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road to which no living man ever yet discovered. A tale 80 romantic would be readily caught up by story-tellers, ever as eager as their hearers for some new thing, and by them be worked into their tales. In some such way as this, I suggest, the rumour of the blissful fields of Aalu spread from Egypt to Greece. The resemblance of the name of the Egyptian fields to that of the “Elysian” plains of Homer may be accidental, but it is perhaps more than fortuitous that it was in Egypt that Menelaus heard for the first and only time of the Elysian plains to which he was ultimately to be carried by the deathless gods, according to Proteus. Be this as it may, there are other imaginary and romantic happy lands in Greek literature, and all are what we should expect on the hypothesis sketched above: there is the isle of Syria, at the turning-place of the sun, where death never enters and sickness is unknown; there is the land of the Hyperboreans (west as well as north), to which man never found his way by sea or land ;2 there are the islands of the Hesperides, the islands of the Blest, and the dwellings, in the east and in the west, of the righteous Ethiopians, who once more bring us to the neighbourhood of Egypt. From the Greeks the rumour of this wonderland spread to the Celts; and Irish literature is full of tales telling, as The Voyage of Bran tells, of a happy island from which the man who discovers it cannot return—an island in which, according to the Adventures of Connla, there was no death and no sin; and, according to the tale of Cuchulinn's Sick Bed, there are all manner of delights. When, however, the western world has thus become a mere wonderland, it inevitably becomes confused with the far-off land, which also in course of time becomes a merely romantic conception; and fairy islands and enchanted mountains become the scene of exactly the same kind of romantic adventures.
1 Homer, Od. xv. 403.
2 Pindar, Pyth. x. 30. 3 K. Meyer, The Voyage of Bran, 142; cf. Classical Review, x. ii. 121-5 (March 1896).
THE TRANSMIGRATION OF SOULS
Thus far we have been engaged in tracing the evolution of the primitive philosophical theory of a ghost-land, and have seen it successively assume the shapes of a far-off land, an underground world, a western island or other abode of the blessed, a happy other-world in the sun or sky, until at last ghosts and ghost-land alike are dissolved by an advanced philosophy into the ocean of divine essence. It is time, therefore, to recall to mind that, even when the belief in ghost-land first arose, there was another view as to man's future state, inconsistent indeed but coexistent nevertheless with the ghost-land theory: it was that after death man rejoined his totem and assumed the shape of the plant or animal that he worshipped. We have therefore now to trace the career of this view. In most, the vast majority, of cases it had no career. The people which held the view were either progressive or they were not. If they were not, then ex hypothesi no development in their views took place : the two views as to the future state remained, as amongst the Zulus, inconsistent and coexistent. On the other hand, if the people were progressive, then everything in totemism that was capable of being taken up into the higher forms of religion which supervened was so transformed, and the restincluding this particular feature of totemism—lingered on as a mere survival, in the shape of tales of men being changed into animals, and, in out-of-the-way and backward places, in the belief that such changes still take place. It may therefore seem at first sight as though in no case could there be any development of this particular feature of totemism, namely, a belief in the posthumous transformation of man into a
plant or animal (a different belief from that in metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls—as different as an acorn is from an oak). As a matter of fact, there is only one combination of circumstances under which the development in question has ever taken place; that is, the contact of a more advanced religion, holding the doctrine of retribution in a developed form, with a less advanced religion, adhering to the belief that after death man rejoins his totem. That contact, moreover, must take place under peculiar circumstances : the two religions must exist side by side in the same community, political or social; and the higher religion must be one bent on finding room within itself for the beliefs of all sections of the social or political community in which it is the dominant force. Now, in the ancient world there were, from the nature of the case, only two countries in which this peculiar combination could occur. They were Egypt and India. Let us begin with Egypt.
Ancient religions knew no dogma and consequently no heresies. The only one which was an exclusive religion and whose God was a “jealous” God, was the Hebrew religion. To this exclusiveness and jealousy is due the fact that the Jews remained monotheists; while the toleration which other peoples showed to foreign worships, though it led to polytheism, facilitated political growth by means of synoikismos. In any large community, and particularly in a state formed, like Egypt, by the amalgamation of many small states, there will be found various strata of belief, from the lowest superstition to the highest form of religion capable of existing in the given time and place. The beliefs which are held by the wealthiest and most cultured classes will find expression in the literature and on the monuments of the nation; the beliefs of the masses will go unrecorded. Thus, the monuments of ancient Egypt express the hopes, the fears, the beliefs of the ruling classes. Those beliefs might or might not be shared by the common people; they certainly would not and could not be forced on them either by a Church—which did not exist or by the State. And if the fellaheen had beliefs and rites of their own, they would find no place on the monuments, but they would not therefore
* Supra, Ch. XVIII. “Syncretism and Polytheism.”
cease to exist. Thus, totemism continued to flourish, until Greek and Roman times, in the rites and customs of the common people, though the religion of the ruling classes had more than half emerged from the totemistic stage even in the time of the earliest monuments.
Now, just as the animal names and half-animal forms of the gods depicted on the monuments betray their totemistic origin," so the representations of the future state betray the existence of a large number of persons who had not yet cast aside the belief that after death they would rejoin the totem, in favour of the newer belief that they would go to the plains of Aalu. The older totemistic belief must have been shared, at this time, by some proportion of the more cultured classes, for we find from the monuments that, as many departed souls preferred going to Aalu to union with Osiris, so many preferred—and were allowed, in the opinion of their class— to migrate into some animal. But what marks this belief as different from and an advance upon the simple totemistic faith, is, first, that the deceased may migrate into any animal he pleased—this was evidently because there were many different totems, and each man would be sure to choose his own ; and, next, that it was only the good who were allowed to do this. Thus the retribution theory held by one portion of the community has influenced and modified the totemism of another section: it is only on condition of conforming to the moral standard of the time—a high one that the totemist was allowed to conform to the practice of his fathers and join them in animal shape. On the other hand, it is clear that as yet we have by no means reached metempsychosis. Let us go on.
In the long course of advancing civilisation, the cultured classes of ancient Egypt all dropped the belief that a man ought to rejoin his totem after death. Aalu and Osiris triumphed, and the belief that souls migrated posthumously into plants and animals survived amongst the educated no longer as a religious conviction, but simply as an echo of what once had been an ordinary thing, but now was simply an incident of romance. Of such a romance we have an example in the tale of Batta, contained in a papyrus of the
Supra, pp. 124 ff.
nineteenth or perhaps the eighteenth century: as often as Batta is killed in one shape he reappears in another—a flower, a bull, a tree, a man. With the decay of totemism amongst the cultured, first the moral obligation to migrate into the totem animal had relaxed and the permission to assume any form whatever had been acted on; and then the belief had lost its religious character and passed into the nature of romance.
Amongst the uneducated, however, totemism still continued to exist; and—whether it was that the ranks of condemned souls were supposed to be recruited most largely from amongst the uneducated, or that the assumption of animal shape was at last thought an unworthy reward of virtue—the doctrine came to be held that the wicked soul “ was sentenced to the various torments of hell, or to wander like a vampire between heaven and earth, or else doomed to transmigrate into the bodies of animals, until permitted to regain its original body and undergo a fresh trial.”i Thus in Egypt the artificial combination of the retribution theory with totemism at last produced a real theory of metempsychosis; and, for the purpose of avoiding confusion between the Egyptian and the Indian forms of the belief in the transmigration of souls, it is important to note three things : the first is that it is only the wicked who are doomed by the Egyptian theory to transmigration; the next is that Egyptian transmigration is a circular process—the soul of a man migrates into animals, birds, fish, but finally returns to its human form; the third is that there is no escape from the cycle when once it has started, it is only after reaching human form again that the soul has another trial and another chance of becoming an Osiris. Bearing these facts in mind, let us turn to India.
A happy other-world in the sun or sky was known in India as early as the time of the Vedas, and by the sixth century B.C. an elaborate hell had been worked out by the dominant religion. In India, totemism was to be found; indeed, well-marked traces of it survive to the present day.3 In India, as in Egypt, the dominant religion and the lower
1 Sayce, Hdt. i.-iii. 346. ? Nutt, op. cit. 320.