SINCE evidence of the existence of the belief that the soul lives on is so indubitable, the question arises--what is its condition? In what state does the discarnate spirit find itself after final separation from the body? And first, as to what we may be allowed to call, for want of a better term, its physical condition.
We have already noted that soul is conceived as having both form and substance, the latter, so to speak, greatly rarefied. Moreover, it has been brought to our attention that the most common idea concerning form is that the soul is a replica of the body it inhabited. Consistency in primitive thinking is not to be assumed, as we have seen, nor are logical processes among primitives quite the same as ours. Yet when a disembodied soul took up its post-mortem residence in a serpent, for example, we may not suppose that that soul was still regarded as human in shape. But so far as the author has discovered, no decisive evidence exists on this point. The probabilities favor greatly the supposition that in such cases transformation of the soul shape was supposed to have taken place. Evidence of the common idea, retention by the soul of its human shape, has been before us. We have noted that some tribes mutilate the body of the dead, thinking that by so doing they inflict like wounds upon the soul and thus impose incapacity for harm upon the ghost, the double of the body. The Omahas slit the soles of a murdered man's feet that his spirit may be unable to return and cause damage to the people. Mangaeans prefer death in battle--men are then in their full strength; disease weakens them, and souls have the nature of the body at death. Barongo believe that souls are young or old, according to the age at death, and so do the Indians of Gran Chaco. Naga tribes of Manipur think that ghosts bear whatever tattoo marks, mutilations, or other blemishes or embellishments occurred on the body. Some people carry this idea so far as to prefer
[1. Fletcher and La Flesche, 27th Report, etc., p. 215.]
death before decay of natural powers sets in, and so commit suicide or are buried alive, that the soul may continue to exist in full vigor.
Having form and substance, the soul has certain physical needs. It hungers, thirsts, feels cold and heat. The degrees of grossness of these wants vary greatly. Sometimes the hunger, thirst, and wants and passions may be appeased by the mere spirit or ghost of food, drink, etc.; and the ghosts are served by the spirits or (as our theosophical friends might be imagined as saying) the astral bodies of dishes, implements, or weapons which are destroyed (i.e., killed) that their spirits may accompany the ghost into the spirit land. Indeed, this is by all odds the most prevalent conception. Sometimes it is the more evanescent or the more vital elements, such as the blood, which are used by the ghost, as in the celebrated case of Tiresias in the Odyssey. The cases already cited of food, drink, weapons, utensils, and the like possessing souls and being offered or placed with the dead, oftentimes being broken or mutilated so as to "kill"
[2. Cases are cited in Frazer's Dying God, pp. 9-14.
3 Book XI.]
them, furnish direct testimony to the supposed needs of the ghost. The hunger felt by the disembodied soul is vividly expressed by most African tribes, whose belief is that ghosts can and do eat even human bodies A Ghosts also suffer from cold, hence New Guineans, and others, make fires at the graves, and even build huts, so that when the ghosts come up from the body they may find comfort.'
Ghosts have voices, too, but thin and shadowy like themselves. They chirp like crickets or utter their words in whistling tones. So the wizards by ventriloquistic art impose upon the credulous, and by wheezing utterance produce the effect of communications from a shadowy being or from the ground. Note the indications of shamanistic practice in the Prophet Isaiah (8:19- 29:4).
What we may regard as the disposition of the ghost is by most peoples held to be fixed by the character of the person while on earth.
[4. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, pp. 224-225, 232-233, 238, etc.; ERE, vi. 65 ff. The testimony is being exhaustively collected in Frazer, Belief in Immortality--see the Index, under "Food."
5. Brown, Melanesians and Polynesians, pp. 442 ff.; Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. S18; Frazer, Belief in Immortality, i. 150-152.]
Was he cruel, warlike, passionate, generous, revengeful in the body, so will he be as a discarnate ghost. So, for instance, the New Guineans hold. Only account must be taken of a very common notion, that the ghost is endowed with increased power. One might find many reasons for this common idea. The general fearsomeness of the unknown and invisible, the fad that the ghost has joined the terrible host of free spirits, its very remoteness, combine to add the idea of power. That which is distant in space or time gains enchantment and enlargement from the imagination, which is the faculty most employed in this sphere. Australians credit to their ancestors deeds to themselves impossible, though they are themselves their ancestors reincarnate. The greed and liking for possessions which existed on earth are attributed in some parts to the spirit, and among the Bakongo, for instance, this desire is satisfied by placing all the deceased's wealth about the grave. The soul's assumed mobility,
[6. Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. 142 ff.
7. Roscoe, Baganda, pp. 282 ff.
8. Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes, pp. 489 ff
9. Weeks, Primitive Bakongo, p. 278.]
such as was displayed in its power to leave the body during life and to make investigations at even a considerable distance, is not lost but rather enhanced. It has become a free agent, no longer bound by the body's necessities and limitations of locomotion, at liberty to roam unfettered, to use in the wide universe its powers--those that remain or are acquired in its new condition. If it in earthly life could leave the body temporarily and like the lightning speed hither and thither, now, disfleshed, its mobility has gained by the change.
Especially is it believed that spirits acquire a larger knowledge. Not only do they gain a completer survey of the past and the present, but a knowledge of the future becomes theirs. According as their dispositions prompt, they become helpers of their survivors or hostilely active against them.
Particularly interesting in this connection is the relationship of the ghost and other beings to warning and prediction. Among the powers of the soul is that of return and manifestation to survivors. Melanesian, Andaman, and African ghosts, for instance, reappear to and converse with their people and become a medium of information. Particularly through dreams do they mediate--a performance recorded in antiquity and attested by present day belief over a large area. Indeed, it is through the dream that approach to human comprehension is most easily made by divine, superhuman, or discarnate powers, the spirit in this condition being loosed from fleshly trammels. The human spirit in sleep is regarded as not bound by quite the same inflexible laws to the bodily limitations. The employment of the dream as a means of information or warning at once occurs to the reader--Jacob, Joseph, Pharaoh, Nebucbadrezzar; clasctical cases will be found in Pindar, Olympiacs, XIII, 105 and Pausanias, X, xxxiii, II. It will be remembered that in an earlier section the importance of the dream as an index to animistic thought was dwelt upon at some length. One specimen of developed classical and philosophical thought on this has been summarized from Jamblichus.
[10. Seligmann, Melanesians, pp. 190 ff.; Klosts, In the Andamans, p. 296; Weeks, Congo Cannibals, pp. 264-265.
11. Herodotus, IV, 172; Pomponius Mela, I. viii. 8; Mauss, Origines des pouvoirs magiques, p. 15; Haddon, Anthropological Essays, p. 179.]
"There is nothing unworthy of belief in what you have been told concerning sleep and the meaning of dreams. I will explain it thus. The soul has a twofold life, a lower and a higher. In sleep the soul is released from the constraint of the body, and enters as one emancipated on its divine life of intelligence. Then as the noble faculty which beholds the objects that truly are, the objects in the world of intelligence, stirs within and awakens to its power, who can be surprised that the mind, which contains within itself the principles of all that happens, should in this, the state of liberation, discern the future in those antecedent principles which will make that future what it is to be? The nobler part of the soul is thus united by abstraction to higher natures, and becomes a participant in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the gods. Recorded examples of this are numerous and well authenticated; instances too occur every day. Numbers of sick by sleeping had their cure revealed to them in dreams. Would not Alexander's army have perished but for a dream in which Dionysius pointed out the means of safety? Was not the siege of Aphritis raised through a dream sent by Jupiter Ammon to Lysander? 'The night time of the body is the daytime of the soul.'"
The student of anthropology will at once recognize here the advanced justification for beliefs which go back very far for their origins. But even in the advanced stage of thought represented by Jamblichus there are present elements that are duplicable today in the most primitive regions.
Several doors open here to alluring bypaths--to inspiration, prediction, oracles, on the one side, these presuming a favoring: disposition on the part of the ghost; and, on the other, to necromancy and the "black art" or black magic, if the ghost or his control be evil. Melanesians and Africans say that the soul may return to seize and inspire the unconscious shaman or prophet to pregnant utterance. We have said "unconscious"--for it seems practically established that, in the earlier stages of culture, prediction and the delivery of the oracle took place only when the medium was in ecstasy. Vergil's description of the
[12. Theurgia or the Egyptian Mysteries, Part III, chap. vii.
13. Codrington, Melanesians, pp. 218 ff.; Roscue, Baganda, p. 113.]
raging sybil will recur to the classical student. Plato says that "inspired and true divination is not attained to by anyone in his full senses, but only when the power of thought is fettered by sleep or disease, or some paroxysm of frenzy." It is well known that the American Indians regarded the simple or mentally incompetent as peculiarly endowed and in closer touch with the supernatural than those possessed of all their mental powers. In the Old Testament there is an unconscious testimony to the veracity of many parts of the narrative, guaranteed by psychological conclusions, in the fact that the earlier phases of prophecy and prediction are described as involving the ecstatic state or a condition of unconsciousness. Such are the use of the dream, the case of Balaam, the prophets among whom Saul found himself, this form of affection being communicable or "catching"--compare the "dancing mania" of the middle ages-and Elisha, for whom music was in at least one case a prerequisite to the delivery of the oracle--the "hand of the Lord " (2 Kings 3:15) being the Old Testament expression for the modern psychological term
[14. Æneid, V1, 45 ff., 77ff.
15. Timæus, 71.]
"ecstasy" adopted from the Greek. So among perhaps most primitive peoples, like the Melanesians and Africans referred to above, warnings from the supernatural and even knowledge of other matters, as of charms, are supposed to be received under such conditions.
Ghosts do not figure merely as indicators of coming events or as guardians against evil fortune. Their larger capacity for action may make them powerful intercessors with still higher supernatural beings or spirits, through shamans who control them or know them intimately. Or their own success in their earthly vocation makes them interested in survivors who follow their trade. In Africa the spirit of a dead hunter is powerful to help in the chase, and is propitiated to that end. In Melanesia the help of ghosts in securing the right kind of weather, in performing feats of healing, in success with the fishing net or line, and in agriculture is obtained by sacrifices
[16. So the Australians: Howitt, Native Tribes, pp. 435-437. On the facts at large of Carpenter, Comparative Religion, pp. 181, 182.
17. Carruthers, Unknown Mongolia, i. 243.
18. Weeks, Primitive Bakongo, pp. 181-183.]
and offerings. Indeed, from the inhabitants of Ghosttown may come some of the good gifts, agricultural, for instance, which make life worth living. The spirits of the dead may keep a watchful eye upon survivors, preventing or punishing infractions of tribal customs that involve offence to themselves, and warning against repetition by inflicting sickness or failure in various enterprises. Foundation sacrifice had the purpose of procuring for the structure the protection of the spirits of the dead.
On the other hand, ghosts may be among the spirits whose malevolence needs to be guarded against. In fact, among the post mortem transformations may be that into ill disposed spirits. Usually, when this is conceived to be the case, the cause is found in some misfortune in life or death. Among the Ibo, for instance, a childless woman, a wifeless or moneyless man, or a suicide may as ghosts attempt to increase the population
[19. Codrington, Melanesians, pp. 132. ff.: Lambert, Murs et superstitions, pp. 24, 26, 218, 224 ff., 293 ff.; Turner, Samoa, pp. 345 ff.
20. Talbot, In the Shadow of the Bush, pp. 238-239.
21. Seligmann, Melanesians, pp. 192, 310.
22, B. D. Eerdmans, in Expositor, Nov. 1913, p. 197.]
of the underworld by attacks upon those left on earth. Similarly in New Guinea those who die in childbirth, suicides, and those who have lost their heads become maleficent. The Omahas hold that ghosts of the murdered return and inflict punishment by disease, or by causing the wind to blow from hunter to game and so to spoil his sport. Among Congo cannibals the soul seen in dreams is a wandering human spirit aiming at evil in its travels, and the witch doctor may be hired to kill it. The nostrils of the dead are plugged immediately after death to keep the spirit in the body as long as possible. If the ghost is for any reason unwelcome in the nether world and is driven out, it becomes malicious and aims at mischief, either inflicting positive ills by sending storms and like disasters or preventing success in various pursuits. In some cases ghosts are normally neutral, and their disposition and consequent actions depend upon the treatment they receive from
[23. Thomas, Anthropological Report, p. 312
24. Frazer, Belief in Immortality, i. 212.
25. Fletcher and La Flesche, 27th Report, p. 212.
26. Weeks, Congo Cannibals, p. 263-264, 269.]
the living. So that the well-being of survivors depends on propitiation by gifts and ceremonies or on manifestations of abiding affection. The duties of classic Greeks and Romans to their dead--careful and honorable burial, celebration by games at the funeral or on anniversaries--recur at once to the mind: and in these and other matters these peoples handed down in memory at least and often in ritual the doings and beliefs of far away ancestors. Close parallels to classic customs have been observed among African, Melanesian, and Polynesian peoples, where not only is the funeral offering placed on the ground, but dramatic performances in honor of the dead take place. Among some races, such as British New Guineans and the Mafulu, ghosts are always malevolent.
Among the exercises of the enlarged powers
[28. Williamson, South Sea Savage, pp. 65, 68, 74, 75, 76, 81 ff.; Roscoe, Baganda, pp. 116, 278, 286.
29. Taplin, Narrinyeri, p. 19; Curt, Australian Race, i. 87; Howitt, Native Tribes, pp. 461, 463, 473; Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes, p. 507, and Native Tribes, p. 511.
30. Talbot, In the Shadow of The Bush, p. 18; Brown, Melanesians and Polynesians, pp. 214 ff.; Milligan, Fetish Folk, pp. 233-236.
31. Williamson, South Sea Savage, p. 281 and Mafulu Mountain People, pp. 243 ff., 266 ff., 297 ff.; JAI, xxviii (1899), 216 ff.]
attributed to ghosts by quite diverse peoples is one which, as we shall see later, they possess in common with non-human spirits. This is the infliction of disease in an access of malignancy. Such a belief is held by American Indians, South Sea islanders, Hindus, New Guineans, and many others. They may inflict lockjaw by a blow, cause death, induce phthisis, and bring pestilence. Shamans and medicine men may use them to secure revenge or haunt the living; and this again calls up the need for exorcism. This gives rise to various devices and taboos, aiming at propitiating or deceiving the ghosts, such as change of names assigned to things belonging to the dead, or dropping out of the language words which contained the name borne in life, this going so far in some cases as to involve the destruction of huts, plantations, trees, and other possessions." It is quite in keeping with the
[32. Folk-lore, ii. 420 ff., 431; Kloss, In the Andamans, p. 305; Declé, Three years in Savage Africa, pp. 236, 344.
33. Talbot, In the Shadow of The Bush, p. 230; Weeks, Congo Cannibals, p. 266; Roscoe, Baganda, p. 100; Williamson, South Sea Savage, pp. 81 ff.; Crooke, Tribes and Caste, iii. 436.
34. Williamson, South Sea Savage, pp. 81 ff.; Roscoe, Baganda, p. 126.
35. Seligmann, Melanesians, pp. 631 ff.; Cambridge Anthropological Expedition, v. 250.]
whole conception of things that ghosts should be especially dangerous at night.
From all this, to anticipate slightly what is yet to come, fear of discarnate spirits may lead to a cult, a worship, which is apotropaic, deprecatory, or propitiatory in character. On the other hand, the sense of favors received or to come gives the rationale of a cultus which embodies more of gratitude and pleasure than of fear. With both these varieties of mental qualities attributed to ghosts, shared by them in common with non-human powers, it seems to require somewhat of ingenuity and a miscalculation or misappreciation of native human traits to force one to derive all worship from fear. Timor fecit deos is now hardly tenable in its original sense, in view of abundance of ascertained fads. Most of the animals, especially those domesticated, display amiable traits, including gratitude. We can hardly hold, therefore, that man, whether the product of evolution or of special creation, developed one of his noblest exercises, that of worship, from a sense of fear alone.
[36. Neuhass, Deutsch Neu-Guinea, iii. 64, 147.
37. Chalmers and Gill, Work and Adventure, pp. 84 ff.]
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