Its Earliest Manifestations

Onia upon the ha--is of the foregoing assumptions is it, possible to understand the historical origin and further development of religion. It must be admitted that when religious evolution first begins sundry curious phenomena confront us, preliminary to r. ligion proper and deeply affecting its subsequent course. Such are the notions of ' clean' and ' unclean ', belief in and worship of the dead, belief in and worship oi 'souls' or 'spirits', magic, fairy tale, and myth, homage to natural objects, whether frightful or extraordinary, noxious or advantageous, the strange idea of ' power' (oreuda or mana), fotisbism and totemism, worship of animal and plant, daemonism and polydaemoni>m. Diilerent as these thing- are, they are all haunted by a common—and that a numinous—element, which is easily identifiable. They did not, perhaps, take their origin out of this common numinous element directly ; they may have all exhibited a preliminary stage at which they were men ly ' natural' products of the naive, rudimentary fancies of primitive times. 1 ut these things acquire a strand of a quite special kind, which alone gives them their character as forming the vestibule of religion, brings them first to clear and explicit form and furni .lies them with the prodigious power over the minds of men which history universally proves them to possess. Let us attempt to grasp this peculiar strand, common to all these modes of thought and practice which ftand ujmjii the threshold of religion.

!. We will begin with vuttjic. There has been at all times, and there still l-. to-day, a " natural 1 magic, that is to say, modes of behaviour exhibiting some simple analogy and carried out quite unreflectively and without any basis in theory, whose object is to influence and regulate an event in accordance with the wishes of the agent. It may be noticed on any skittle-alley or howling-green. A bowler aims and plays his bowl, wishing it to roll straight and hit the jack. He watches eagerly as it rolls, nodding his head, his body bent sideways, stands balancing on one leg, jerks over violently to the other side as the critical point is reached, makes as though to push the ball on with hand or foot, gives a last jerk—and the end is reached. Its hazards past, the ball rolls safely into position. What was the man doing in this case 1 He was not simply imitating the course of the ball; he meant to prescribe anil determine it, but this obviously without any reflection on his queer behaviour, without the belief of primitive man in ' universal animism ', i. e. in the animatedness of everything, in this instance of the ball, and without a belief in some sympathetic rapport between his own 'soul' power and the 'soul' of the ball. His action was merely naively analogical, for the attainment of a definite wish. The proceedings of ' rain-makers' were often, perhaps at first were always, just the same sort of thing; and so were the naive charms purporting to influence the course of sun and moon, clouds and winds. But clearly, so long as they are not more than this, these are not by any means magic in the proper sense. There must be in addition a new ingredient, unique in quality, the element that is usually called 'supernatural efficacy'. But this expression is a misnomer: ' supernatural' has nothing to do with the case; it is much too imposing an expression, and ascribes far too much to the naive mind. The conception of Nature as a single connected system of events united by laws is the final and most difficult outcome of abstraction ; and this conception of nature, or at least some hint of it, must have been arrived at before there could be any place for its negation, the ' supernatural'. Again, nothing is explained, as Wundt would have it, by ' spirit-power ' or ' soulpower '. For, first, it is to-day universally recognized that magic is independent of a belief in spirits or souls, and probably existed before it. And, second, the point at issue is not by moans of what class of powers the magical effect was produced —whether ' soul-powers' or others—but by means of what quality or character in the powers. Anil this quality can lie indicate«! solely through the ' daemonic', a character ascribed to certain definite operations of force, be they strong or weak, extraordinary or quite trivial, the work of a soul or a "nonsoul '. The quality can be only suggested through that unique element of feeling, the feeling of ' uncanninessof which we have already spoken, whose positive content cannot be defined conceptually, and can only be indicated by that mental response to it which we called 'shuddering'.

2. The same is true of the warship of the dead. It does not arise out of any theory of animism, according to which the primitive man thinks of inanimate objects, and so also of the dea l, as animate and operative. Even in itself this entire theory of an ostensible attribution of ' soul' or the principle of animation to everything is a mere fabrication of the study. How much more when it is clumsily spatchcocked and welded together viitli 'belief in spirits or souls', which is something Quite different '. The dead man, in point of fact, exercises a spell upon the mind only when, and only because, he is felt as a thing of horror and 'shudder'. Hut alike to the naive mind of the savage and to the blase mind of modern civilized man this feeling comes about with such an immediate compelling force that we usually accept it as something immediately self-evident, failing altogether to remark that- even the estimating something as 'horrible' or 'grisly' shows the emergence of a qualitatively separate content of feeling which the mere fact of death does not explain. Feeling-reactions to the dead, if prompted ' naturally ', are pretty obviously only of two kinds: on the one hand, the experient feels disgust at the corpse's putrefaction, stench, revoltingness: on the other, he feels his own will to life disturbed and checked, the fear of death and the startled fright that directly follows on the sight of a corpse, especially if it be that of a member of one's own species. Both these sorts of feeling-response, viz. disgust and startled fright, are already found manifested among animals. I observed this in a very pronounced degree on one occasion when, uixm a lonely ride, we suddenly came upon the liody of a dead horse, and Diana, my excellent mount, on reco;-

nizing her dead fellow, gave every indication of the most natural fright and disgust. But these two ' moments' of feeling do not by any means afford in themselves the materials for the ' art of making shudder' (in the words of the old folk-talc). It is something new and demands to be ' learnt' as the folk-tale rightly declares : that is, this is a feeling that is not simply present with the other ' natural' and normal mental functions, disgust, or fright, and cannot be got from these by analysis. It is a ' dread ' (or awe), qualitatively sui generis ; and even with regard to this rudimentary stage represented by the primitive ' w-orship of the dead' we cannot admit that we have to do merely with a universal feeling, that has simply to be presupposed at the outset as a regular factor of folk psychology, a collectively engendered feeling that explains itself. On the contrary, it cannot be disputed that here too there have been persons endowed with special propensities in this direction, who possessed such feelings actually, and then, by giving expression to them, aroused them in others. Even the ' awe of the dead' and from it the ' worship of the dead' have been, as it were, ' instituted ' and have had 'founders'.

3. We consider next ideas of 'souls' and 'spirits'. It would be possible to show, did not the subject lead us too far afield, that these were not conceived by the fanciful processes of which the animists tell us, but had a far simpler origin. But again the important point is not the origin of ' spirits' in their ideational aspect, but the qualitative element of feeling relative to them. And this does not consist in the fact that ' spirits' or ' souls' are thinner or less easily visible than the body, or quite invisible, or fashioned like air: often all this is true of them ; no less often none of it is ; most frequently of all it is both true and false. The essence of the ' soul' lies not in the imaginative or conceptual expression of it, but first and foremost in the fact that it is a spectre; that it arouses ' dread' or ' awe', as described above. But again, a ' spectre ' is not to be explained from ' natural' feelings, and these are equally unable to explain the further development by which these ' somethings' (and this is the only core ot conceptual meaning that can really be given them), at first always very eagerly shunned, later on become beings honoured in a positive waff and loved, capable of rising into heroes, pit ris, daemons, holy or sacred ones and gods.

4. We turn to the idea of ' power', the nnana of the Pacific Islands and the orenda of the North American Indians. It can have its antecedents in very ' natural' phenomena To notice power in plants, stones, and natural objects in general and to appropriate it by gaining possession of them ; to eat the heart or liver of an animal or a man in order to make his power and strength one's own—this is not religion but science. Our science of medicine follows a similar prescription. If the 'power'of a calf's glands is good for goitre and imbecility, we do not know what virtue we may not hope to find in frogs' brains or Jews' livers. All depends here upon observation, and our science of medicine in this respect only differs from that of the medicine-man in being more exact and in possessing experimental methods. ' Power' does not take its place in the ante-chamber of religion, is not appropriated by religion in 'communion rites' and 'sacraments' (as we call them), until it too has come to include the idea of 'spell' and ' magic'.

5. Volcanoes, mountain peaks, moon, sun, and clouds are regarded by primitive man as being alive or animate, not in consequence of a naive theory of the omnipresence of 'spirit' or ' soul —' Panthelism ', so called—but as a result of precisely the same criterion that we ourselves apply when we recognize anything to be a'ive or animate, apart from the one live thing we can observe directly, our self; that is to say, both we and the primitive credit an object with life if, and in so far as, we think we remark in it living efficacy and agency; and whether we do so rightly or wrongly is again simply a matter of more or less exact observation. Rut while from this criterion the natural objects mentioned above, and of course others, may be invested v. ith life by the naive observer, this does nut in itself lead to myth or religion. Purely as animate or living beings, these entities are far from being yet ' di\ ine ' or ' gods'; nay, they do not even become so when the man turns to them with desire and petition ; for petition is something less than prayer and trust need not have a religious character. The objects in question only become 'divine'—objects of worship—when the category of the numinous is applied to them, and that does not come about until, first, an attempt is made to influence them by numinous means, viz. by magic; and, second, their special efficacy or way of working is at the same time accepted as something numinous, vi something magical.

6. As regards fa 'try-dor ies, these presuppose the 'natural' impulse to fantasy, narrative, and entertainment, and its products. But the fairy-story proper only comes into being with the element of the ' wonderful', with miracle and miraculous events and consequences, i. e. by means of an infusion of the numinous. And the same holds good in an increased degree of myth.

7. All the factors and elements named so far in this chapter are but, as it were, the vestibule at the threshold of the real religious feeling, an earliest stirring of the numinous consciousness, which comes upon the scene blended with associated feelings in conformity to principles of analogy which it would be easy to specifj- for each several case. Only with the rise of the ' daemon' do we have a really separate beginning. The most authentic form of the,' daemon' may be seen in those strange deities of ancient Arabia, which are properly nothing but wandering demonstrative pronouns, neither ' given shape and feature by means of myth', for there is in the main no mythology attached to them at all, nor ' evolved out of nature-deities,' nor grown out of ' souls ' or ' spirits', but none the less felt as deities of mighty efficacy, who are the objects of very living veneration. They are pure products of the religious consciousness itself. And in their ease it is very evident that they do not arise as a collective product of crowd-imagination, and that they do not therefore have their origin in' group-' or ' folk-' psychology, but were the intuitions of persons of innate prophetic powers. For there is always the Ivahin (the primitive form of the ' prophet') belonging to these ' numina', and he alone experiences a ' numen' or divine-daemonic power at first hand. Only where and when it has been ' revealed' through such a one do the forms of worship and a common cult arise. To each numen is assigned a Seer and there is none without one.

8. The notions ' clean ' and ' unclean ' pure ' and ' impure are already found in a purely natural sense, prior to their religious application. The unclean is the loathsome, that which stirs strong feelings of natural disgust. And it is just during the more primitive stages of human development that the emotion of disgust exercises such special power. I'robahly these emotional reactions are a part of our natural self-protective endowment, in-tinctive safeguards for many important vital functions. Tho effect of civilization is to refine these emotions of disgust and loathing by diverting them to different objects, so that things which were loathsome to the savage cease to be j-» o so and things which were not become so. This refinement spells at the same time a weakening in the intensity of the emotion ; we do not now loathe and feel disgust with the unbridled violence and strength of the savage. In this respect we can notice even to-day a plain distinction betw-een our more primitive rural and our more 'refined' urban population: we townsmen feel dbgust at much that is harmless to the countryman but where the latter does feel it he is affected by the emotion more radically than we are , it is a profounder reaction in him.

We have so far been concerned with the ordinary feeling of disgust. Lot ween this and the feeling of the ' horrible' there is a very close analogy; and from this it becomes apparent, in accordance with the law of reciprocal attraction between analogous feelings and emotions, how the ' natural' unclean or impure is bound to pass over into, and develop in, the sphere of the numinous. Once, in fact, we have in our hand the key of the problem the analogy and the law just mentioned—we can reconstruct a priori the actual genetic process involved, by which the one emotion prompts the other. We indeed have ourselves a direct experience of the same thing to-day in our emotional reaction to the sight of tlowing blood, in which it would be hard to say whether the element of 'disgust' or ' horror is the stronger.

Later, then, when the more maturely developed elements of

' awe ' came upon the scene and went to shape the more elevated ideas of the daemonic and the divine, sacer and sanctus, things could become ' unclean' or ' impure' in the numinous sense without any substratum of ' natural' impurity to serve as point of departure. And we can learn something of the relation of feeling-analogy involved from the fact that in the reverse direction the feeling of the numinously impure calls up easily by association the ' natural' emotion of disgust (i. e. the feeling of the ' naturally' impure), so that things become disgustful or loathsome which intrinsically were not objects of disgust at all, but of numinous horror. In fact such secondary and derived feelings of disgust can maintain themselves independently long after the original numinous awe which they once evoked has died away. Certain social feelings of loathing, such as those of caste, can be explained in this way: they had once a purely daemonic root, but long after that has died out they still survive in their secondary, acquired character as feelings of disgust.

9. If the examples numbered 1 to 8 may be termed ' pre-religionthis is not in the sense that religion and the possibility of religion are explicable by their means: rather, they are themselves only made possible and can only be explained from a religious basic element, viz. the feeling of the numinous. This is a primal element of our psychical nature that needs to be grasped purely in its uniqueness and cannot itself be explained from anything else. Like all other primal psychical elements, it emerges in due course in the developing life of human mind and spirit and is thenceforward simply present. Of course it can only emerge if and when certain conditions are fulfilled, conditions involving a proper development of the bodily organs and the other powers of mental and emotional life in general, a due growth in suggestibility and spontaneity and responsiveness to external impressions and internal experiences. But such conditions are no more than conditions; they are not its causes or constituent elements. To recognize this is not to relegate the whole matter to the domain of mystery and supernaturalism.butsimply to maintain that the same thing holds good of this which holds good of all other primal ele-

merits of our mental or spiritual life. Pleasure or pain, love or hate, all faculties of sense-perception, such as susceptibility to light and sound, consciousness of space and time, and subsequently all higher capacities of the mind all duly emerge, sooner or later in the course of development. That they do so in conformity to laws and under definite conditions is indisputable, but not the less is each a new, original, underiv-able fact, and they are only to be ' explained ' on the assumption of a rich potentiality of spirit or mind, which underlies the course of their development and realizes itself more and more abundantly in them in proportion as the conditions of organic and cerebral evolution are more fully realized. And what is true of all thesd other elements of our mental life is also true of the feeling of the numinous.

10. The purest case however, of the spontaneous stirring of numinous emotion would seem to be that mentioned in No. 7 (the feeling of daemons), v? filch is of quite special significance for the evolution of religion. This is because here the ' religious ' emotion does not from the first get diverted (following the 'stimulation' of emotional associations) to earthly things, wrongly taken as numinous : but either it remains n pure feeling, as in 'panic' terror (in the literal sense of the word), or itself invents, or, better, discovers, the numinous object by rendering explicit the obscure germinal ideas latent in itself. Even this latter case is not altogether beyond the reach of introspecth e analysis, w liich, moreover, can throwsome light upon the transition from mere feeling to its 'explication' and to the positing of the numinous object. At least there is none of us who has any li\ing capacity for emotion but must have known at some time or at some place what it is to feel really ' uncanny ', to have a feeling of ' eerieness '. And more exact psychological analysis will notice the following points in such a state of mind. First, there is the point of which we have already spoken, its separate and underhable, irreducible, qualitative character. Second, there is the very curious circumstance that the external features occasioning this state of mi id are sfSsB quite slight, indeed so scanty that hardly any account can lie given of them, so disproportionate are they to

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