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left Himself without a witness, it is perfectly natural that the same revelation, carrying conviction with it, should have been made to all men in all times. It is this revelation, this element in the common consciousness of all generations of men, which for him constitutes the continuity of religion. He is aware that the facts of consciousness receive very unequal degrees of attention ; the mind's eye can only be focussed on one spot in the field of consciousness at the same time, it is but on a chosen few of the mass of presentations flowing in upon the mind that attention can at any one time be concentrated. Indeed, the art of life consists in paying attention to the right things and neglecting the rest; and systematic inattention may be carried to such a point that in course of time the very roar of Niagara becomes, if not inaudible, at anyrate unnoticed. Here, then, we have the explanation of that slow process of religious degenerationdue to prolonged and increasing distraction of attentionwhich is, as we have seen, one form of evolution. But as long as religion exists at all, in however degenerate a form, some faint consciousness of the fundamental facts must linger onand it is that consciousness, attenuated as it may be, which constitutes that continuity without which there could be no evolution. If evolution takes place, something must be evolved; and that something, as being continuously present in all the different stages, may be called the continuum of religion. Whether the movement of religion be upwards or downwards, whether its evolution in any given case be a process of progress or of degeneration, it is by the continuum running through all its forms that the highest stages and the lowest are linked together.
Now the existence of this continuum the historian of religion, if he is an evolutionist, has to accept. He is bound to assume its presence from the very beginning of the process of evolution—the process cannot begin without it. The belief that the course of the world is directed by divine agency and personal will, is one the existence of which the historian, even if he could not explain it, would still be bound to assume. He is in exactly the same position as the physicist is. The physicist has to assume the reality of the external world before he can show what consequences his science can trace from the assumption; but he knows that some philosophers, e.g. Hume and Mill, deny its reality ; and that no proof of its reality has been discovered which all philosophers accept. So, too, the historian of religion must assume the reality of the facts of the religious consciousness to begin with, else he cannot explain the various forms they take in the course of their evolution, nor the various customs and institutions in which they find outward expression. But he knows that their reality is confidently denied as well as stoutly asserted. Further, it is clear that physical science cannot prove the existence of the external world; if a physicist were to undertake to devise a chemical experiment which should prove or disprove the existence of matter, he would show thereby that he had not got beyond the Johnsonian stage of the discussion. Physical science, being a body of inferences which flow from the assumption, cannot prove the assumption except by arguing in a vicious circle. So, too, the history of religion has to assume, it cannot prove or disprove, the reality of the facts of the religious consciousness. Perhaps another analogy may make this clearer.
It is only by a slow process of accumulation that human knowledge has reached its present dimensions; the science of the modern savant has been evolved out of the errors of the simple savage. But it would be obviously absurd, therefore, contemptuously to pooh-pooh the discoveries of modern science as merely survivals of the old erroneous way of looking at the world. And it is equally fallacious to talk, as both friends and foes of religion do sometimes talk, as though the application of the theory of evolution to religion would reduce the higher forms of it to mere survivals of barbarism, animism, and so on. The art of Phidias was evolved out of something of which we may almost say that it was artistic only in intention; but the man would be to be pitied who could see nothing in the highest art of Greece but survivals of a barbaric stage of carving. Art is a mode of expression, whereby the artist delivers himself of his message. It is common to both barbaric and civilised man; and the inference is that it is neither peculiarly barbaric nor specifically civilised, but universally human. So, too, with religion as a form of thought, the perception of “the invisible things of Him
through the things that are made”; it is common both to barbaric and civilised man, but it is not therefore a barbaric form of thought-rather it is a mode of cognition which is part of human nature. The perfect beauty of fully-developed art is of course not present in its rude beginnings; but even the barbaric artist is feeling after the ideal if peradventure he may find it.
In the case of science, the continuum which, however fine and long drawn out, yet links the savant to the savage, is their common belief in the uniformity of Nature. Now, the savage doubtless often wrongly applies this belief. He sees uniformities where they do not exist, but we do not regard this as a proof that Nature is not uniform. He ascribes events to their wrong causes, but this does not shake our faith in the proposition that every event has a cause. So, too, the belief that all things are ruled by supernatural will is not proved to be false because it is often wrongly applied. When the history of religion has recorded all the wrong applications of the belief, the validity of the belief has still to be tested on quite other grounds and with quite other tests by the philosophy of religion. The validity of the belief in the uniformity of Nature is in nowise affected by the vast array of errors contained in the history of science. Unfortunately, though we all believe in the uniformity of Nature, as we all believe in the reality of the external world, there is no satisfactory way of proving either to be true. The average man of science simply walks, and wisely walks, by faith in these matters; he takes it for granted that Nature is uniform and that the external world is real. And in religion the average man may do worse than imitate the example given him in science. It is the boast of science that it deals with things, not names; that it proves everything by experience, brings every proposition to the test of immediate consciousness. Religion has no other proof, no other test for its truths; it is by his own experience a man proves the truth that “ blessed are the humble and meek”; it is by the test of immediate consciousness that he learns—if he does learn that God “is not far from each one of us.”
OUTLINE OF THE ARGUMENT
The savage imagines that even lifeless things are animated by a will, a personality, a spirit, like his own; and, wherever he gets his conception of the supernatural from, to some at least of the objects which surround him, and which are supposed by him to be personal agents, he ascribes supernatural power (ch. iii. “The Supernatural”). Some writers have imagined that there was a time in the “prehistory” of man, when he could not tell the natural from the supernatural, and that consequently magic existed first and religion was developed out of it. But this view seems to proceed on a misconception of the nature of Sympathetic Magic (ch. iv.). Be this as it may, it was natural that man should wish to establish friendly relations with some of these supernatural powers; and the wish seemed one quite possible to carry out, because he was in the habit of communicating with certain beings, who, whether they possessed supernatural powers or not, at anyrate were spirits, namely, the souls of the departed (ch. v. “Life and Death”). But this assumes that ghosts, or at anyrate some ghosts, were friendly to the living, and were loved by them; whereas it is sometimes maintained that all ghosts are malevolent, and that the corpsetaboo is a proof of the universal dread of the ghost. But when we examine the institution of taboo generally, we find, first, that taboo is transmissible (e.g. the mourner is as dangerous as the corpse he has touched), and next, that its transmissibility implies no hostility—the mourner is as dangerous to those he loves as to those he hates (ch. vi. “Taboo : its Transmissibility”). Taboo is not fear of "the clinging ghost” nor of any physical emanation, but is the
conviction that there are certain things which must-absolutely, and not on grounds of experience or “unconscious utility”—be avoided (ch. vii." Things Taboo ”). It is the categorical imperative “ Thou shalt not—" which is the first form assumed by the sense of social and moral obligation and by religious commandments (ch. viii. “Taboo, Morality and Religion ").
Primitive man, then, feeling it both necessary and possible to establish permanent friendly relations with some of the supernatural powers by which he was surrounded, proceeded to do so. He not only ascribed to natural objects a personality like his own; he also noticed that, as men were organised in kins (clans and families), so natural objects grouped themselves in natural kinds (genera and species). And as alliances between human kins were formed by means of the bloodcovenant which made all the members of the two contracting tribes blood-brothers, so he proceeded to make a blood-covenant between a human kind and an animal species. This is Totemism (ch. ix.). We may not be able to say à priori why he chose animals first rather than any other natural kind, but the hypothesis that he did so is the one which alone, or best, accounts for the facts to be explained, and therefore may be taken as a working hypothesis. It accounts for animal worship, for the animal or semi-animal form of many gods, for the “association” of certain animals with certain gods, for “sacred” and for “unclean” animals, and for the domestication of animals (ch. x. "Survivals of Totemism"). It also accounts for the altar and for the idol (ch. xi.“Animal Sacrifice: The Altar”), and for animal sacrifice and for the sacramental meal (ch. xii. “Animal Sacrifice: The Sacramental Meal”).
Thus far we have been dealing with public worship, to which the individual was admitted, not on his private merits, but because he was a member of the tribe which had a blood-covenant with a totem-species. If the individual, however, wished to commend himself specially to supernatural protection, there were two ways in which he might do so, one illicit and one licit. He might address himself to one of the supernatural powers which had no friendly relations with his own tribe or any other—which was no “god ”—and this was in itself a suspicious way of proceeding, which the