, there grew up the worship of remote ancestral ghosts, regarded as creators or deities. Worship of deities so evolved, we found characterized ancient [I-429] societies in both hemispheres: co-existing in them with elaborate worship of the recent dead. Evidence was given that by the highest races as by the lowest, ancestor-worship, similarly practised, similarly originated deities; and we saw that it even now survives among the highest races, though overshadowed by a more developed worship. Concluding, then, that from worship of the dead every other kind of worship has arisen, we proceeded to examine those worships which do not externally resemble it, to see whether they have traceable kinships.

From the corpse receiving offerings before burial, to the embalmed body similarly cared for, and thence to figures formed partly of the dead man’s remains and partly of other things, we passed to figures wholly artificial: so finding that the effigy of a dead man supplied with food, etc., is then propitiated in place of him. Proof was found that this effigy of the dead man occasionally becomes the idol of a god; while this continued propitiation becomes an established worship of it. And since the doubles of the dead, believed to be present in these images of them, are the real objects to which offerings are made; it follows that all idolatry, hence arising, is a divergent development of ancestor-worship. This belief extends. Objects rudely resembling human beings, and supposed parts of human beings, as well as those which by contact with human bodies have absorbed their odour or spirit, come to be included; and so it results that resident ghosts are assumed in many things besides idols: especially those having extraordinary appearances, properties, actions. That the propitiation of the inhabiting ghosts, constituting fetichism, is thus a collateral result of the ghost-theory, is shown by various facts; but especially by the fact that fetichism is absent where the ghost-theory is absent or but little developed, and extends in proportion as the ghost-theory evolves.

It was demonstrated that animal-worship is another derivative form of ancestor-worship. Actual and apparent [I-430] metamorphoses occurring in the experiences of the savage, encourage belief in metamorphosis when anything suggests it: all races showing us that the transformation of men into animals and of animals into men, is a familiar thought. Hence house-haunting creatures are supposed to be the dead returned in new shapes; and creatures which frequent the burial-place are taken for disguised souls. Further, the widely-prevalent habit of naming men after animals, leads, by the inevitable misinterpretation of traditions, to beliefs in descent from animals. And thus the sacred animal, now treated with exceptional respect, now propitiated, now worshipped, acquires its divine character by identification with an ancestor, near or remote.

Similarly, plant-worship is the worship of a spirit originally human, supposed to be contained in the plant—supposed either because of the exciting effects of its products; or because misapprehended tradition raises the belief that the race descended from it; or because a misinterpreted name identifies it with an ancestor. Everywhere the plant-spirit is shown by its conceived human form, and ascribed human desires, to have originated from a human personality.

Even deification of the greater objects and powers in Nature has the same root. When it marks the place whence the race came, a mountain is described in tradition as the source or parent of the race, as is probably the sea in some cases; and both also give family names: worship of them as ancestors thus arising in two ways. Facts imply that the conception of the dawn as a person, results from the giving of Dawn as a birth-name. The personalization of stars and of constellations, we found associated among inferior races with the belief that they are beings who once lived on the Earth. So, too, is it with the Moon. Traditions of people in low stages tell of the Moon as having been originally a man or woman; and the Moon is still a source of birth-names among the uncivilized: the implication being that reverence for it is reverence for a departed person. Lastly, worship [I-431] of the Sun is derived in three ways from ancestor-worship. Here conquerors coming from the region of sunrise, and therefore called “children of the Sun,” come to regard the Sun as ancestor; and there Sun is either a birth-name or a metaphorical name given because of personal appearance, or because of achievements, or because of exalted position: whence identification with the Sun in tradition, and consequent Sun-worship.

Besides these aberrant developments of ancestor-worship which result from identification of ancestors with idols, animals, plants, and natural powers, there are direct developments of it. Out of the assemblage of ghosts, some evolve into deities who retain their anthropomorphic characters. As the divine and the superior are, in the primitive mind, equivalent ideas—as the living man and re-appearing ghost are at first confounded in early beliefs—as ghost and god are originally convertible terms; we may understand how a deity develops out of a powerful man, and out of the ghost of a powerful man, by small steps. Within the tribe the chief, the magician, or some one otherwise skilled, held in awe during his life as showing powers of unknown origin and extent, is feared in a higher degree when, after death, he gains the further powers possessed by all ghosts; and still more the stranger bringing new arts, as well as the conqueror of superior race, is treated as a superhuman being during life and afterwards worshipped as a yet greater superhuman being. Remembering that the most marvellous version of any story commonly obtains the greatest currency, and that so, from generation to generation, the deeds of such traditional persons grow by unchecked exaggerations eagerly listened to; we may see that in time any amount of expansion and idealization can be reached.

Thus, setting out with the wandering double which the dream suggests; passing to the double that goes away at death; advancing from this ghost, at first supposed to have but a transitory second life, to ghosts which exist permanently [I-432] and therefore accumulate; the primitive man is led gradually to people surrounding space with supernatural beings, small and great, which become in his mind causal agents for everything unfamiliar. And in carrying out the mode of interpretation initiated in this way, he is committed to the ever-multiplying superstitions we have traced out.

§ 207. How orderly is the genesis of these beliefs, will be seen on now observing that the Law of Evolution is as clearly exemplified by it as by every other natural process. I do not mean merely that a system of superstitions arises by continuous growth, each stage of which leads to the next; but I mean that the general formula of Evolution is conformed to by the changes gone through.

Integration is, in the first place, shown us by simple increase of mass. In extremely low tribes which have but faint and wavering beliefs in the doubles of the dead, there are no established groups of supposed supernatural beings. Among the more advanced, who hold that dead members of the tribe have temporary second lives, ghosts form an imagined assemblage which, though continually augmented, is continually dissolving away—a cluster which does not increase because the subtractions equal the additions. But when, later, there arises the belief that ghosts exist permanently, this cluster necessarily grows; and its growth becomes great in proportion both as the society enlarges and as traditions are longer preserved. Hence such a multiplication of supernatural beings that even the superior among them are scarcely numerable. Gomara tells us that “the gods of Mexico are said to number 2,000;” and with these must be joined the far more numerous demons, and spirits of undistinguished persons, recognized in every locality. A like immense growth was exhibited in ancient mythologies; and is now exhibited by the mythology of India, as well as by that of Japan. Along with this increase of mass, goes increase of coherence. The superstitions of the primitive man are loose and inconsistent: different members [I-433] of a tribe make different statements; and the same individual varies his interpretations as occasion suggests. But in course of time the beliefs are elaborated into a well-knit system. Further, the hypothesis to which the ghost-theory leads, initiated by anomalous occurrences, extends itself to all phenomena; so that the properties and actions of surrounding things, as well as the thoughts and feelings of men, are ascribed to unseen beings, who thus constitute a combined mechanism of causation.

While increasing in mass and in coherence, the supernatural aggregate increases in heterogeneity. Alike as ghosts are at first conceived to be, they become unlike as fast as the tribe grows, complicates, and begins to have a history: the ghost-fauna, almost homogeneous at the outset, differentiates. Originally, the only distinctions of good or bad among the doubles of the dead, are such as were shown by the living men; as are also the only unlikenesses of power. But there soon arise conceived contrasts in goodness between the ghosts of relatives and the ghosts of other persons; as well as stronger contrasts between friendly ghosts belonging to the tribe and malicious ghosts belonging to other tribes. When social ranks are established, there follow contrasts of rank and accompanying potency among supernatural beings; which, as legends expand, grow more and more marked. Eventually there is formed in this way a hierarchy of partially-deified ancestors, demigods, great gods, and among the great gods one who is supreme; while there is simultaneously formed a hierarchy of diabolical powers. Then come those further differentiations which specialize the functions and habitats of these supernatural beings; until each mythology has its major and minor presiding agents, from Apollo down to a dryad, from Thor down to a water-sprite, from a Saint down to a fairy. So that out of the originally small and almost uniform aggregate of supernatural beings, there gradually comes an aggregate as multiform as it is vast.


Change from the indefinite to the definite is no less clearly displayed. That early stage in which men show fear of the dead and yet do not themselves expect any future existence, shows us an extreme indefiniteness of the ghost-theory. Even after the ghost-theory is established the beliefs in the resulting supernatural beings, though strong, are indistinct. At the same time that Livingstone describes the people of Angola as “constantly deprecating the wrath of departed souls,” he says that they “have half-developed ideas and traditions of something or other, they know not what.” And kindred accounts of uncivilized races elsewhere, are given by various travellers. But with progress conceptions become clearer. The different kinds of supernatural beings grow more defined in their forms, dispositions, powers, habits; until, in developed mythologies, they are specifically, and even individually, distinguished by attributes precisely stated.

Undeniably, then, a system of superstitions evolves after the same manner as all other things. By continuous integration and differentiation, it is formed into an aggregate which, while increasing, passes from an indefinite incoherent homogeneity to a definite coherent heterogeneity. This correspondence is, indeed, inevitable. The law which is conformed to by the evolving human being, and which is consequently conformed to by the evolving human intelligence, is of necessity conformed to by all products of that intelligence. Showing itself in structures, and by implication in the functions of those structures, this law cannot but show itself in the concrete manifestations of those functions. Just as language, considered as an objective product, bears the impress of this subjective process; so, too, does that system of ideas concerning the nature of things, which the mind gradually elaborates.

So that in fact the hypothesis of Evolution absorbs the antagonist hypotheses preceding it, and strengthens itself by assimilating their components.






§ 208. Through the minds of some who are critical respecting logical order, there has doubtless passed the thought that, along with the Data of Sociology, the foregoing chapters have included much which forms a part of Sociology itself. Admitting an apparent justification for this objection, the reply is that in no case can the data of a science be stated before some knowledge of the science has been reached; and that the analysis which discloses the data cannot be made without reference to the aggregate of phenomena analyzed. For example, in Biology the explanation of functions implies knowledge of the various physical and chemical actions going on throughout the organism. Yet these actions become comprehensible only as fast as the relations of structures and reciprocities of functions become known; nay, they cannot even be described without reference to the vital actions interpreted by them. Similarly in Sociology, it is impossible to explain the origin and development of those ideas and sentiments which are leading agents in social evolution, without referring directly or by implication to the phases of that evolution.

The need for this preliminary statement of data, and the especial need for the latter part of it, will be seen when the results are gathered up, generalized, and formulated.

§ 209. After recognizing the truth that the phenomena of social evolution are determined partly by the external [I-436] actions to which the social aggregate is exposed, and partly by the natures of its units; and after observing that these two sets of factors are themselves progressively changed as the society evolves; we glanced at these two sets of factors in their original forms.

A sketch was given of the conditions, inorganic and organic, on various parts of the earth’s surface; showing the effects of cold and heat, of humidity and dryness, of surface, contour, soil, minerals, of floras and faunas. After seeing how social evolution in its earlier stages depends wholly on a favourable combination of circumstances; and after seeing that though, along with advancing development, there goes increasing independence of circumstances, these ever remain important factors; it was pointed out that while dealing with principles of evolution which are common to all societies, we might neglect those special external factors which determine some of their special characters.

Our attention was then directed to the internal factors as rude societies display them. An account was given of “The Primitive Man—Physical:” showing that by stature, structure, strength, as well as by callousness and lack of energy, he was ill fitted for overcoming the difficulties in the way of advance. Examination of “The Primitive Man—Emotional,” led us to see that his improvidence and his explosiveness, restrained but little by sociality and by the altruistic sentiments, rendered him unfit for co-operation. And then, in the chapter on “The Primitive Man—Intellectual,” we saw that while adapted by its active and acute perceptions to the needs of a wild life, his type of mind is deficient in the faculties required for progress in knowledge.

After recognizing these as general traits of the original social unit, we found that there remained to be noted certain more special traits, implied by his ideas and their accompanying sentiments. This led us to trace the genesis of those beliefs concerning his own nature and the nature of surrounding things, which were summed up in the last chapter. [I-437] And now observe the general conclusion reached. It is that while the conduct of the primitive man is in part determined by the feelings with which he regards men around him; it is in part determined by the feelings with which he regards men who have passed away. From these two sets of feelings, result two all-important sets of social factors. While the fear of the living becomes the root of the political control, the fear of the dead becomes the root of the religious control. On remembering how large a share the resulting ancestor-worship had in regulating life among the people who, in the Nile-valley, first reached a high civilization—on remembering that the ancient Peruvians were subject to a rigid social system rooted in an ancestor-worship so elaborate that the living might truly be called slaves of the dead—on remembering that in the lives of Greeks and Romans propitiation of the family and tribal manes was habitual—on remembering that in China, too, there has been, and still continues, a kindred worship generating kindred restraints; we shall recognize, in the fear of the dead, a social factor which is, at first, not less important, if indeed it is not more important, than the fear of the living.

And thus is made manifest the need for the foregoing account of the origin and development of this trait in the social units, by which co-ordination of their actions is rendered possible.

§ 210. Setting out with social units as thus conditioned, as thus constituted physically, emotionally, and intellectually, and as thus possessed of certain early-acquired notions and correlative feelings, the Science of Sociology has to give an account of all the phenomena that result from their combined actions.

The simplest of such combined actions are those by which the successive generations of units are produced, reared, and fitted for co-operation. The development of the family thus stands first in order. The ways in which the [I-438] fostering of offspring is influenced by promiscuity, by polyandry, by polygyny, and by monogamy, have to be traced; as have also the results of exogamous marriage and endogamous marriage. These, considered first as affecting the maintenance of the race in number and quality, have also to be considered as affecting the condition of adults. Moreover, beyond observing how the several forms of the sexual relations modify family-life, they have to be treated in connexion with public life; on which they act and which reacts on them. And then, after the sexual relations, there have to be similarly dealt with the parental and filial relations.

Sociology has next to describe and explain the rise and development of that political organization which in several ways regulates affairs—which combines the actions of individuals for purposes of tribal or national offence and defence; and which restrains them in certain of their dealings with one another, as also in certain of their dealings with themselves. It has to trace the relations of this co-ordinating and controlling apparatus, to the area occupied, to the amount and distribution of population, to the means of communication. It has to show the differences of form which this agency presents in the different social types, nomadic and settled, militant and industrial. It has to describe the changing relations between this regulative structure which is unproductive, and those structures which carry on production. It has also to set forth the connexions between, and reciprocal influences of, the institutions carrying on civil government, and the other governmental institutions simultaneously developing—the ecclesiastical and the ceremonial. And then it has to take account of those modifications which persistent political restraints are ever working in the characters of the social units, as well as the modifications worked by the reactions of these changed characters on the political organization.

There has to be similarly described the evolution of the ecclesiastical structures and functions. Commencing with [I-439] these as scarcely distinguished from the political structures and functions, their divergent developments must be traced. How the share of ecclesiastical agencies in political actions becomes gradually less; how, reciprocally, political agencies play a decreasing part in ecclesiastical actions; are phenomena to be set forth. How the internal organization of the priesthood, differentiating and integrating as the society grows, stands related in type to the co-existing organizations, political and other; and how changes of structure in it are connected with changes of structure in them; are also subjects to be dealt with. Further, there has to be shown the progressive divergence between the set of rules framed into civil law, and the set of rules which the ecclesiastical organization enforces; and in this second set of rules there has to be traced the divergence between those which become a code of religious ceremonial and those which become a code of ethical precepts. Once more, the science has to note how the ecclesiastical agency in its structure, functions, laws, and creed, stands related to the character of the people; and how the actions and reactions of the two mutually modify them.

The system of restraints whereby the minor actions of citizens are regulated, has also to be dealt with. Earlier than the political and ecclesiastical controls is the control embodied in ceremonial observances; which, beginning with propitiations that initiate acts of class-subordination, grow into rules of intercourse between man and man. The mutilations which mark conquest and become badges of servitude; the obeisances which are originally signs of submission made by the conquered; the titles which are words directly or metaphorically attributing mastery over those who utter them; the salutations which are also the flattering professions of subjection and implied inferiority—these, and some others, have to be traced in their genesis and development. The growth of the structure which maintains observances; the accumulation, complication, and increasing [I-440] definition of observances; and the resulting code of bye-laws of conduct, have to be severally delineated. These regulative arrangements, too, must be considered in their relations to co-existing regulative arrangements; with which they all along maintain a congruity in respect of coerciveness. And the reciprocal influences exercised by them on men’s natures, and by men’s natures on them, need setting forth.

Co-ordinating structures and functions having been treated, there have to be treated the structures and functions co-ordinated. The regulative and the operative are the two most generally contrasted divisions of every society; and the inquiries of highest importance concern the relations between them. The stages through which the industrial part passes, from its original union with the governmental part to its ultimate separateness, have to be studied. An allied subject of study is the growth of those regulative structures which the industrial part develops within itself. The producing activities of its units have to be directed; and the various forms of the directive apparatus have to be dealt with—the kinds of government under which separate groups of workers act; the kinds of government under which workers in the same business and of the same class are combined (eventually differentiating into guilds and into unions); and the kind of government which keeps in balance the activities of the various industrial structures. The relations between the types of these industrial governments and the types of the co-existing political and ecclesiastical governments, have to be considered at each successive stage; as have also the relations between each type and the natures of the citizens: there being here, too, a reciprocity of influences. After the regulative part of the industrial organization comes the operative part; also presenting its successive stages of evolution. The separation of the distributive system from the productive system having been first traced, there has to be traced the growing division of [I-441] labour within each—the rise of grades and kinds of distributors as well as grades and kinds of producers. And then there have to be added the effects which the developing and differentiating industries produce on one another—the advances of the industrial arts themselves, caused by mutual help.

These developments of the structures and functions which make up the organization and life of each society, having been followed out, we have then to follow out certain associated developments which aid, and are aided by, social evolution—the developments of language, knowledge, morals, æsthetics. Linguistic progress has to be considered first as displayed in language itself, while passing from a relatively incoherent, indefinite, homogeneous state, to states that are successively more coherent, definite, and heterogeneous. We have to note how increasing social complexity conduces to increasing complexity of language; and how, as a society becomes settled, its language acquires permanence. The connexion between the developments of words and sentences and the correlative developments of thought which they aid, and which are aided by them, has to be observed: the reciprocity being traced in the increasing multiplicity, variety, exactness, which each helps the other to gain. Progress in intelligence, thus associated with progress in language, has also to be treated as accompanying social progress; which, while furthering it, is furthered by it. From experiences which accumulate, come comparisons leading to generalizations of simple kinds. Gradually the ideas of uniformity, order, and cause, becoming nascent, gain clearness with each fresh truth established. And while there has to be noted the connexion between each phase of science and the concomitant phase of social life, there have also to be noted the stages through which, within the body of science itself, there is an advance from a few, simple, incoherent truths, to a number of specialized sciences forming an aggregate of truths that are multitudinous, [I-442] varied, exact, coherent. The emotional modifications which accompany social modifications, both as causes and as consequences, also demand separate attention. Besides observing the interactions of the social state and the moral state, we have to observe the associated modifications of those moral codes in which moral feelings get their intellectual expression. The kind of behaviour which each kind of régime necessitates, finds for itself a justification which acquires an ethical character; and hence systems of ethics must be dealt with in their social dependences. Then come the groups of phenomena we call æsthetic; which, as exhibited in art-products and in the correlative sentiments, have to be studied in their respective evolutions internally considered, and in the relations of those evolutions to accompanying social phenomena. Diverging as they do from a common root, architecture, sculpture, painting, together with dancing, music, and poetry, have to be severally treated as connected with the political and ecclesiastical stages, with the co-existing phases of moral sentiment, and with the degrees of intellectual advance.

Finally we have to consider the inter-dependence of structures, and functions, and products, taken in their totality. Among these many groups of phenomena there is a concensus; and the highest achievement in Sociology is so to grasp the vast heterogeneous aggregate, as to see how the character of each group at each stage is determined partly by its own antecedents and partly by the past and present actions of the rest upon it.

§ 211. But now before trying to explain these most involved phenomena, we must learn by inspection the relations of co-existence and sequence in which they stand to one another. By comparing societies of different kinds, and societies in different stages, we must ascertain what traits of size, structure, function, etc., are associated. In other [I-443] words, before deductive interpretation of the general truths, there must come inductive establishment of them.

Here, then, ending preliminaries, let us examine the facts of Sociology, for the purpose of seeing into what empirical generalizations they may be arranged.








§ 212. This question has to be asked and answered at the outset. Until we have decided whether or not to regard a society as an entity; and until we have decided whether, if regarded as an entity, a society is to be classed as absolutely unlike all other entities or as like some others; our conception of the subject-matter before us remains vague.

It may be said that a society is but a collective name for a number of individuals. Carrying the controversy between nominalism and realism into another sphere, a nominalist might affirm that just as there exist only the members of a species, while the species considered apart from them has no existence; so the units of a society alone exist, while the existence of the society is but verbal. Instancing a lecturer’s audience as an aggregate which by disappearing at the close of the lecture, proves itself to be not a thing but only a certain arrangement of persons, he might argue that the like holds of the citizens forming a nation.

But without disputing the other steps of his argument, the last step may be denied. The arrangement, temporary in the one case, is permanent in the other; and it is the permanence of the relations among component parts which constitutes the individuality of a whole as distinguished from the individualities of its parts. A mass broken into fragments ceases to be a thing; while, conversely, the stones, [I-448] bricks, and wood, previously separate, become the thing called a house if connected in fixed ways.

Thus we consistently regard a society as an entity, because, though formed of discrete units, a certain concreteness in the aggregate of them is implied by the general persistence of the arangements among them throughout the area occupied. And it is this trait which yields our idea of a society. For, withholding the name from an ever-changing cluster such as primitive men form, we apply it only where some constancy in the distribution of parts has resulted from settled life.

§ 213. But now, regarding a society as a thing, what kind of thing must we call it? It seems totally unlike every object with which our senses acquaint us. Any likeness it may possibly have to other objects, cannot be manifest to perception, but can be discerned only by reason. If the constant relations among its parts make it an entity; the question arises whether these constant relations among its parts are akin to the constant relations among the parts of other entities. Between a society and anything else, the only conceivable resemblance must be one due to parallelism of principle in the arrangement of components.

There are two great classes of aggregates with which the social aggregate may be compared—the inorganic and the organic. Are the attributes of a society in any way like those of a not-living body? or are they in any way like those of a living body? or are they entirely unlike those of both?

The first of these questions needs only to be asked to be answered in the negative. A whole of which the parts are alive, cannot, in its general characters, be like lifeless wholes. The second question, not to be thus promptly answered, is to be answered in the affirmative. The reasons for asserting that the permanent relations among the parts of a society, are analogous to the permanent relations among the parts of a living body, we have now to consider.






§ 214. When we say that growth is common to social aggregates and organic aggregates, we do not thus entirely exclude community with inorganic aggregates. Some of these, as crystals, grow in a visible manner; and all of them, on the hypothesis of evolution, have arisen by integration at some time or other. Nevertheless, compared with things we call inanimate, living bodies and societies so conspicuously exhibit augmentation of mass, that we may fairly regard this as characterizing them both. Many organisms grow throughout their lives; and the rest grow throughout considerable parts of their lives. Social growth usually continues either up to times when the societies divide, or up to times when they are overwhelmed.

Here, then, is the first trait by which societies ally themselves with the organic world and substantially distinguish themselves from the inorganic world.

§ 215. It is also a character of social bodies, as of living bodies, that while they increase in size they increase in structure. Like a low animal, the embryo of a high one has few distinguishable parts; but while it is acquiring greater mass, its parts multiply and differentiate. It is thus with a society. At first the unlikenesses among its groups of units are inconspicuous in number and degree; but as population [I-450] augments, divisions and sub-divisions become more numerous and more decided. Further, in the social organism as in the individual organism, differentiations cease only with that completion of the type which marks maturity and precedes decay.

Though in inorganic aggregates also, as in the entire Solar System and in each of its members, structural differentiations accompany the integrations; yet these are so relatively slow, and so relatively simple, that they may be disregarded. The multiplication of contrasted parts in bodies politic and in living bodies, is so great that it substantially constitutes another common character which marks them off from inorganic bodies.

§ 216. This community will be more fully appreciated on observing that progressive differentiation of structures is accompanied by progressive differentiation of functions.

The divisions, primary, secondary, and tertiary, which arise in a developing animal, do not assume their major and minor unlikenesses to no purpose. Along with diversities in their shapes and compositions go diversities in the actions they perform: they grow into unlike organs having unlike duties. Assuming the entire function of absorbing nutriment at the same time that it takes on its structural characters, the alimentary system becomes gradually marked off into contrasted portions; each of which has a special function forming part of the general function. A limb, instrumental to locomotion or prehension, acquires divisions and sub-divisions which perform their leading and their subsidiary shares in this office. So is it with the parts into which a society divides. A dominant class arising does not simply become unlike the rest, but assumes control over the rest; and when this class separates into the more and the less dominant, these, again, begin to discharge distinct parts of the entire control. With the classes whose actions are controlled it is the same. The various groups into which they [I-451] fall have various occupations: each of such groups also, within itself, acquiring minor contrasts of parts along with minor contrasts of duties.

And here we see more clearly how the two classes of things we are comparing, distinguish themselves from things of other classes; for such differences of structure as slowly arise in inorganic aggregates, are not accompanied by what we can fairly call differences of function.

§ 271. Why in a body politic and in a living body, these unlike actions of unlike parts are properly regarded by us as functions, while we cannot so regard the unlike actions of unlike parts in an inorganic body, we shall perceive on turning to the next and most distinctive common trait.

Evolution establishes in them both, not differences simply, but definitely-connected differences—differences such that each makes the others possible. The parts of an inorganic aggregate are so related that one may change greatly without appreciably affecting the rest. It is otherwise with the parts of an organic aggregate or of a social aggregate. In either of these, the changes in the parts are mutually determined, and the changed actions of the parts are mutually dependent. In both, too, this mutuality increases as the evolution advances. The lowest type of animal is all stomach, all respiratory surface, all limb. Development of a type having appendages by which to move about or lay hold of food, can take place only if these appendages, losing power to absorb nutriment directly from surrounding bodies, are supplied with nutriment by parts which retain the power of absorption. A respiratory surface to which the circulating fluids are brought to be aerated, can be formed only on condition that the concomitant loss of ability to supply itself with materials for repair and growth, is made good by the development of a structure bringing these materials. Similarly in a society. What we call with perfect propriety its organization, necessarily implies traits of the same kind. [I-452] While rudimentary, a society is all warrior, all hunter, all hut-builder, all tool-maker: every part fulfils for itself all needs. Progress to a stage characterized by a permanent army, can go on only as there arise arrangements for supplying that army with food, clothes, and munitions of war by the rest. If here the population occupies itself solely with agriculture and there with mining—if these manufacture goods while those distribute them, it must be on condition that in exchange for a special kind of service rendered by each part to other parts, these other parts severally give due proportions of their services.

This division of labour, first dwelt on by political economists as a social phenomenon, and thereupon recognized by biologists as a phenomenon of living bodies, which they called the “physiological division of labour,” is that which in the society, as in the animal, makes it a living whole. Scarcely can I emphasize enough the truth that in respect of this fundamental trait, a social organism and an individual organism are entirely alike. When we see that in a mammal, arresting the lungs quickly brings the heart to a stand; that if the stomach fails absolutely in its office all other parts by-and-by cease to act; that paralysis of its limbs entails on the body at large death from want of food, or inability to escape; that loss of even such small organs as the eyes, deprives the rest of a service essential to their preservation; we cannot but admit that mutual dependence of parts is an essential characteristic. And when, in a society, we see that the workers in iron stop if the miners do not supply materials; that makers of clothes cannot carry on their business in the absence of those who spin and weave textile fabrics; that the manufacturing community will cease to act unless the food-producing and food-distributing agencies are acting; that the controlling powers, governments, bureaux, judicial officers, police, must fail to keep order when the necessaries of life are not supplied to them by the parts kept in order; we are obliged to say that this [I-453] mutual dependence of parts is similarly rigorous. Unlike as the two kinds of aggregates otherwise are, they are unlike in respect of this fundamental character, and the characters implied by it.

§ 218. How the combined actions of mutually-dependent parts constitute life of the whole, and how there hence results a parallelism between social life and animal life, we see still more clearly on learning that the life of every visible organism is constituted by the lives of units too minute to be seen by the unaided eye.

An undeniable illustration is furnished by the strange order Myxomycetes. The spores or germs produced by one of these forms, become ciliated monads, which, after a time of active locomotion, change into shapes like those of amœbæ, move about, take in nutriment, grow, multiply by fission. Then these amœba-form individuals swarm together, begin to coalesce into groups, and these groups to coalesce with one another: making a mass sometimes barely visible, sometimes as big as the hand. This plasmodium, irregular, mostly reticulated, and in substance gelatinous, itself exhibits movements of its parts like those of a gigantic rhizopod, creeping slowly over surfaces of decaying matters, and even up the stems of plants. Here, then, union of many minute living individuals to form a relatively vast aggregate in which their individualities are apparently lost, but the life of which results from combination of their lives, is demonstrable.

In other cases, instead of units which, originally discrete, lose their individualities by aggregation, we have units which, arising by multiplication from the same germ, do not part company, but nevertheless display their separate lives very clearly. A growing sponge has its horny fibres clothed with a gelatinous substance; and the microscope shows this to consist of moving monads. We cannot deny life to the sponge as a whole, for it shows us some corporate [I-454] actions. The outer amœba-form units partially lose their individualities by fusion into a protective layer or skin; the supporting framework of fibres is produced by the joint agency of the monads; and from their joint agency also result those currents of water which are drawn in through the smaller orifices and expelled through the larger. But while there is thus shown a feeble aggregate life, the lives of the myriads of component units are very little subordinated: these units form, as it were, a nation having scarcely any sub-division of functions. Or, in the words of Professor Huxley, “the sponge represents a kind of subaqueous city, where the people are arranged about the streets and roads, in such a manner, that each can easily appropriate his food from the water as it passes along.” Again, in the hydroid polype Myriothela, “pseudopodial processes are being constantly projected from the walls of the alimentary canal into its cavity;” and these Dr. Allman regards as processes from the cells forming the walls, which lay hold of alimentary matter just as those of an amœba do. The like may be seen in certain planarian worms.

Even in the highest animals there remains traceable this relation between the aggregate life and the lives of components. Blood is a liquid in which, along with nutritive matters, circulate innumerable living units—the blood corpuscles. These have severally their life-histories. During its first stage each of them, then known as a white corpuscle, makes independent movements like those of an amœba; it “may be fed with coloured food, which will then be seen to have accumulated in the interior;” “and in some cases the colourless blood-corpuscles have actually been seen to devour their more diminutive companions, the red ones.” Nor is this individual life of the units provable only where flotation in a liquid allows its signs to be readily seen. Sundry mucous surfaces, as those of the air passages, are covered with what is called ciliated epithelium—a layer of minute elongated cells packed side by side, and [I-455] each bearing on its exposed end several cilia continually in motion. The wavings of these cilia are essentially like those of the monads which live in the passages running through a sponge; and just as the joint action of these ciliated sponge-monads propels the current of water, so does the joint action of the ciliated epithelium-cells move forward the mucous secretion covering them. If there needs further proof that these epithelium-cells have independent lives, we have it in the fact that when detached and placed in a fit menstruum, they “move about with considerable rapidity for some time, by the continued vibrations of the cilia with which they are furnished.”

On thus seeing that an ordinary living organism may be regarded as a nation of units which live individually, and have many of them considerable degrees of independence, we shall have the less difficulty in regarding a nation of human beings as an organism.

§ 219. The relation between the lives of the units and the life of the aggregate, has a further character common to the two cases. By a catastrophe the life of the aggregate may be destroyed without immediately destroying the lives of all its units; while, on the other hand, if no catastrophe abridges it, the life of the aggregate is far longer than the lives of its units.

In a cold-blooded animal, ciliated cells perform their motions with perfect regularity long after the creature they are part of has become motionless. Muscular fibres retain their power of contracting under stimulation. The cells of secreting organs go on pouring out their product if blood is artificially supplied to them. And the components of an entire organ, as the heart, continue their co-operation for many hours after its detachment. Similarly, arrest of those commercial activities, governmental co-ordinations, etc., which constitute the corporate life of a nation, may be caused, say by an inroad of barbarians, without immediately [I-456] stopping the actions of all the units. Certain classes of these, especially the widely-diffused ones engaged in food-production, may long survive and carry on their individual occupations.

On the other hand, the minute living elements composing a developed animal, severally evolve, play their parts, decay, and are replaced, while the animal as a whole continues. In the deep layer of the skin, cells are formed by fission which, as they enlarge, are thrust outwards, and, becoming flattened to form the epidermis, eventually exfoliate, while the younger ones beneath take their places. Liver-cells, growing by imbibition of matters from which they separate the bile, presently die, and their vacant seats are occupied by another generation. Even bone, though so dense and seemingly inert, is permeated by blood-vessels carrying materials to replace old components by new ones. And the replacement, rapid in some tissues and in others slow, goes on at such rate that during the continued existence of the entire body, each portion of it has been many times over produced and destroyed. Thus it is also with a society and its units. Integrity of the whole as of each large division is perennially maintained, notwithstanding the deaths of component citizens. The fabric of living persons which, in a manufacturing town, produces some commodity for national use, remains after a century as large a fabric, though all the masters and workers who a century ago composed it have long since disappeared. Even with minor parts of this industrial structure the like holds. A firm that dates from past generations, still carrying on business in the name of its founder, has had all its members and employés changed one by one, perhaps several times over; while the firm has continued to occupy the same place and to maintain like relations with buyers and sellers. Throughout we find this. Governing bodies, general and local, ecclesiastical corporations, armies, institutions of all orders down to guilds, clubs, philanthropic associations, etc., [I-457] show us a continuity of life exceeding that of the persons constituting them. Nay, more. As part of the same law, we see that the existence of the society at large exceeds in duration that of some of these compound parts. Private unions, local public bodies, secondary national institutions, towns carrying on special industries, may decay, while the nation, maintaining its integrity, evolves in mass and structure.

In both cases, too, the mutually-dependent functions of the various divisions, being severally made up of the actions of many units, it results that these units dying one by one, are replaced without the function in which they share being sensibly affected. In a muscle, each sarcous element wearing out in its turn, is removed and a substitution made while the rest carry on their combined contractions as usual; and the retirement of a public official or death of a shopman, perturbs inappreciably the business of the department, or activity of the industry, in which he had a share.

Hence arises in the social organism, as in the individual organism, a life of the whole quite unlike the lives of the units; though it is a life produced by them.

§ 220. From these likenesses between the social organism and the individual organism, we must now turn to an extreme unlikeness. The parts of an animal form a concrete whole; but the parts of a society form a whole which is discrete. While the living units composing the one are bound together in close contact, the living units composing the other are free, are not in contact, and are more or less widely dispersed. How, then, can there be any parallelism?

Though this difference is fundamental and apparently puts comparison out of the question, yet examination proves it to be less than it seems. Presently I shall have to point out that complete admission of it consists with maintenance of the alleged analogy; but we will first observe how one who thought it needful, might argue that even in this respect there is a smaller contrast than a cursory glance shows.


He might urge that the physically-coherent body of an animal is not composed all through of living units; but that it consists in large measure of differentiated parts which the vitally active parts have formed, and which thereafter become semi-vital and in some cases un-vital. Taking as an example the protoplasmic layer underlying the skin, he might say that while this consists of truly living units, the cells produced in it, changing into epithelium scales, become inert protective structures; and pointing to the insensitive nails, hair, horns, etc., arising from this layer, he might show that such parts, though components of the organism, are hardly living components. Carrying out the argument, he would contend that elsewhere in the body there exist such protoplasmic layers, from which grow the tissues composing the various organs—layers which alone remain fully alive, while the structures evolved from them lose their vitality in proportion as they are specialized: instancing cartilage, tendon, and connective tissue, as showing this in conspicuous ways. From all which he would draw the inference that though the body forms a coherent whole, its essential units, taken by themselves, form a whole which is coherent only throughout the protoplasmic layers.

And then would follow the facts showing that the social organism, rightly conceived, is much less discontinuous than it seems. He would contend that as, in the individual organism, we include with the fully living parts, the less living and not living parts which co-operate in the total activities; so, in the social organism, we must include not only those most highly vitalized units, the human beings, who chiefly determine its phenomena, but also the various kinds of domestic animals, lower in the scale of life, which, under the control of man, co-operate with him, and even those far inferior structures, the plants, which, propagated by human agency, supply materials for animal and human activities. In defence of this view he would point out how largely these lower classes of organisms, co-existing [I-459] with men in societies, affect the structures and activities of the societies—how the traits of the pastoral type depend on the natures of the creatures reared; and how in settled societies the plants producing food, materials for textile fabrics, etc., determine certain kinds of social arrangements and actions. After which he might insist that since the physical characters, mental natures, and daily doings, of the human units, are, in part, moulded by relations to these animals and vegetals, which, living by their aid and aiding them to live, enter so much into social life as even to be cared for by legislation, these lower forms cannot rightly be excluded from the conception of the social organism. Hence would come his conclusion that when, with human beings, are incorporated the less vitalized beings, animal and vegetal, covering the surface occupied by the society, there results an aggregate having a continuity of parts more nearly approaching to that of an individual organism; and which is also like it in being composed of local aggregations of highly vitalized units, imbedded in a vast aggregation of units of various lower degrees of vitality, which are, in a sense, produced by, modified by, and arranged by, the higher units.

But without accepting this view, and admitting that the discreteness of the social organism stands in marked contrast with the concreteness of the individual organism, the objection may still be adequately met.

§ 221. Though coherence among its parts is a prerequisite to that co-operation by which the life of an individual organism is carried on; and though the members of a social organism, not forming a concrete whole, cannot maintain co-operation by means of physical influences directly propagated from part to part; yet they can and do maintain co-operation by another agency. Not in contact, they nevertheless affect one another through intervening spaces, both by emotional language and by the language, oral [I-460] and written, of the intellect. For carrying on mutually-dependent actions, it is requisite that impulses, adjusted in their kinds, amounts, and times, shall be conveyed from part to part. This requisite is fulfilled in living bodies by molecular waves, that are indefinitely diffused in low types, and in high types are carried along definite channels (the function of which has been significantly called inter-nuncial). It is fulfilled in societies by the signs of feelings and thoughts, conveyed from person to person; at first in vague ways and only through short distances, but afterwards more definitely and through greater distances. That is to say, the inter-nuncial function, not achievable by stimuli physically transferred, is nevertheless achieved by language—emotional and intellectual.

That mutual dependence of parts which constitutes organization is thus effectually established. Though discrete instead of concrete, the social aggregate is rendered a living whole.

§ 222. But now, on pursuing the course of thought opened by this objection and the answer to it, we arrive at an implied contrast of great significance—a contrast fundamentally affecting our idea of the ends to be achieved by social life.

Though the discreteness of a social organism does not prevent sub-division of functions and mutual dependence of parts, yet it does prevent that differentiation by which one part becomes an organ of feeling and thought, while other parts become insensitive. High animals of whatever class are distinguished from low ones by complex and well-integrated nervous systems. While in inferior types the minute scattered ganglia may be said to exist for the benefit of other structures, the concentrated ganglia in superior types are the structures for the benefit of which the rest may be said to exist. Though a developed nervous system so directs the actions of the whole body as to preserve its integrity; yet [I-461] the welfare of the nervous system is the ultimate object of all these actions: damage to any other organ being serious in proportion as it immediately or remotely entails that pain or loss of pleasure which the nervous system suffers. But the discreteness of a society negatives differentiations carried to this extreme. In an individual organism the minute living units, most of them permanently localized, growing up, working, reproducing, and dying away in their respective places, are in successive generations moulded to their respective functions; so that some become specially sentient and others entirely insentient. But it is otherwise in a social organism. The units of this, out of contact and much less rigidly held in their relative positions, cannot be so much differentiated as to become feelingless units and units which monopolize feeling. There are, indeed, traces of such a differentiation. Human beings are unlike in the amounts of sensation and emotion producible in them by like causes: here callousness, here susceptibility, is a characteristic. The mechanically-working and hard-living units are less sensitive than the mentally-working and more protected units. But while the regulative structures of the social organism tend, like those of the individual organism, to become specialized as seats of feeling, the tendency is checked by want of that physical cohesion which brings fixity of function; and it is also checked by the continued need for feeling in the mechanically-working units for the due discharge of their functions.

Hence, then, a cardinal difference in the two kinds of organisms. In the one, consciousness is concentrated in a small part of the aggregate. In the other, it is diffused throughout the aggregate: all the units possess the capacities for happiness and misery, if not in equal degrees, still in degrees that approximate. As, then, there is no social sensorium, the welfare of the aggregate, considered apart from that of the units, is not an end to be sought. The society exists for the benefit of its members; not its members [I-462] for the benefit of the society. It has ever to be remembered that great as may be the efforts made for the prosperity of the body politic, yet the claims of the body politic are nothing in themselves, and become something only in so far as they embody the claims of its component individuals.

§ 223. From this last consideration, which is a digression rather than a part of the argument, let us now return and sum up the reasons for regarding a society as an organism.

It undergoes continuous growth. As it grows, its parts become unlike: it exhibits increase of structure. The unlike parts simultaneously assume activities of unlike kinds. These activities are not simply different, but their differences are so related as to make one another possible. The reciprocal aid thus given causes mutual dependence of the parts. And the mutually-dependent parts, living by and for one another, form an aggregate constituted on the same general principle as is an individual organism. The analogy of a society to an organism becomes still clearer on learning that every organism of appreciable size is a society; and on further learning that in both, the lives of the units continue for some time if the life of the aggregate is suddenly arrested, while if the aggregate is not destroyed by violence, its life greatly exceeds in duration the lives of its units. Though the two are contrasted as respectively discrete and concrete, and though there results a difference in the ends subserved by the organization, there does not result a difference in the laws of the organization: the required mutual influences of the parts, not transmissible in a direct way, being, in a society, transmitted in an indirect way.

Having thus considered in their most general forms the reasons for regarding a society as an organism, we are prepared for following out the comparison in detail.






§ 224. Societies, like living bodies, begin as germs—originate from masses which are extremely minute in comparison with the masses some of them eventually reach. That out of small wandering hordes have arisen the largest societies, is a conclusion not to be contested. The implements of pre-historic peoples, ruder even than existing savages use, imply absence of those arts by which alone great aggregations of men are made possible. Religious ceremonies that survived among ancient historic races, pointed back to a time when the progenitors of those races had flint knives, and got fire by rubbing together pieces of wood; and must have lived in such small clusters as are alone possible before the rise of agriculture.

The implication is that by integrations, direct and indirect, there have in course of time been produced social aggregates a million times in size the aggregates which alone existed in the remote past. Here, then, is a growth reminding us, by its degree, of growth in living bodies.

§ 225. Between this trait of organic evolution and the answering trait of super-organic evolution, there is a further parallelism: the growths in aggregates of different classes are extremely various in their amounts.


Glancing over the entire assemblage of animal types, we see that the members of one large class, the Protozoa, rarely increase beyond that microscopic size with which every higher animal begins. Among the multitudinous kinds of Cœlenterata, the masses range from that of the small Hydra to that of the large Medusa. The annulose and molluscous types, respectively show us immense contrasts between their superior and inferior members. And the vertebrate animals, much larger on the average than the rest, display among themselves enormous differences.

Kindred unlikenesses of size strike us when we contemplate the entire assemblage of human societies. Scattered over many regions there are minute hordes—still extant samples of the primordial type of society. We have Wood-Veddahs living sometimes in pairs, and only now and then assembling; we have Bushmen wandering about in families, and forming larger groups but occasionally; we have Fuegians clustered by the dozen or the score. Tribes of Australians, of Tasmanians, of Andamanese, are variable within the limits of perhaps twenty to fifty. And similarly, if the region is inhospitable, as with the Esquimaux, or if the arts of life are undeveloped, as with the Digger-Indians, or if adjacent higher races are obstacles to growth, as with Indian Hill-tribes like the Juangs, this limitation to primitive size continues. Where a fruitful soil affords much food, and where a more settled life, leading to agriculture, again increases the supply of food, we meet with larger social aggregates: instance those in the Polynesian Islands and in many parts of Africa. Here a hundred or two, here several thousands, here many thousands, are held together more or less completely as one mass. And then in the highest socities, instead of partially-aggregated thousands, we have completely-aggregated millions.

§ 226. The growths of individual and social organisms are allied in another respect. In each case size augments by [I-465] two processes, which go on sometimes separately, sometimes together. There is increase by simple multiplication of units, causing enlargement of the group; there is increase by union of groups, and again by union of groups of groups. The first parallelism is too simple to need illustration; but the facts which show us the second must be set forth.

Organic integration, treated of at length in the Principles of Biology, §§ 180—211, must be here summarized to make the comparison intelligible. The compounding and re-compounding, as shown us throughout the vegetal kingdom, may be taken first, as most easily followed. Plants of the lowest orders are minute cells, some kinds of which in their myriads colour stagnant waters, and others compose the green films on damp surfaces. By clusterings of such cells are formed small threads, discs, globes, etc.; as well as amorphous masses and laminated masses. One of these last (called a thallus when scarcely at all differentiated, as in a sea-weed, and called a frond in cryptogams that have some structure), is an extensive but simple group of the protophytes first named. Temporarily united in certain low cryptogams, fronds become permanently united in higher cryptogams: then forming a series of foliar surfaces joined by a creeping stem. Out of this comes the phænogamic axis—a shoot with its foliar organs or leaves. That is to say, there is now a permanent cluster of clusters. And then, as these axes develop lateral axes, and as these again branch, the compounding advances to higher stages. In the animal-kingdom the like happens; though in a less regular and more disguised manner. The smallest animal, like the smallest plant, is essentially a minute group of living molecules. There are many forms and stages showing us the clustering of such smallest animals. Sometimes, as in the compound Vorticellæ and in the Sponges, their individualities are scarcely at all masked; but as evolution of the composite aggregate advances, the individualities of the component aggregates become less distinct. In some Cœlenterata, [I-466] though they retain considerable independence, which they show by moving about like Amœbæ when separated, they have their individualities mainly merged in that of the aggregate formed of them: instance the common Hydra. Tertiary aggregates similarly result from the massing of secondary ones. Sundry modes and phases of the process are observable among cœlenterate types. There is the branched hydroid, in which the individual polypes preserve their identities, and the polypidom merely holds them together; and there are forms, such as Velella, in which the polypes have been so modified and fused, that their individualities were long unrecognized. Again, among the Molluscoida we have feebly-united tertiary aggregates in the Salpidæ; while we have, in the Botryllidæ, masses in which the tertiary aggregate, greatly consolidated, obscures the individualities of the secondary aggregates. So, too, is it with certain annuloid types; and, as I have sought to show, with the Annulosa generally. (Prin. of Biol., § 205.)

Social growth proceeds by an analogous compounding and re-compounding. The primitive social group, like the primitive group of living molecules with which organic evolution begins, never attains any considerable size by simple increase. Where, as among Fuegians, the supplies of wild food yielded by an inclement habitat will not enable more than a score or so to live in the same place—where, as among Andamanese, limited to a strip of shore backed by impenetrable bush, forty is about the number of individuals who can find prey without going too far from their temporary abode—where, as among Bushmen, wandering over barren tracts, small hordes are alone possible, and even families “are sometimes obliged to separate, since the same spot will not afford sufficient sustenance for all;” we have extreme instances of the limitation of simple groups, and the formation of migrating groups when the limit is passed. Even in tolerably productive habitats, fission of the groups is eventually necessitated in a kindred manner. Spreading as its number [I-467] increases, a primitive tribe presently reaches a diffusion at which its parts become incoherent; and it then gradually separates into tribes that become distinct as fast as their continually-diverging dialects pass into different languages. Often nothing further happens than repetition of this. Conflicts of tribes, dwindlings or extinctions of some, growths and spontaneous divisions of others, continue. The formation of a larger society results only by the joining of such smaller societies; which occurs without obliterating the divisions previously caused by separations. This process may be seen now going on among uncivilized races, as it once went on among the ancestors of the civilized races. Instead of absolute independence of small hordes, such as the lowest savages show us, more advanced savages show us slight cohesions among larger hordes. In North America each of the three great tribes of Comanches consists of various bands, having such feeble combination only, as results from the personal character of the great chief. So of the Dakotahs there are, according to Burton, seven principal bands, each including minor bands, numbering altogether, according to Catlin, forty-two. And in like manner the five Iroquois nations had severally eight tribes. Closer unions of these slightly-coherent original groups arise under favourable conditions; but they only now and then become permanent. A common form of the process is that described by Mason as occurring among the Karens. “Each village, with its scant domain, is an independent state, and every chief a prince; but now and then a little Napoleon arises, who subdues a kingdom to himself, and builds up an empire. The dynasties, however, last only with the controlling mind.” The like happens in Africa. Livingstone says—“Formerly all the Maganja were united under the government of their great Chief, Undi; . . . but after Undi’s death it fell to pieces. . . . This has been the inevitable fate of every African Empire from time immemorial.” Only occasionally does there result a compound social aggregate that endures [I-468] for a considerable period, as Dahomey or as Ashantee, which is “an assemblage of states owing a kind of feudal obedience to the sovereign.” The histories of Madagascar and of sundry Polynesian islands also display these transitory compound groups, out of which at length come in some cases permanent ones. During the earliest times of the extinct civilized races, like stages were passed through. In the words of Maspero, Egypt was “divided at first into a great number of tribes, which at several points simultaneously began to establish small independent states, every one of which had its laws and its worship.” The compound groups of Greeks first formed, were those minor ones resulting from the subjugation of weaker towns by stronger neighbouring towns. And in Northern Europe during pagan days, the numerous German tribes, each with its cantonal divisions, illustrated this second stage of aggregation. After such compound societies are consolidated, repetition of the process on a larger scale produces doubly-compound societies; which, usually cohering but feebly, become in some cases quite coherent. Maspero infers that the Egyptian nomes described above as resulting from integrations of tribes, coalesced into the two great principalities, Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, which were eventually united: the small states becoming provinces. The boasting records of Mesopotamian kings similarly show us this union of unions going on. So, too, in Greece the integration at first occurring locally, began afterwards to combine the minor societies into two confederacies. During Roman days there arose for defensive purposes federations of tribes, which eventually consolidated; and subsequently these were compounded into still larger aggregates. Before and after the Christian era, the like happened throughout Northern Europe. Then after a period of vague and varying combinations, there came, in later times, as is well illustrated by French history, a massing of small feudal territories into provinces, and a subsequent massing of these into kingdoms.


So that in both organic and super-organic growths, we see a process of compounding and re-compounding carried to various stages. In both cases, after some consolidation of the smallest aggregates there comes the process of forming larger aggregates by union of them; and in both cases repetition of this process makes secondary aggregates into tertiary ones.

§ 227. Organic growth and super-organic growth have yet another analogy. As above said, increase by multiplication of individuals in a group, and increase by union of groups, may go on simultaneously; and it does this in both cases.

The original clusters, animal and social, are not only small, but they lack density. Creatures of low types occupy large spaces considering the small quantities of animal substance they contain; and low-type societies spread over areas that are wide relatively to the numbers of their component individuals. But as integration in animals is shown by concentration as well as by increase of bulk; so that social integration which results from the clustering of clusters, is joined with augmentation of the number contained by each cluster. If we contrast the sprinklings in regions inhabited by wild tribes with the crowds filling equal regions in Europe; or if we contrast the density of population in England under the Heptarchy with its present density; we see that besides the growth produced by union of groups there has gone on interstitial