Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

forgotten' (Ps. vi. 5, lxxxviii. 10-22; Isa. xxxviii. 9–20; Eccles. ix. 10; Ecclus. xvii. 27, 28).”

In this view of the future life there is no room for the retribution theory: all men alike go to Hades or Sheol, the all-devouring. Indeed, the continuance theory is generally clearly involved in it. In the Babylonian underworld, those who were in their lifetime heroes, retain their thrones. In the Greek Hades, Achilles is still a king, and the phantom Orion hunts phantom beasts; and “there the soul of the dead Karen, with the souls of his axe and cleaver, builds his house and cuts his rice; the shade of the Algonquin hunter hunts souls of beaver and elk, walking on the souls of his snow-shoes over the soul of the snow; the fur-wrapped Kamchadal drives his dog-sledge; the Zulu milks his cows and drives his cattle to kraal; South American tribes live on, whole or mutilated, healthy or sick, as they left this world, leading their old lives.”1 So, too, in Virgil, the ghost of Deiphobus shows its ghastly wounds to Æneas. In Sheol the kings of the nations have their thrones, and the mighty their weapons of war.3

The idea that, in the underground ghost-land, the soul continues to follow the same pursuits as in life, gave rise to the custom of burying with him the necessary weapons, implements, pottery, clothes, etc.; and, as habits are less easily changed than opinions, this custom continued to be practised even when the continuance theory which originated it had given way to the retribution theory. It was, however, impossible that the custom should continue without affecting belief; and the way in which it affected the retribution theory was twofold: it modified men's conception first of the nature of the blissful state, and second of the means by which it is to be attained. It made, that is to say, future bliss to consist simply in pursuing earthly occupations under more delightful conditions than exist in this life, or existed in the dreary shadow-land to which the continuance theory first gave birth; and, in the next place, the persistence of ancestor-worship made it appear that the soul's attainment to future bliss depended in part at any rate on something that the survivors could do for it. Thus,

? Tylor, 75–6. ? Isa. xiv. 9. * Ezek. xxxii. 27.

in the Scandinavian Walhalla, the warriors ride forth to the fight as they did on earth, only at the end of the day and the fray those who have been killed go back to the banquet and enjoy it, just as much as their victors do. In Egypt, where the heaven was also one of material, though more peaceful, delights, access to it depended quite as much upon the due performance of the elaborate funeral rites by the survivors, as upon the virtue and piety of the deceased himself. It is clear, then, that ancestor-worship was a considerable hindrance to the acquisition or reception of a purer and more spiritual conception of the future life. It is therefore important for the historian of religion to note that ancestor-worship was forbidden to the Jews: the worship of God did not permit of ancestor-worship. This prohibition, however, was not in itself either the cause of or a stimulus to a higher view of man's future state: it only cleared the ground of weeds which might have choked its growth. As a matter of fact, though the soil was thus prepared, it was not until the time of the Captivity that the first seeds were sown in it.

Here too, perhaps, it will be well to note that in these early speculations as to ghost-land, whether it be placed in an underground region or in some far-off land upon the earth's surface, there is nothing religious: they have nothing to do with the service of the gods, they are totally unconnected with the sacrificial meal by which communion with the god of the tribe is sought: they are purely philosophical speculations. Religion did not originate from ancestorworship, nor ancestor-worship from religion. It is important also to remember that complete consistency is not to be found or expected in these or any other speculations indulged in by man when in a low stage of culture. Impressed by the broad fact that the dead do not return to life, he may describe the underground abode as one from which there is no return. But this cannot, with him, weigh against the fact that ghosts are occasionally seen; and that fact in its turn in no wise impairs his belief that there is a distant world which is the proper abode of departed souls. Indeed, at the present day, in Christian countries, the superstitious believe that graveyards are haunted, though they would not deny that the souls of the dead are really in heaven or in

hell.1 So too the Zulu, who believes that the dead join the Abapansi, the underground people, none the less recognises the soul of an ancestor in the snake which visits his kraal. And, generally speaking, we may say that the belief of the totemist, that the dead man rejoins his totem and is transformed into the shape of the animal totem, may live for a long time by the side of the belief in a ghost-land.

Indeed, just as the key to the origin of species is the persistence, transmission, and development of qualities originally peculiar to an individual, and constituting it a mere “Sport” or “variety," so the key to the evolution of the many forms of religion is in many cases to be found in the persistence, side by side, of beliefs that were originally but "sports” or “varieties” of the same stock. Thus the belief in the appearance of ghosts is but a form of the continuance theory, or rather is the continuance theory in its original form: the ghost, as it appears in dreams or in visions, continues to have the same outward presentment as the man himself had in life. The belief that ghosts continue their favourite occupations in a ghost-land, whether underground or on a remote part of the surface of the earth, is equally a form of the continuance theory. But when the original form of a belief persists by the side of a later form, a certain inconsistency is felt between them; and if it be such as to be felt very strongly, the result will be that what were originally but varieties of the same idea will become two different species of belief. An example may make this clearer. The original form of the belief in a ghost-land simply postulated that that land was far away: the belief that it was far down in the bowels of the earth, in depth below depth, was but a slight variation on the original belief

-the essential was that ghost-land was far away, in which dimension of space did not matter. But though the conception of ghost-land as an underground world established itself, we may say, universally, and gradually drove out the older

This simple consideration seems to me to be fatal to Rohde's extravagant idea that the Hades of Homer is a sort of “fault” in the strate of Greek belief, and is different from the tenets held by the Greeks both before and after the Homeric period. To say that because there is, according to Homer, no return from Hades, therefore there were, in Homer's opinion, no ghosts to haunt the living, betrays want of sympathy with primitive modes of thought.

belief in a far-off land, still the older belief, or rather a reminiscence of it, still lingered here and there; and, being different from the now dominant faith in an underworld, it called for explanation. That explanation was fairly obvious and easily forthcoming. Here were old men declaring that in their time, or in times they had heard of, the spirits of the dead used to go to a far-off land, not to the underground world as they do now. Obviously, therefore, things have changed : in the good old times men did not go to the dreary, gloomy nether land; they went to a garden beyond the hills, lighted and cheered by the rays of the sun, very different from the sunless abodes of Hades. But that is over now; to this generation the gates of that bright land are closed; and if they were open to the men of yore, that is because men were heroes in the brave days of old. This, I submit, is the origin of Hesiod's myth 1 of the fourth and last of those ages of which the Golden Age was the first. The heroes who fell at the siege of Troy or of Thebes were placed by Zeus, after death, in a land at the uttermost bounds of the earth, where they continue in happiness. In Babylon also there were “ blissful fields beyond Datilla,” 4 to which in bygone times a few persons, e.g. Xisuthros and his wife, not heroes but pious persons, had been admitted, though the gates were closed to all else. Sometimes the explanations, invented to account for the difference in the treatment of this generation and of bygone generations, do not invoke the superior valour or piety of the latter to account for the change—indeed, such ideas belong to the retribution theory, and probably were comparatively late additions to the original form of explanation, which contented itself with the simple fact that the first man or men dwell there, and all other souls go to the homes of underground. Thus in Iranian mythology, Yima, the first man, and his generation, live and have lived from the beginning of history in the Far-off Land, Eran Vej, an earthly paradise. Even here, however, the original

[ocr errors]

explanation has been adapted and altered to supply material for cosmological speculation. Eran Vej is said to have been created by Ahura Mazda, whereas the Far-off Land, as we have seen, had nothing to do with religion, and was not supposed to have been created by, or to be in any way connected with, the gods. In this respect we get a truer view of the Far-off Land in certain tales which go back to the time when its delights—so bright by comparison with the underground world—were still matter of tradition, when its existence (if only it could be discovered) was still believed in, but its origin, as ghost-land, was forgotten. These are those tales of a land of Cockaigne, with which even antiquity was acquainted, which a Solon could describe in verse, 2 and which are the earliest types of many a subsequent Utopia

We may then take it as a general law that the human mind is capable of holding, simultaneously, beliefs which are inconsistent up to a certain (undefinable) point; but if, by the force of circumstances, the inconsistency becomes too great, an explanation will be invented ; and that explanation will exaggerate and stereotype the difference, so that what were but two varieties of the same original opinion will become two quite different beliefs, capable of being logically held by the same person. Let us apply this canon to the belief in the underground ghost-land.

Inasmuch as the abode of the dead is underground, the entrance to it must be through some hole in the ground, cave, etc. Thus the souls of the Baperi in South Africa go down through the cavern of Marimatlé; in Mexico there were two such caverns, Chalchatongo and Mictlan, which were the entrances to the nether world; “North German peasants still remember, on the banks of the swampy Drömling, the place of access to the land of departed souls”; 3 in ancient Rome the mundus or opening through which the spirits of the dead came up thrice a year for their offerings was in the Comitium ; in Ireland it was believed in the fifteenth century A.D. that Sir Owain descended into the nether world with the monk Gilbert through St. Patrick's purgatory, a cavern in the

* See Mr. Nutt on the “Happy Other World,” op. cit. ? Frag. 38 (Bergk“).

3 Tylor, ii. 45.

« ForrigeFortsæt »