IT is not to be supposed that life, soul, spirit, possessing emotional, volitional, and factual potency, was limited in savage man's conception to the tangible and visible. If the soul of man was itself invisible, and if soul were a possession of plants, animals, and other natural objects, yet perceived only by its operations, why should there not be other souls "loose in the universe," unseen and unfelt except as they revealed themselves by their activities or manifestations to the world of sense? So man seems to have reasoned, and this belief abides today in the minds of the mass of mankind, even in Christendom. Spirits, unfixed so to speak, having form and substance, indeed, but not body, roamed free and unfettered in air, on land, in the waters. They lurked in nook and cranny, behind bush and tree and rock; they came in storm and wind; they inhabited the woods, floated in the atmosphere, swam in the sea and in lake and stream, parched in the desert, bid in cave or roamed on mountain top. Wherever mystery is possible, there man imagines non-human spirits to exist. A suggestion of the enormity of the numbers of spirits whose existence is conceived is given by the following from the strongly animistic Shinto faith of Japan in comparatively modern times.
"Reverently adoring the great god of the two palaces of Ise (the sun-goddess) in the first place, the 800 myriads of celestial karma the 800 myriads of ancestral kami, all the 1,500 myriads to whom are consecrated the great and small temples in all provinces, all islands and all places in the great land of eight islands, the 1,500 myriads of kami whom they cause to serve them. . . . I pray with awe that they will deign to correct the unwitting faults which, heard and seen by them, I have committed, and, blessing and favouring me according to. the powers which they severally wield, cause me to follow the divine example, and to perform good works in the way."
Examples at almost any length might be
[1. Quoted by Carpenter, Comparative Religion, p. 93, from a morning prayer by Hirata, a Japanese (1776-1843).]
cited from modern works of contemporaries. Only a few instances will be given here simply to illustrate the principle. Central Australians believe in the existence of Wullunqua, a dread spirit which inhabits a deep water hole. And other tribes of that continent have similar traditions, such as the Narrinyeri, who know of a like spirit, the Mulgewauke. By the inhabitants of New Guinea spirits, non-human, are supposed to inhabit any place with unusual physical charaderistics--waterfall, pool, queer-shaped rock, or the like. Of the Guiana native Im Thum says:
"His whole world swarms with beings. He is surrounded by a host of them, possibly harmful. It is therefore not wonderful that the Indian fears to be without his fellow., fears even to move beyond the light of his camp-fire, and when obliged to do so, carries a fire-brand with him, that he may have a chance of seeing the beings among whom he moves."
Truly the angelology and demonology of advanced faiths have a long ancestry.
[2. Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes, etc., passim.
3. Taplin, Narrinyeri, pp. 48, 91.
4. Williamson, Ways of South Sea Savage, p. 283
5. Among the Indians of Guiana.]
As already suggested, the groundwork for such a faith was already laid in the observations and deductions regarding man's soul. If in sleep his spirit could go forth unseen by companions who were near, in order that it might perform the deeds of the dream state so real to the savage; if it were true that a faint were caused by the temporary desertion of its home by the soul; if at death it could depart without detection by those intent in their watch over the ailing, and reveal its invisibility by going forth unseen to a disembodied existence, why should there not be numerous other spirits - either temporarily or permanently and by nature bodiless - abroad in the universe? This would be normal reasoning, and was actual. The belief is so well known, evidences of it are so easily accessible, that direct demonstration here is hardly obligatory. As a matter of fact, in parts of our discussion yet to come, the proof will appear incidentally, so that to give it here would be but to duplicate what is both implicit and explicit in testimony on another but related line of investigation.
In a recent paragraph the words "angelology" and "demonology" were employed, and in their use there is implicit a fundamental philosophy which has swayed the conceptions, awakened the hopes and aroused the fears, helped to form the cults, and controlled the actions of men in all ages and climes for which direct testimony is adducible. The dualism of substance, body and spirit, inherent in the notions of animism is paralleled by a coincident dualism of character. There were good spirits and bad, white spirits and black. And this character was determined by their supposed favor or disfavor toward man. There were also good spirits which by reason of their emotional natures were capable of showing inimical traits, while the bad might be pacified, rendered innocuous or even friendly, by the appropriate treatment.
This is, of course, but the reflection of men's interpretation of their own nature and experiences, the result of their reasoning about that nature and those experiences. Sometimes enterprises went awry without any cause to them discoverable; again, good fortune attended their ventures, and this in spite of what seemed to them legitimate fears and untoward beginnings. But on the hypothesis of hosts of invisible beings all about them, good or ill fortune was fully accounted for by the direction or interference of these spirits in man's favor or against him. To any event or happening otherwise unaccountable a cause was assigned in the action of spirits which worked when, where, and how they pleased. And as the human being was amenable to gift or praise or request, so would the spirits yield to similar courses of treatment. As he was vexed or angered by opposition to his will or by actual harm, so, he reasoned, the spirits could be enraged by human doings contrary to their desires. Once more, just as he might, when angered, be placated by use of the proper means, so would the spirits be soothed and rendered benign were they properly approached. As he succumbed or gave way before force greater than his own or was overcome by craft and cunning, the spirits too must yield if force majeure could be brought to bear on them or if they could be outwitted.
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