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not only constitutes a class, but also a profession, which is not the case with any of the lay classes. On the one hand, the province of priesthood comprehends all professional functions referring to religious and magical practices. And, on the other hand, the priesthood is exclusively devoted to those matters, as other offices which priests may in some cases be intrusted with, are all more or less intimately associated with their religious duties. This professional homogenity of priesthood is a remarkable fact, as in the lay classes there exists little or no functionary uniformity in the same sense as in the sacerdotal order.
As a matter of course, the functions of the ordinary classes are extremely varying among peoples belonging to different economic groups. This is also the principal reason why the lay classes present such different types among different peoples. Thus, with regard to the class of nobility we meet with a variety of types. Among certain Polynesian peoples, for instance, nobility is maintained through the tabu of the upper classes, whereas the common people are looked upon as a different species of the human race.' Among certain American Indians, although they scarcely have any welldefined nobility, distinction is partly hereditary, partly obtainable through bravery and other personal qualifications, 2 among certain African peoples the rank of nobility is held by the officials of the king according to the dignity of their offices, 3 among the Arabs, nobility
1 Meinicke, Inseln des Stillen Oceans, i. 47. Seemann, Viti, p. 398 (Tongans). Waitz-Gerland, Anthropologie der Naturvölker, vi. 186 (Tahitians).
? Bancroft, Works, i. 193 sq. (Nootkas) and i. 770 (Isthmans). Dobrizhoffer, Abipones, ii. 440 sq. Smith, Araucanians, p. 186.
3 Clapperton, Second Expedition into the Interior of Africa, p. 57 (Yourriba people). Burton, Lake Regions, ii. 31 (People of Unyamwezi). Peters, 'Der Muata Cazembe,' in Zeitschrift für allgemeine Erdkunde, vi. 393. Ellis, Ewe-speaking Peoples, p. 165 (Dahomeans).
is estimated by descent from the family of the Prophet. 1 Naturally also the commonalty displays among different peoples a great variety as to general character and occupations. Equally natural is it that among hunting or fishing, pastoral or agricultural tribes, the use of slaves varies to a very great extent. 2 Social differentiation in general as well as the division of labour between the classes depends, in the first place, upon the mode of living of the peoples concerned.
On this vital point, the priesthood differs entirely from the other classes. One circumstance of interest is the fact that the functions of the priesthood are little or not at all influenced by the work of the respective peoples. Notwithstanding the varying occupations of civilized and uncivilized tribes all over the world, the priesthood everywhere displays a most extraordinary uniformity. Everywhere the authority of the priests is upheld by the same popular belief in their spiritual superiority and by the same imagination as to the advantages obtainable through them. Everywhere their mediation is required in the craving for supernatural assistance in the adversities and misfortunes of human life. The professional relation between the priests and their fellow-tribesmen is therefore, to a great extent, the same everywhere. And also the methods taken by the priests in fulfilling their duties and asserting their own interests show a remarkable correspondence among all peoples, although varying in different degrees of development.
A few more characteristics of the priesthood become conspicuous when we compare this order with other classes. Different classes always presuppose each other in a certain way. We cannot form an idea of slaves
Maltzan, 'Sittenschilderungen aus Südarabien, in Globus, 1872,
? Cf. Nieboer, Slavery as an Industrial System, pp. 212–15, 223—25, 282–84.
without masters, of any oppressed class without oppressors, any nobility without a lower class. Of any nobility or slave-class there can be no question, unless there is another class to which they stand in contrast. And also the commonalty, which corresponds with the entire population in communities without distinction of classes, does not constitute any rank without other classes. In opposition to this, the priesthood is not particularly connected with any other class, priests, as we have seen, are met with where there exist no other distinct classes. Similarly the relation between the priests and any of the lay classes is, as a rule, quite different from that between those classes mutually. The relation between higher and lower classes in society is generally marked by their mutually conflicting interests. The priests, on the other hand, do not necessarily stand in opposition to any other class. On the contrary, they are in many cases in the position of being able to promote their own interests by meeting that need of divine or magical help which men in every class of society may think it their interest to have satisfied.
What was the beginning of those peculiarities of the priesthood which cause us to look upon priests from quite a different point of view than that from which we look upon the other classes, and which, as we understand, enable us to examine the characteristics of that order separately? How was it, that religious and magical practices tended to originate a special class of their performers?
It is the aim of this book to see how these questions may be answered.
THE HUMAN NEED OF MEDIATORS WITH A SUPPOSED
PRIESTHOOD, broadly speaking, owes its origin to the universal need felt by mankind of superhuman assistance in the struggle of life. Among all peoples the belief exists that, under certain circumstances, advantages of some kind or other are obtainable from the supernatural world, and equally universal is the desire to gain possesion of those advantages. Man endeavours to influence, by propitiation, the powers which govern the universe or to control the course of events by magical means. Not all the benefits supposed to be obtainable in either of these ways consist of positive blessings, on the contrary, they may in the first place imply the prevention of an evil. The want of guidance in these matters has given rise to the various kinds of magical and religious practitioners among savage peoples which are to be considered as the pioneers of an organized priesthood. But also among civilized peoples, surviving traces of the same need characterize the authority of the priesthood.
Among the savage races there has never been any lack of all sorts of magical and religious methods by which to obtain supernatural benefits. In spite of the universal belief in the existence of more or less infallible means of influencing fortune, only certain persons are, as a rule, supposed to possess the knowledge and power necessary to secure the proper results. These appear to us in the form of priests and magicians.
It is well known that most savages ascribe various natural occurrences in their lives to supernatural causes. 1 » The Congo natives, » Mr. Ward writes, »are entirely ignorant of the laws of Nature, all sensations are ascribed to the influence of spirits. All that is unaccountable to the native mind is at once enveloped with the property of magic. All ills and misfortunes are supposed to emanate from the evil spirit.» 2 The same has been observed with reference to the aborigines of Liberia: the native pictures to himself the world as peopled by invisible spirits, to whom he ascribes all the misfortunes happening to him. 3 Kielland states that, penetrating deeper into the sphere of thought of the Zulu, it will be perceived that the people are filled with the idea that they live in dependence upon spiritual beings, who exercise the greatest influence upon the fate of the whole community and also of that of each separate individual. 4 Of the Angahmee Nagahs it is said that reach god, or spirit, has in their estimation the power to afflict them with sickness, ill luck, and a variety of calamities, or to make them successful in their incursions, and prosperous in their undertakings or daily occupations.» j With reference to the Wild Dyaks of Borneo Mr. St. John says: — »Surrounded by endless natural phenomena wholly unintelligible to them, they imagined minute emanations of the gods in all the energies of nature and circumstances
1 In Primitive Culture Dr. Tylor gives a number of instances showing how »to the minds of the lower races it seems that all nature is possessed, pervaded, crowded, with spiritual beings, many of which are »considered directly to affect the life and fortune of Man.» – ii. 185 sqq.
2 Ward, 'Ethnographical Notes relating to the Congo Tribes,' in Jour. Anthr. Inst. xxiv. 286.
3 Büttikofer, Reisebilder aus Liberia, ii. 325.