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Pagan Christs by John M. Robertson
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Prometheus, (Detail) by Gustave Moreau [19th cent.] (Public Domain Image)
Prometheus, (Detail) by Gustave Moreau [19th cent.] (Public Domain Image)

Pagan Christs

by John M. Robertson

[1911]



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Talk about your red pills. J.M. Robertson herein challenges not only the historical authenticity of the canonical accounts of the founding of Christianity, but also Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism. He answers the question implicit in Kersey Graves' 1875 screed, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors. Why so many similar stories of savior figures in world religion?

At the dark heart of this mystery, according to Robinson, is a prehistoric drama involving human sacrifice (particularly, of children), cannibalism, and regicide. The purpose: to implore the gods, or to expiate collective sin. As time passed, the rituals were softened, and turned into symbolic equivalents (such as the scapegoat and the eucharist), while retaining the tragic end of the narrative. A culture hero, born under portents, dies, often under torture, in order to save all humanity. These and other tropes ended up embedded in our tales of the founders of major religions, from Buddha to Jesus.

Robertson pulls in historic, ethnographic and folklore data from hundreds of carefully cited sources. He covers examples from antiquity such as Mithraism, Manichaeism, and Apollonius of Tyana. In the final section he universalizes his study and focuses on Native America, particularly the Aztec. The conclusions of this book remain highly controversial, but the sheer mass of evidence accumulated demands consideration. This will be a thorny book for believers, but a revelation for free-thinkers.

--J.B. Hare, Feb. 10, 2008.



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CONTENTS

 

 

PAGE

 

PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION

xi

 

INTRODUCTION

xxi

 


PART I.

 

 

THE RATIONALE OF RELIGION

 

 

CHAP. I.—THE NATURALNESS OF ALL BELIEF.

 

§ 1.

Origin of Gods from fear—from love—Beloved Gods the Christs of the world's pantheon—Arbitrary Classifications

1

§ 2.

All beliefs results of reasoning—Taboo—Formulas of Mr. Lang and Dr. Jevons—Primary and secondary taboo—Moral correlations—Theory of religion and magic

4

§ 3.

Dr. Jevons’s theories of religious evolution—Contradictions—Thesis of "superstition"

7

§ 4.

Scientific view of the "religious consciousness"—idea of "the supernatural"—Fear versus gratitude—Rise of magic—Meaning of "religion"

9

§ 5.

Dr. Frazer's definition—its inadequacy—Conflict of formulas—Antiquity of magic—Analogies of religion, magic, and science—Magic homogeneous with religion—Inconsistencies of magic—Magic in the Old Testament—Inconsistencies of later religion

11

§ 6.

The scientific induction—Magic and religion interfluent—The theory of prayer—Dr. Jevons’s reasoning here reduces the religious type to the Atheists and Agnostics

20

§ 7.

Dr. Jevons’s series of self-contradictions—His coincidence with Dr. Frazer in excluding belief from the concept of religion

22

§ 8.

His contradictory doctrine of the conditions of survival in religion—Value of his work—Causes of its fallacies

27

§ 9.

The continuity of religious phenomena—Homogeneity of all magic and religious ritual—Elijah as magician—Comparative harmfulness of priesthoods and sorcerers—The dilemma of Christian ethics—Philosophy in religion—Dr. Jevons’s psychology—"Impressions" versus "projections"—Results of his classification—Religion "rational" even if not "reasonable"

28

§ 10.

Dr. Frazer's sociological vindication of the sorcerer—Its à priori character—Its antinomianism—Its confusion of the problem of the beginnings of culture with that of the spread of civilisation—Checked by induction—Sketch of the actual evolution—The need to guard against deduction from presuppositions

35

 

p. vi

 

 

 

PAGE

§ 11.

The beginning of the end of religion—Early interweaving of cosmology and ethics—Fear and gratitude alike operative in time—Ancestor-worship—Dr. Jevons’s thesis of its lateness—His argument finally a petitio principii—Evidence against him from his own pages—"Ghosts" versus "spirits"

39

§ 12.

Historic view of ancestor-worship—Conflict of formulas of Mr. Lang and Dr. Frazer—The anthropological solution—Fluctuations in the status of ancestor-Gods—Taboo of names not necessarily oblivion—Gods’ names tabooed—Gods relatively raised and ancestors depressed—Primary deification of ancestors implied in the facts—Verbalist definitions of "ancestor"—Ancestors one of the types of friendly God—Gods originating from abstractions—Arguments of Von Ihering and Fustel de Coulanges on ancestor-worship—Propitiation from fear and from love—Horde-ancestor Gods and family Gods—Evolution of law-giving God

47

§ 13.

Interactions of norms of conduct—Religion and monarchy—Religious cast given to law and ethics—The authoritarian element a mark of religion

55

§ 14.

Definition of religion

57

 


CHAP. II.—COMPARISON AND APPRAISEMENT OF RELIGIONS.

 

§ 1.

Early Forces of Reform. Christian partisanship—Difficulty of being impartial—The authoritarian ideal—Genius and religious reform—Rarity of reform through priesthoods—Reality of priestcraft

59

§ 2.

Reform as a Religious Process. Fictitious literature—Reform by strategy—Conditions of moral betterment for the Hebrews—Conditions of religious survival

63

§ 3.

Polytheism and Monotheism. Religious evolution conditioned politically and socially—Monotheism and polytheism alike thus conditioned—No unique bias in the case of Israel—Pressures towards monotheism and towards polytheism—The former usually an external bias, without psychological sincerity—Hebrew and Roman theology compared—Monotheism does grow out of polytheism—Hebrew monotheism not a monarchic but a sacerdotal creation—Monotheistic and polytheistic ethic compared—The conventional view—Ethic associated with "Supreme" Gods—Rational tests—Ethic of post-exilic Judaism—Economic forces in cult-making—Chastening effects of national disaster

66

§ 4.

Hebrews and Babylonians. Babylonian influences on Judaic thought—Higher developments of polytheism—International ethic lower among monotheists than among polytheists

71

§ 5.

Forces of Religious Evolution. The socio-political factors—Social decadence in Mesopotamia, with religious activity—Fatality of imperialism

78

§ 6.

The Hebrew Evolution. Rise of the cult of Yahweh—Literary beginnings—Practical polytheism—The attempted reforms of Josiah—Probable negative results—Developments of Yahwism

 

 

p. vii

 

 

 

PAGE

 

in the exile—Effects of Persian contact—The Return a process of hierocratic selection—The process of literary fabrication Higher literary fruition

80

§ 7.

Post-Exilic Phases. Cramping effects of racial sectarianism—Change nevertheless inevitable—Modifications of belief—Hebrew thought monotheistic only on the surface—Polytheistic superstition never eliminated—Early Christian and Moslem thought on the same plane—Social failure in Jewry as elsewhere—Expansion of Jewry in Gentile lands—Hellenistic reactions—The Maccabean renascence

85

§ 8.

Revival and Disintegration. The renascence a second process of hierocratic selection—Parallel case of Parsism—Special fecundity of Jews—Renewed process of doctrinal modification—Development of a Secondary God—The Jesuist movement—Its dependent relation to Judaism up till the destruction of the Temple—Fusion of the secondary God-ideas in Jesus—The economic situation—Separate Christism a result of the fall of the Temple—Later Judaism—Persistence of sacrifice up to the political catastrophe—Conventional comparisons of Hebrew and Greek ethic and character

89

§ 9.

Conclusion. All religions processes of evolutionary change—General law of the substitution of Son-Gods for the older—Analogous cases in Greece, Babylon, Egypt, Persia, and Jewry—The psychological process—Modification of Indra—His supersession by Krishna—Adaptations of Osiris—Advent of Serapis—Jesus—Apollo, Dionysos, and Zeus—Recession of the Supreme God—Heresy and dissent phases of the total evolutionary process—Conditions of sect-survival—Conditions of survival for deities—The Holy Spirit—The Virgin Mother—Yahweh and Jesus—Mary and Anna—Joseph and Mary—Christ-making thus a form of Secondary-God-making—All Secondary Gods evolved from prior materials—The moral metamorphosis of Bacchus—"Culture-religion" thus an evolution from "nature-religion"

94

 


PART II.

 

 

SECONDARY GOD-MAKING

 

 

CHAP. I.—THE SACRIFICED SAVIOUR-GOD.

 

§ 1.

Totemism and Sacraments

99

§ 2.

Theory and Ritual of Human Sacrifice

105

§ 3.

The Christian Crucifixion

118

§ 4.

Vogue of Human Sacrifice

122

§ 5.

The Divinity of the Victim

130

§ 6.

The Cannibal Sacrament

140

§ 7.

The Semitic Antecedents

144

§ 8.

The Judaic Evolution

148

§ 9.

Specific Survivals in Judaism

158

 

p. viii

 

 

 

PAGE

§ 10.

The pre-Christian Jesus-God

162

§ 11.

Private Jewish Eucharists

168

§ 12.

The Eucharist in Orthodox Judaism

175

§ 13.

Special Features of the Crucifixion Myth

180

§ 14.

Possible Historical Elements

188

§ 15.

The Gospel Mystery-Play

194

§ 16.

The Mystery-Play and the Cultus

204

§ 17.

Further Pagan Adaptations

206

§ 18.

Synopsis and Conclusion: Genealogy of Human Sacrifice and Sacrament

209

 

Diagram

211

 

CHAP. II.—THE TEACHING GOD.

 

§ 1.

Primary and Secondary Ideas

214

§ 2.

The Logos

218

§ 3.

Derivations of the Christian Logos

223

§ 4.

The Search for a Historical Jesus

228

§ 5.

The Critical Problem

231

§ 6.

Collapse of the Constructive Case

234

§ 7.

Parallel Problems

237

§ 8.

The Problem of Buddhist Origins

239

§ 9.

Buddhism and Buddhas

241

§ 10.

The Cruces

246

§ 11.

Sociological Clues

249

§ 12.

Buddhism and Asoka

253

§ 13.

The Buddha Myth

258

§ 14.

The Problem of Manichæus

266

§ 15.

The Manichæan Solution

267

§ 16.

The Case of Apollonius of Tyana

274

 


PART III.

 

 

MITHRAISM

 

§ 1.

Introductory

281

§ 2.

Beginnings of Cult

283

§ 3.

Zoroastrianism

280

§ 4.

Evolution of Mithra

288

§ 5.

The Process of Syncretism

291

§ 6.

Symbols of Mithra

29

§ 7.

The Cultus

303

§ 8.

The Creed

310

§ 9.

Mithraism and Christianity

315

§ 10.

Further Christian Parallels

320

§ 11.

The Vogue of Mithraism

321

§ 12.

Absorption in Christianity

327

§ 13.

The Point of Junction

334

 

p. ix

 

 


PART IV.

 

 

THE RELIGIONS OF ANCIENT AMERICA

 

 

 

PAGE

§ 1.

American Racial Origins

339

§ 2.

Aztecs and Peruvians

346

§ 3.

Primitive Religion and Human Sacrifice

349

§ 4.

The Mexican Cultus

355

§ 5.

Mexican Sacrifices and Sacraments

360

§ 6.

Mexican Ethics

366

§ 7.

The Mexican White Christ

370

§ 8.

The Fatality of the Priesthood

373

§ 9.

The Religion of Peru

376

§ 10.

Conclusion

380

 


APPENDICES.

 

A.

The Eating of the Crucified Human Sacrifice

389

B.

Dramatic and Ritual Survivals

391

C.

Replies to Criticisms:—

 

§ 1.

General Opposition—The Hibbert Journal

396

§ 2.

The Rev. Alfred Ernest Crawley

402

§ 3.

The Rev. Dr. St. Clair Tisdall

403

§ 4.

The Rev. Father Martindale

413

§ 5.

Dr. J. Estlin Carpenter

427

§ 6.

Professor Carl Clemen

435

 

INDEX

439

 



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PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

Since the first issue of this work in 1903, but especially within the past few years, its main positions have been brought into extensive discussion by other writers, notably in Germany, where the Christusmythe of Professor Arthur Drews has been the theme of many platform debates. The hypothesis of the Pre-Christian Jesus-God, first indicated in Christianity and Mythology, and further propounded in the first edition of this book, has received highly important and independent development at the hands of Professor W. Benjamin Smith in his Der Vorchristliche Jesus (1906), and in the later exposition of Professor Drews. For one whose tasks include other busy fields, it is hardly possible to give this the constant attention it deserves; but the present edition has been as fully revised as might be; and some fresh elucidatory material has been embodied, without, however, any pretence of including the results of the other writers named.

Criticism of the book, so far as I have seen, has been to a surprising degree limited to subsidiary details. The first part, a discussion of the general principles and main results of hierology as regards the reigning religion, has been generally ignored, under circumstances which suggest rather avoidance than dissidence. But much more surprising is the general evasion of the two theses upon which criticism was specially challenged in the Introduction—the theses that the gospel story of the Last Supper, the Agony, the Betrayal, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection is demonstrably not originally a narrative, but a mystery-drama, which has been transcribed with a minimum of modification; and that the mystery-drama was inferribly an evolution from a Palestinian rite of human sacrifice in which the annual victim was "Jesus the Son of the Father." Against this twofold position I have seen not a single detailed argument. Writers who confidently and angrily undertake to expose error in another section of the book pass this with at most a defiant shot. Like the legendary Scottish preacher, they recognise a "difficult passage, and, having looked it boldly in the face, pass on." Even Professor Schmiedel, to my surprise, abstains from

p. xii

argument on an issue of which his candour and acumen must reveal to him the gravity. It is but fair to say that even sympathetic readers do not often avow entire acquiescence. Professor Drews leaves this an open question. But I should have expected that such a proposition, put forward as capital, would have been dealt with by critics who showed themselves much concerned to discredit the book in general.

They seem to have been chiefly excited about Mithraism, either finding in the account of that ancient cultus a provocation which the other parts of the volume did not yield, or seeing there openings for hostile criticism which elsewhere were not patent. One Roman Catholic ecclesiastic has represented me as a "modern apostle" of the bull-slaying God. It would seem that a semblance, however illusory, of rivalry in cult propaganda is more evocative of critical conflict than any mere scientific disintegration of the current creed. Of the attacks upon the section "Mithraism," as well as of other criticisms of the book, I have given some account in Appendix C. It is to be regretted that it should still be necessary to make replies to criticisms in these matters consist largely of exposures of gross misrepresentation, blundering, bad faith, and bad feeling, as well as bad reasoning, on the part of theological critics. In the case of a hostile critique in the Hibbert Journal, which did not incur these characterisations, I made an amicable appeal for space in which to reply and set forth my own case; but my request was refused.

Broadly speaking, the critical situation is one of ferment rather than of decisive conflict. Those devoted Danaïdes, the professional theologians, continue their labours with the serious assiduity which has always marked them, exhibiting their learned results in dialectic vessels which lack the first elements of retention. The theologians are as much occupied with unrealities to-day, relatively to the advance of thought, and as sure of their own insight, as were their predecessors of three hundred years ago, expounding the functions of the devil. In Germany they are not yet done discussing the inner significance of the tale of Satan's carrying Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple or to a mountain top. Professor Zahn circumspectly puts it that Jesus felt himself so carried. Friedrich Spitta as circumspectly replies that that is not what the gospels say, but does not press that point to finality. Professor Harnack pronounces that the story in Matthew is the older. Spitta cogently proves that it is the later, and that Mark has minimised Luke. Wellhausen's theory of the priority of Mark he shows to be finally untenable; and his own conclusion he declares to give a decisive result as regards

p. xiii

the life of Jesus—namely, that Jesus believed firmly in his Messiah-ship from the moment of his baptism onwards, and that he held by it in terms of his own inner experience of divine and fiendish influences. 1 And this is history, as written by scholarly theological experts. The fact that the whole Temptation story is rationally traceable to a Babylonian sculpture of the Goat-God beside the Sun-God, interpreted by Greeks and Romans successively as an education of Apollo or Jupiter by Pan on a mountain top, or a musical contest between them, has never entered the experts’ consciousness. They are writing history in the air. Spitta confidently decides that neither the community nor the disciples nor Paul set up the Messianic conception of Jesus; and yet he has not a word to say on the problem of Paul's entire ignorance of the Temptation story. Seventy years before, our own experts had ascertained with equal industry and certainty that "most probably our Lord was placed [by Satan] not on the sheer descent [from the temple] into the valley (Jos. War, V, v, 2; Ant. XV, xi, 5), but on the side next the court where stood the multitude to whom He might thus announce himself from Dan. vii, 13 (1 Chron. xxi, 16), see Bp. Pearson, VII, f. and g. Solomon's porch was a cross building to the temple itself, and rose 120 cubits above it. From the term used by both Evangelists, it is certain that the Tempter stood on no part (τοῦ ναοῦ) of the sanctuary." 2 Thus does the "expert" elucidation of the impossible go on through the generations. The "experts" of to-day are for the most part as far behind the historic science of their time as were their predecessors; and their results are just as nugatory as the older. But they are just as certain as were their predecessors that they are at the true point of view, and have all the historical facts in hand.

Orthodox and heterodox alike, in the undertaking to set forth the manner of the rise of Christianity, either wholly disregard the principles of historical proof or apply these principles arbitrarily, at their own convenience. Pfleiderer, latterly more and more bitterly repugning the interpretations of other scholars, alternately represented the personality of Jesus as a profoundly obscure problem, and offered fallacious elucidations thereof, with perfect confidence in his own selection of certainties. 3 Dr. Heinrici, offering a comprehensive view of Das Urchristentum (1902), ignores all historical difficulties on the score that he is discussing not the truth but the

 

 

 

p. xiv

influence of Christianity, and so sets forth a copious account of the psychology of the Gospel Jesus which for critical science has no validity whatever. Dr. Schweitzer, in his Von Reimarus zu Wrede (Eng. trans., The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1910), after ably confuting all the current conceptions of the Founder, sets forth one which incurs fatal criticism as soon as it is propounded. 1

The old fashion of manipulating the evidences, on the other hand, is still practised from time to time even by distinguished experts like Professor Bousset, a scholar who has done original and important work in outlying provinces of research. But how little critical validity attaches to Bousset's vindication of the main Christian tradition has been crushingly set forth in thebrochure of the late Pastor Kalthoff, Was wissen wir von Jesus? (Lehmann, Berlin: 1904), in reply to Bousset's discourse under the same title. Professing, for instance, to found on such historical data as the mention of an otherwise unknown "Chrestus" by Suetonius, Bousset deliberately denaturalises the passage to suit his purpose, and then makes it vouch for a "Christian" community at Rome when none such can be shown to have existed. Kalthoff rightly likens such a handling of documents to the methods of the professed rationalisers denounced by Lessing in his day. Many of the "liberal" school of to-day are in fact at the standpoint of the semi-rationalist beginnings of Biblical criticism among the eighteenth-century deists; on behalf of whom we can but say that they were at least sincere pioneers, and that Lessing, in substituting for their undeveloped critical method the idea of a divine "Education of Mankind" through all religious systems alike, retrograded to a standpoint where the rational interpretation of history ceases to be possible, and where the critic stultifies himself by censuring processes of thought which, on his own principles, should be envisaged as part of the divine scheme of "education." Yet that nugatory formula in turn is pressed into the service of a theology which is consistent only in refusing to submit to scientific and logical tests.

Then we have the significant portent of the pseudo-biological school of the Rev. Mr. Crawley, 2 according to which nothing in religion is new and nothing true, but all is more or less productive of "vitality," and therefore precious, so that no critical analysis matters. Here the tribunals of historical and moral truth are brazenly closed; and the critical issue is referred to one commissioned for the instant by the defender of the faith, whose hand-to-mouth

 

 

p. xv

interpretations and generalisations of Christian history, worthy of a neophyte's essay, are complacently put forth as the vindication of beliefs and rites that are admittedly developments from mere savagery. And this repudiation of all intellectual morals, this negation of the very instinct of truth, is profusely flavoured with a profession of zeal for the morals of sex and the "instinct of life." Incidentally, too, an argument which puts all critical tests out of court is from time to time tinted with a suggestion of decent concern for historical research.

So, too, among the scholars who reconstruct Christian origins at will, some profess to apply a critical "method" or set of methods by which they can put down all challenges of the reality of their subject-matter. In Appendix C, I have shown what such "method" is worth in the hands of Professor Carl Clemen. Their general procedure is simply that of scholastics debatingin vacuo, assuming what they please, and rejecting what they please. It is the method by which whole generations of their predecessors elucidated the details of the sacerdotal system of the Hebrews in the wilderness, until Colenso—set doubting about sacred tradition by an intelligent Zulu—established arithmetically the truth of Voltaire's verdict that the whole thing was impossible. Then the experts, under cover of orthodox outcry, changed the venue, avowing no shame for their long aberration. In due time the modern specialists, or their successors, will realise that their main positions as to Christian origins are equally fabulous; but they or their successors will continue to be conscious of their professional perspicacity, and solemnly or angrily contemptuous of all lay criticism of their "method." "Wir Gelehrten vom Fach," they still call themselves in Germany—"we scholars by profession"—thus disposing of all lay criticism.

It is not surprising that alongside of this vain demonstration of the historicity of myth there spreads, among determined believers in the historicity, an uneasy disposition to ground faith on the very "to believe," called by the name of "spiritual experience." With a confidence equal to that of the professional documentists, such believers maintain that their own spiritual autobiographies can establish the historical actuality of what rationalist critics describe as ancient myths. "The heart answers, I have felt." Some of these reasoners, proceeding on the lines of the pseudo-Paul (1 Cor. ii), dispose inexpensively of the historical critic by calling him "impercipient." They themselves are the percipients "vom Fach." Other apologists, with a little more modesty, reiterate their conviction that

p. xvi

the Christian origins must have been what they have been accustomed to think—that no religious movement can have risen without a revered Founder, and that the spread and duration of the Christian movement prove its Founder to have been a very great personality indeed. Abstractly put, such a theorem logically ends in the bald claim of the theorist to special "percipience," and a denial of percipience to all who refuse their assent.

It has latterly come to be associated, however, with an appeal to historical analogy in the case of the modern Persian movement of the Bâb, the lessons of which in this connection have been pressed upon orthodox believers by the late Mr. Herbert Rix. Mr. Rix, whose personality gave weight and interest to all his views, seems to have set out as a Unitarian preacher with a fixed belief in the historicity of the Gospel Jesus, despite a recognition of the weakness of the historical basis. Noting "with what a childlike mind those ancient Christians came to all questions of external fact—how independent of external fact the truth they lived by really was," 1 he yet assumed that any tale passed on by such believers must have had a basis in a great personality. "Those gospel stories," he wrote, "come down to us by tradition handed on by the lips of ignorant peasants, so that we can never be quite sure that we have the precise truth about any incident." 2 Here both the positive and the negative assumptions are invalid. We do not know that all the gospel stories were passed on by peasants; and we never know whether there was any historical basis whatever for any one tale. But on such assumptions Mr. Rix founded an unqualified conviction that the Gospel Jesus "headed a new spiritual era," "altered the whole face of things," "gave us a new principle to live by," and "revolutionised the whole world of human affection"; 3 and in his posthumous work, Rabbi, Messiah, and Martyr(1907), he presents one more Life of Jesus framed on the principle of excluding the supernatural and taking all the rest of the gospels as substantially true.

Yet towards the close of his life he seems to have realised either that this process was illicit or that it could not claim acceptance on historical grounds. Writing on the Bâb movement, he speaks not only of "those belated theologians who still think the case of a supernatural Christianity can be historically proved by evidence drawn from the latter part of the first century," but of the "utter insecurity of the historical foundation" of Christianity; and he avows "how hopeless it is to try to base religion upon historical

 

 

 

p. xvii

documents." 1 Then comes the exposition of how the Bâb movement rose in the devotion evoked by a remarkable personality; and how within thirty years the original account of the Founder was so completely superseded by a legendary account, full of miracles, that only one copy of the original document, by a rare chance, has survived.

The argument now founded on this case is an attempt to salve the historicity of Jesus in surrendering the records. Renan pointed to the Bâb movement as showing how an enthusiastic cult could arise and spread rapidly in our own day by purely natural forces. Accepting that demonstration, the Neo-Unitarians press the corollary that the Bâb movement shows how rapidly myth can overgrow history, and that we have now a new analogical ground for believing that Jesus, like the Bâb, was an actual person, of great persuasive and inspiring power. But while the plea is perfectly reasonable, and deserves every consideration, it is clearly inconclusive. Cult beginnings are not limited to one mode; and the fatal fact remains that the beginnings of the Christist cult are wrapped in all the obscurity which surrounds the alleged Founder, while we have trustworthy contemporary record of the beginnings of the Bâb movement. Place the two cases beside that of the Bacchic cult in Greece, and we have a cult-type in which wild devotion is given to a wholly mythical Founder. The rationalist critic does not affirm the impossibility of an evolution of the Christist movement on the lines of that of the Bâb: he leaves such à priori reasoning to the other side, simply insisting that there is no good historical evidence whatever, while there are strong grounds for inferring a mythical foundation. And those who abstractly insist on the historicity of Jesus must either recede from their position or revert to claims expressive merely of the personal equation—statements of the convincing force of their "religious experience," or claims to a special faculty of "percipience." To all such claims the sufficient answer is that, arrogance apart, they are matched and cancelled by similar claims on the part of believers in other creeds; and that they could have been advanced with as much justification by ancient believers in Dionysos and Osiris, who had no more doubt of the historicity of their Founders than either an orthodox or a Unitarian Christian has to-day concerning the historicity of Jesus. In short, the closing of historical problems by insistence on the personal equation is no more permissible among intellectual freemen than the settling of scientific

 

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questions thereby. Callous posterity, if not contemporary criticism, ruthlessly puts aside the personal equation in such matters, and reverts to the kind of argument which proceeds upon common grounds of credence and universal canons of evidence.

And this reversion is now in process. Already the argument for the historicity of the main gospel narrative is being largely grounded even by some "experts" on the single datum of the mention of "brethren of the Lord," and "James the brother of the Lord," in two of the Pauline epistles. This thesis is embodied in one of the ablest arguments on the historicity question that I have met with. It was put in a letter to me by a lay correspondent, open-mindedly seeking the truth by fair critical tests. He began by arguing that the data of a "Paul party," a "Cephas party," and an "Apollos party" in Corinth, if accepted as evidence for the personalities of the three party-leaders named, carry with them the inference of a Christ of whom some logia were current. If then the writer of the epistle—whether Paul or another—ignored such logia, the "silence of Paul" is no argument for ignorance of such logia in general. This ingenious argument, I think, fails in respect of its unsupported premiss. Christists might call themselves "of Christ" simply by way of disavowing all sectarian leadership. On the face of the case, the special converts of Paul were Christists without any logic of Christ to proceed upon. Equally ingenious, but I think equally inconclusive, is the further argument that the challenge, "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Cor. ix, 1), implies that Paul's status was discredited on the score that he had not seen the Lord, while other apostles had. But the dispute here turns finally on the question of the authenticity of the epistle as a whole, or the chapter or the plea in particular. As coming from Paul, it is a weak plea: multitudes were said to have "seen" Jesus; the apostle would have claimed, if anything, authorisation by Jesus. But as a traditional claim it is intelligible enough. Now, this portion of the epistle is one of those most strongly impugned by the tests of Van Manen as betraying a late authorship and standpoint—that of ecclesiastics standing for their income and their right to marry. The conception of Paul battling against his converts for his salary and "the right to lead about a wife," within a few pages of his declaration (vii, 8-9) to the unmarried and to widows, "It is good for them if they abide even as I; but if they have not continency, let them marry"—this is staggering even to believers in the authenticity of "the four" or all of the epistles, and gives the very strongest ground for treating the irreconcilable passage in chapter ix,

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if not the whole chapter, as a subsequent interpolation. That the same hand penned both passages is incredible.

Thus we come to the "brethren of the Lord" with an indestructible presumption against the text. They are mentioned as part of the case for that claim to marry which is utterly excluded by chapter vii. And the claim for salaries and freedom to marry is as obviously likely to be the late interpolation as is the doctrine of asceticism to be the earlier. Given then the clear lateness of the passage, what does the phrase "brethren of the Lord" prove? That at a period presumably long subsequent to that of Paul there was a tradition of a number of Church leaders or teachers so named. Who were they? They are never mentioned in the Acts. They are never indicated in the gospels. Brethren of Jesus are there referred to (Mt. xii, 46, xiii, 55; Mk. iii, 31, 32; Lk. viii, 19, 20; Jn. vii, 3, 5, 10); but, to say nothing of the facts that three of these passages are plainly duplicates, and that only in one are any of the brethren named, there is never the slightest suggestion that any one of them joined the propaganda. On the contrary, it is expressly declared that "even his brethren did not believe on him" (Jn. vii, 5). How then, on that basis, supposing it to have a primary validity, are we to accept the view that the James of Gal. i, 19, was a uterine brother or a half-brother of the Founder, who before Paul's advent had come to something like primacy in the Church, without leaving even a traditional trace of him as a brother of Jesus in the Acts?

Either the gospel data are historically decisive or they are not. By excluding them from his "pillar texts" 1 Professor Schmiedel admits that they are bound up with the supernatural view of Jesus. The resort to the argument from the epistles is a partial confession that the whole gospel record is open to doubt; and that the specification of four brothers and several sisters of Jesus in one passage is a perplexity. It has always been so. Several Fathers accounted for them as children of Joseph by a former wife; several others made them children of Clopas and "the other" Mary, and so only cousins of Jesus. If the gospel record is valid evidence, the question is at an end. If it is not, the evidence from the epistles falls. "Brethren of the Lord" is a late allusion, which may stand for a mere tradition or may tell of a group name; and the mention of James as a "brother" (with no hint of any others) in the epistle to the Galatians can perfectly well be an interpolation, even supposing the epistle to be genuine.

 

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I have here examined the whole argument because it is fully the strongest known to me on the side of the historicity of Jesus; and I am concerned to evade nothing. The candid reader, I think, will admit that even if he holds by the historicity it cannot be established on the grounds in question. He will then, I trust, bring an open mind to bear on the whole reasoning of the Second Part of the ensuing treatise.

As in the case of the second edition of Christianity and Mythology I am deeply indebted to Mr. Percy Vaughan for carefully reading the proofs of these pages, and revising the Index.

April1911.


Footnotes

xiii:1 Die Versuchung Jesu, in Bd. iii, H. 2, of Zur Geschichte and Literatur des Urchristentums, 1907, pp. 92-3.

xiii:2 Notes on the Four Gospels, etc., 1838, p. 220.

xiii:3 See the Appendix to the second edition of Christianity and Mythology.

xiv:1 See Appendix last cited.

xiv:2 See Appendix C to the present volume.

xvi:1 Sermons, Addresses, and Essays, 1907, p. 1.

xvi:2 Id. p. 107.

xvi:3 Id. p. 5.

xvii:1 Id. pp. 295-6, 300.

xix:1 For an examination of these I may refer the reader to the Appendix to the second edition of Christianity and Mythology.



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INTRODUCTION

My purpose in grouping the four ensuing studies is to complement and complete the undertaking of a previous volume, entitled Christianity and Mythology. That was substantially a mythological analysis of the Christian system, introduced by a discussion of mythological principles in that particular connection and in general. The bulk of the present volume is substantially a synthesis of Christian origins, introduced by a discussion of the principles of hierology. Such discussion is still forced on sociology by the special pleaders of the prevailing religion. But the central matter of the book is its attempt to trace and synthesise the real lines of growth of the Christian cultus; and it challenges criticism above all by its theses—(1) that the gospel story of the Last Supper, Passion, Betrayal, Trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection, is visibly a transcript of a Mystery Drama, and not originally a narrative; and (2) that that drama is demonstrably (as historic demonstration goes) a symbolic modification of an original rite of human sacrifice, of which it preserves certain verifiable details.

That the exact point of historic connection between the early eucharistic rite and the late drama-story has still to be traced, it is needless to remark. Had direct evidence on this head been forthcoming, the problem could not so long have been ignored. But it is here contended that the lines of evolution are established by the details of the record and the institution, in the light of the data of anthropology; and that we have thus at last a scientific basis for a history of Christianity. As was explained in the introduction to Christianity and Mythology, these studies originated some twenty-five years back in an attempt to realise and explain "The Rise of Christianity Sociologically Considered"; and it is as a beginning of such an exposition that the two books are meant to be taken. In A Short History of Christianity the general historic conception is outlined; and the present volume offers the detailed justification of the views there summarily put as to Christian origins, insofar as they were not fully developed in the earlier volume. On one point, the origins of Manichæism, the present work departs from the

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ordinary historic view, which was accepted in the Short History; the proposed rectification here being a result of the main investigation. In this connection it may be noted that Schwegler had already denied the historicity of Montanus—a thesis which I have not sought to incorporate, though I somewhat incline to accept it.

Whether or not I am able to carry out the original scheme in full, I am fain to hope that these inquiries will be of some small use towards meeting the need which motived them. Mythology has permanently interested me only as throwing light on hierology; and hierology has permanently interested me only as throwing light on sociology. The third and fourth sections of this book, accordingly, are so placed with a view to the comparative elucidation of the growth of Christianity. If it be objected that they are thus "tendency" writings, the answer is that they were independently done, and are as complete as I could make them in the space. Both are revisions and expansions of lectures formerly published in "The Religious Systems of the World," that on Mithraism being now nearly thrice its original length. Undertaken and expanded without the aid of Professor Cumont's great work, Textes et Monuments Figurés relatifs aux Mystéres de Mithra (1896-9), it has been revised in the welcome light of that magistral performance. To M. Cumont I owe much fresh knowledge, and the correction of some errors, as well as the confirmation of several of my conclusions; and if I have ventured here and there to dissent from him, and above all to maintain a thesis not recognised by him—that Mithra in the legend made a "Descent into Hell"—I do so only after due hesitation.

The non-appearance of any other study of Mithraism in English may serve as my excuse for having carried my paper into some detail, especially by way of showing how much the dead cult had in common with the living. Christian origins cannot be understood without making this comparison. It is significant, however, of our British avoidance of comparative hierology wherever it bears on current beliefs, that while Germany has contributed to the study of Mithraism, among many others, the learned treatise of Windischmann and that in Roscher's Lexikon, France the zealous researches of Lajard, and Belgium the encyclopædic and decisive work of Professor Cumont, England has produced not a single independent book on the subject. In compensation for such neglect, we have developed a signal devotion to Folklore. If some of the favour shown to that expansive study be turned on serious attempts to understand the

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actual process of growth of world-religions, the present line of research may be extended to advantage.

The lecture on the religions of Ancient America has in turn been carefully revised and much enlarged, not because this subject is equally ignored among us—for there is a sufficiency of information upon it in English, notably in one of the too-little utilised collections of "Descriptive Sociology" compiled for Mr. Spencer—but because again the comparative bearing of the study of the dead cults on that of the living has not been duly considered. In particular I have entered into some detail tending to support the theory—not yet to be put otherwise than as a disputed hypothesis—that certain forms and cults of human sacrifice, first evolved anciently in Central Asia, passed to America on the east, and to the Semitic peoples on the west, resulting in the latter case in the central "mystery" of Christianity, and in the former in the Mexican system of human sacrifices. But the psychological importance of the study does not, I trust, solely stand or fall with that theory. On the general sociological problem, I may say, a closer study of the Mexican civilisation has dissolved an opinion I formerly held—that it might have evolved from within past the stage of human sacrifice had it been left to itself.

Whatever view be taken of the scope of religious heredity, there will remain in the established historic facts sufficient justification for the general title of "Pagan Christs," which best indicates in one phrase the kinship of all cults of human sacrifice and theophagous sacrament, as well as of all cults of which the founder figures as an inspired teacher. That principle has already been broadly made good on the first side by the incomparable research of Dr. J. G. Frazer, to whose "Golden Bough" I owe both theoretic light and detail knowledge. I ask, therefore, that when I make bold to reject Dr. Frazer's suggested solution (ed. 1900) of the historic problem raised by the parallel between certain Christian and non-Christian sacra, I shall not be supposed to undervalue his great treasury of ordered knowledge. On the question of the historicity of Founders, I have made answer in the second edition of Christianity and Mythology to certain strictures of his which seem to me very ill-considered. What I claim for my own solution is that it best satisfies the ruling principles of his own hierology.

In this connection, however, I feel it a duty to avow that the right direction had previously been pointed out by the late Grant Allen in his Evolution of the Idea of God (1897), though at the outset of his work he obscured it for many of us by insisting on the

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absolute historicity of Jesus, a position which later-on he in effect abandons. It is after ostensibly setting out with the actuality of "Jesus the son of the carpenter" as an "unassailable Rock of solid historical fact" (p. 16) that he incidentally (p. 285) pronounces "the Christian legend to have been mainly constructed out of the details of such early god-making sacrifices" as that practised by the Khonds. Finally (p. 391) he writes that "at the outset of our inquiry we had to accept crudely the bare fact" that the cult arose at a certain period, and that "we can now see that it was but one more example of a universal god-making tendency in human nature." Returning to Allen's book after having independently worked out in detail precisely such a derivation and such a theory, I was surprised to find that where he had thus thrown out the clue I had not on a first reading been at all impressed by it. The reason probably was that for me the problem had been primarily one of historical derivation, and that Allen offered no historical solution, being satisfied to indicate analogies. And it was probably the still completer disregard of historical difficulties that brought oblivion upon the essay of Herr Kulischer, Das Leben Jesu eine Sage von dem Schicksale and Erlebnissen der Bodenfrucht, insbesondere der sogenannten palästinensischen Erstlingsgarbe, die am Passahfeste im Tempel dargebracht wurde (Leipzig, 1876), in which Dr. Frazer's thesis of the vegetal character of the typical slain and rearising deity is put forth without evidence, but with entire confidence.

Kulischer had simply posited the analogy of the Vegetation-God and the vegetation-cult as previous students had done that of the Sun-God and the sun-myth, not only without tracing any process of transmutation, but with a far more arbitrary interpretation of symbols than they had ventured on. His essay thus remains only a remarkable piece of pioneering, which went broadly in the right direction, but missed the true path.

It is not indeed to be assumed that if he had made out a clear historical case it would have been listened to by his generation. The generation before him had paid little heed to the massive and learned treatise of Ghillany, Die Menschenopfer der alten Hebräer (1842), wherein the derivation of the Passover from a rite of human sacrifice is well made out, and that of the Christian eucharist from a modified Jewish sacrament of theophagy is at least strikingly argued for. Ghillany had further noted some of the decisive analogies of sacrificial ritual and gospel narrative which are founded on in the following pages; and was substantially on the right historic track, though he missed some of the archæological proofs of the

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prevalence of human sacrifice in pre-exilic Judaism. Daumer, too, went far towards a right historical solution in his work Der Feuer and Molochdienst der alten Hebräer, which was synchronous with that of his friend Ghillany, and again in his treatiseDie Geheimnisse des christlichen Alterthums (1847). His later proclamation of Meine Conversion (1859) would naturally discredit his earlier theses; but the disregard of the whole argument in the hierology of that day is probably to be explained as due to the fact that the conception of a "science of religions"—specified by Vinet in 1856 as beginning to grow up alongside of theology—had not then been constituted for educated men. The works of Ghillany and Daumer have been so far forgotten that not till my own research had been independently made and elaborated did I meet with them.

To-day, the conditions of hierological research are very different. A generation of students is now steeped in the anthropological lore of which Ghillany, failing to profit by the lead of Constant, noted only the details preserved in the classics and European histories; and the scientific significance of his and Daumer's and Kulischer's theories is clear in the light of the studies of Tylor, Spencer, and Frazer. Grant Allen, with the ample materials of recent anthropology to draw upon, made a vital advance by connecting the central Christian legend with the whole process of religious evolution, in terms not of à priori theology but of anthropological fact. If, however, the lack of historical demonstration, and the uncorrected premiss of a conventional historical view, made his theory at first lack significance for a reader like myself, it has probably caused it to miss its mark with others. That is no deduction from its scientific merit; but it may be that the historical method will assist to its appreciation. It was by way of concrete recognition of structural parallelism that I reached the theory, having entirely forgotten, if I had ever noted, Allen's passing mention of one of the vital details in question—that of the breaking of the legs of victims in primitive human sacrifice. In 1842 Ghillany had laid similar stress on the detail of the lance-thrust in the fourth gospel, to which he adduced the classic parallel noted hereinafter. And when independent researches thus yield a variety of particular corroborations of a theory reached otherwise by a broad generalisation, the reciprocal confirmation is, I think, tolerably strong. The recognition of the Gospel Mystery-Play, it is here submitted, is the final historical validation of the whole thesis, which might otherwise fail to escape the fate of disregard which has thus far befallen the most brilliant speculation of the à priori mythologists in regard to the Christian legend, from the

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once famous works of Dupuis and Volney down to the little noticed Letture sopra la mitologia vedica of Professor de Gubernatis.

However that may be, Grant Allen's service in the matter is now from my point of view unquestionable. Of less importance, but still noteworthy, is Professor Huxley's sketch of "The Evolution of Theology," with which, while demurring to some of what I regard as its uncritical assumptions (accepted, I regret to say, by Allen, in his otherwise scientific ninth chapter), I find myself in considerable agreement on Judaic origins. Professor Huxley's essay points to the need for a combination of the studies of hierology and anthropology in the name of sociology, and on that side it would be unpardonable to omit acknowledgment of the great work that has actually been done for sociological synthesis. I am specially bound to make it in view of my occasional dissent on anthropological matters from Spencer. Such dissent is apt to suggest difference of principle in a disproportionate degree; and Spencer's own iconoclasm has latterly evoked a kind of criticism that is little concerned to avow his services. It is the more fitting that such a treatise as the present should be accompanied by a tribute to them. However his anthropology may have to be modified in detail, it remains clear to some of us, whom it has enlightened, that his elucidations are of fundamental importance, all later attempts being related to them, and that his main method is permanently valid.

In regard to matters less habitually contested, it is perhaps needless to add that I am as little lacking in gratitude for the great scholarly services rendered to all students of hierology by Professor Rhys Davids, when I venture to withstand his weighty opinion on Buddhist origins. My contrary view would be ill-accredited indeed if I were not able to support it with much evidence yielded by his scholarship and his candour. And it is perhaps not unfitting that, by way of final word of preface to a treatise which sets out with a systematic opposition to the general doctrine of Dr. F. B. Jevons, I acknowledge that I have profited by his survey of the field, and even by the suggestiveness of some of his arguments that seem to me to go astray.



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PART I.

THE RATIONALE OF RELIGION

CHAPTER I.

THE NATURALNESS OF ALL BELIEF

§ 1.

It seems probable, despite theological cavils, that Petronius was right in his signal saying, Fear first made the Gods. In the words of a recent hierologist, "we may be sure that primitive man took to himself the credit of his successful attempts to work the mechanism of nature for his own advantage, but when the machinery did not work he ascribed the fault to some over-ruling supernatural power.....It was the violation of [previously exploited] sequences, and the frustration of his expectations, by which the belief in supernatural power was, not created, but first called forth." 1

The fact that this writer proceeds to repudiate his own doctrine 2 is no reason why we should, save to the extent of noting the temerity of his use of the term "supernatural." There are some very strong reasons, apart from the à priori one cited above, for thinking that the earliest human notions of superhuman beings were framed in terms of fear. Perhaps the strongest of all is the fact that savages and barbarians in nearly all parts of the world appear to regard disease and death as invariably due to purposive hostile action, whether normal, magical, or "spiritual." 3 Not even old age is for

 

 

 

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many of these primitive thinkers a probable natural cause of death. 1 If then the life of early man was not much less troublous than that of contemporary primitives, he is likely to have been moved as much as they to conceive of the unseen powers as malevolent. "On the Gold Coast," says a close student, "the majority of these spirits are malignant......I believe that originally all were conceived as malignant." 2

And how, indeed, could it be otherwise? Those who will not assent have forgotten, as indeed most anthropologists strangely forget when they are discussing the beginnings of religion, that man as we know him is descended from something less human, more brute, something nearer the predatory beast life of fear and foray.

 

 

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[paragraph continues]When in the period of upward movement which we term civilisation, as distinct from animal savagery, there could arise thrills of yearning or gratitude towards unknown powers, we are æons off from the stage of subterhuman growth in which the germs of conceptual religion must have stirred. If the argument is to be that there is no religion until man loves his Gods, let it be plainly put, and let not a verbal definition become a petitio principii. If, again, no numina are to be termed Gods but those who are loved, let that proposition too be put as a simple definition of term. But if we are to look for the beginnings of the human notion of numina, of unseen spirits who operate in Nature and interfere with man, let it be as plainly put that they presumably occurred when fear of the unknown was normal, and gratitude to an Unknown impossible.

But in saying that fear first made the Gods, or made the first Gods, we imply that other God-making forces came into play later; and no dispute arises when this is affirmed of the process of making the Gods of the higher religions, in their later forms. Even here, at the outset, the play of gratitude is no such ennobling exercise as to involve much lifting of the moral standpoint; and even in the higher religions gratitude to the God is often correlative with fear of the evil spirits whom he wards off. This factor is constantly present in the gospels and in the polemic of the early Fathers; 1 and has never disappeared from religious life. The pietist who in our own day pours out thanks to "Providence" for saving him in the earthquake in which myriads have perished is no more ethically attractive than philosophically persuasive; and the gratitude of savages and barbarians for favours received and expected can hardly have been more refined. It might even be said that a cruder egoism presides over the making of Good Gods than over the birth of the Gods of Fear; 2 the former having their probable origin in an individualistic as against a tribal instinct. But it may be granted that the God who ostensibly begins as a private guardian angel or family spirit may become the germ of a more ethical cultus than that of the God generically feared. And the process chronically recurs. There is, indeed, no generic severance between the Gods of fear and the Gods of love, most deities of the more advanced races having both aspects: nevertheless, certain specified deities are so largely shaped by men's affections that they might recognisably be termed the Beloved Gods.

 

 

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It will on the whole be helpful to an understanding of the subject if we name such Gods, in terms of current conceptions, the Christs of the world's pantheon. That title, indeed, no less fitly includes figures which do not strictly rank as Gods; but in thus widely relating it we shall be rather elucidating than obscuring religious history. Only by some such collocation of ideas can the inquirer surmount his presuppositions and take the decisive step towards seeing the religions of mankind as alike man-made. On the other hand, he is not thereby committed to any one view in the field of history proper; he is left free to argue for a historical Christ as for a historical Buddha.

Even on the ground of the concept of evolution, however, scientific agreement is still hindered by persistence in the old classifications. The trouble meets us on one line in arbitrary fundamental separations between mythology and religion, early religion and early ethics, religion and magic, genuine myths and non-genuine myths. 1 On another line it meets us in the shape of a sudden and local reopening of the problem of theistic intervention in a quasi-philosophical form, or a wilful repudiation of naturalistic method when the inquiry reaches current beliefs. Thus results which were reached by disinterested scholarship a generation ago are sought to be subverted, not by a more thorough scholarship, but by keeping away from the scholarly problem and suggesting a new standard of values, open to no rational tests. It may be well, therefore, to clear the ground so far as may be of such dispute at the outset by stating and vindicating the naturalistic position in regard to it.

 


Footnotes

1:1 F. B. Jevons, Introduction, to the History of Religion, 1896, p. 19; cp. p. 23, p. 137, and p. 177. Cp. Adam Smith, essay onThe History of Astronomy, sect. iii.

1:2 Jevons, as cited pp. 106, 233, 410. Exactly the same self-contradiction is committed by Professor Robertson Smith, on the same provocation of the phrase, Primus in orbe deos fecit timor. See his Religion of the Semites, pp. 27, 35, 55, 88, 129.

1:3 Cp. John Mathew, Eaglehawk and Crow, 1899, pp. 91, 123, 144; Sir A. B. Ellis, The Tshi-speaking Peoples of the Gold Coast, 1887, pp. 13-14; Livingstone, Travels and Researches in South Africa, ed. 1905, p. 409; Schweinfurth, The Heart of Africa, 3rd ed. i, 144-5; Major Glyn Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes, 1906, pp. 171-sq., 361; Mary H. Kingsley, West African Studies, ed. 1901, pp. 98-100, 105-9, 178; Spencer and Gillen, Native Tribes of Central Australia, 1899, p. 48;Northern Tribes of Central Australia, 1904, p. 479; Rev. R. Taylor, Te Ika a Maui: or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants, 1870, p. 137; w. w. Skeat, Malay Magic, 1900, pp. 56-57, 94, 410, 533 sq.; J. Chalmers, Pioneer Life and Work in New Guinea, 1895, p. 199; Thurston, Castes and Tribes of Southern India, 1909, iii. 275; iv, 53, p. 19, 160; vii, 350, etc.; Admiral Lindesay Brine, Travels amongst American Indians, 1894, pp 184-5 363; A. R. Wallace, Travels on the Amazon and Rio Negro, 2nd ed. 1889, pp. 347-8; A. F. Calvert, The Aborigines of Western Australia, 1894, p. 20; G. Taplin, The Narrinyeri: An Account of the Tribes of South Australian Aborigines, 2nd ed. Adelaide, p. 2 1878, pp. 19, 25; Perceval Landon, Lhasa, 2nd ed. 1905, p. 39; W. A. Pickering, Pioneering in Formosa, 1898, pp. 73, 75; Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago, 1884, pp. 21, 321; A. E. Pratt, Two Years among the New Guinea Cannibals, 1906, p. 312; Paul Kollmann, The Victoria Nyanza, 1899, p. 166; Lionel Decle, Three Years in Savage Africa, 1900, pp. 75, 152; Dobrizhoffer, An Account of the Abipones, Eng. tr. 1821, ii, 84; W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, 2nd ed. 1831, i, 395-6; iv, 293, 315; Batchelor, The Ainu of Japan, 1892, pp. 195, 199; B. Douglas Howard, Life with Trans-Siberian Savages, 1893, p. 193; Adolf Bastian, Der Mensch in der Geschichte, 1860, ii, 106sq., 116 sq.; Tylor, Primitive Culture, 3rd ed. i, 138; E. Clodd, Tom Tit Tot, 1898, pp. 133-4; E. Crawley, The Mystic Rose, 1902. pp. 18-22, 26-28; Ross, Pansebeia, 4th ed. 1672, p. 100; N. W. Thomas, art. in Journal of the African Society, October, 1908, p. 24; D. M. Kranz, Natur- and Kulturleben der Zulus, 1880, p. 106; S. P. Oliver, Madagascar, 1886, ii, 39.

At a higher stage of civilisation, or among tribes who have had some contact with white men, we find a differentiation in which medical treatment is recognised, and only the obscurer maladies or dangerous wounds are magically dealt with. Cp. Schrader, Prehistoric Antiquities of the Aryan Peoples, Eng. tr. 1890, p. 420, with Miss Kingsley, West African Studies, p. 153, and Brine, as cited, p. 174.

It cannot be said that this view of disease was transcended among the most civilised nations of antiquity, the scientific views of the Greek physicians being accepted only by the few. Under Christianity there was a nearly complete reversion to the savage view, which subsisted until the assimilation of Saracen science in the Middle Ages. Cp. Mosheim's notes to Cudworth's Intellectual System, Harrison's trans. 1845, ii, 284-6; A. D. White, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology, 1897, ii, i, 3, 25, and refs.

2:1 In some cases old age is recognised as a sufficient cause. Cp. Rev. J. Macdonald, Light in Africa, 1890, p. 164; Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, 1876, p. 35; Decle, as cited, pp. 489, 491; Crawley, as cited, p. 26.

2:2 A. B. Ellis, as cited, p. 12. Cp. Schweinfurth, as cited, and Major Mockler-Ferryman, British West Africa, 2nd ed. 1900, p. 384: Beneficent spirits are almost unknown to the pessimistic African, to whom existence must seem a veritable struggle." "Their [the Matabele's] idea of power, known or unknown, is always associated with evil" (Decle, as cited, p. 165: cp. pp. 153, 343). To the same effect W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, i, 336; Rev. R. Taylor, Te Ika a Maui, as cited, and p. 104; Livingstone, Travels and Researches, ed. 1905, pp. 405, 409-10; Calvert, as cited, p. 38; Perceval Landon, Lhasa, 2nd ed. 1905, ii, 36-38, 40; Hyades and Deniker, Mission Scientif. du Cap Horn, 1891, cited by Hobhouse, Morals in Evolution, 1906, i, 46; T. Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, ed. 1870, pp. 189, 155; H. Cayley Webster, Through New Guinea and the Cannibal Countries, 1898, p. 357; Lawes, cited in C. Lennox's James Chalmers of New Guinea, 1903, p. 76; Joh. Warneck, Die Religion der Batak, 1909, pp. 2-3. The last-cited writer is particularly emphatic as to the overwhelming predominance of the factor of fear in the religion which he presents: "Diese Furcht, nicht die Pietät, nicht das Abhängigkeitsgefühl von der Gottheit, ist die treibende Kraft......" Of the ancient Roman, again, it can be said that "he was beset on all sides by imaginary foes" (Professor Granger, The Worship of the Romans, 1895, p. 75). The same statement can be made with nearly the same emphasis concerning the population of Christian Greece. See J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, 1910, pp. 9-25, 47, 256, and passim. And as the common folk of Christian Greece are very much on the pagan plane of thought (id. p. 51), the inference as to pagan Greece is clear. Cp. G. Roskoff, Geschichte des Teufels, 1869, i, 20, and Das Religionswesen der rohesten Naturvölker, 1880, pp. 34, 171; Sir H. Johnston, George Grenfell and the Congo, 1908, ii, 635-6; K. Rasmussen, The People of the Polar North, 1908, pp. 123-5; Miss J. E. Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, 2nd ed. 1908, pp. 7, 9; Thurston, Castes and Tribes, as cited, ii, 86, 180, 215, 427; vii, 354. Mr. Decle notes one or two African exceptions; e.g., a tribe on the Tanganika plateau "have a vague sort of Supreme Being called Lesa, who has good and evil passions" (p. 293); the Wakamba have a similar conception, and are further notable for not believing that death is caused by witchcraft (p. 489); and the Wanyamwezi have "the idea of a superior being whose help might be invoked" (p. 316). The exceptions all occur in the lake region. Cp. Kollmann, The Victoria Nyanza, 1899, p. 169.

3:1 Cp. Arnobius, Adv. Gentes, L. 48-52, ii, 11; Lactantius, Div. Inst. iv, 15; Tertullian, Apol. 23, 40; Augustine, De Civ. Dei, B. passim.

3:2 This is said in a different sense from that of the proposition of Miss Harrison (Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, 2nd ed, pp, xii and 6) that the religion of fear of evil has ethical value as recognising the "mystery" thereof.

4:1 Cp. the author's Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. p. 2.



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2.

In the midst of much dispute, moral science approaches agreement on the proposition that all primitive beliefs and usages, however strange or absurd, are to be understood as primarily products of judgment, representing theories of causation or guesses at the order of things. To such agreement, however, hindrance is set up by the reversion of some inquirers to the old view that certain savage notions are "irrational" in the strict sense. Thus Dr. F. B. Jevons decides that "there is no rational principle of action in taboo: it is mechanical; arbitrary, because its sole basis is the arbitrary association of ideas; irrational, because its principle is [in the words of Mr. Lang] 'that causal connection in thought is equivalent to causative connection in fact.'" 2 Again, Dr. Jevons lays it down 3

 

 

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that "Taboo......is the conviction that there are certain things which must—absolutely must, and not on grounds of experience of 'unconscious utility'—be avoided."

It is significant that in both of these passages the proposition runs into verbal insignificance or counter-sense. In the first cited we are told (1) that a certain association of ideas is arbitrary because its basis is an arbitrary association of ideas, and (2) that it is all the while a "causal" (i.e., a non-arbitrary) connection in thought. In the last we are in effect told that the tabooer is conscious that he is not proceeding on an ancestral experience when he is merely not conscious of doing so. When instructed men thus repeatedly lapse into mere nullities of formula, there is presumably something wrong with their theory. Now, the whole subject of taboo is put outside science by the assumption that the practice is in origin "irrational" and "absolute" and "arbitrary" and independent of all experience of utility. As Dr. Jevons himself declares in another connection, the savage's thought is subject to mental laws as much as is civilised man's. How, then, is this dictum to be reconciled with that? What is the "law" of the savage's "arbitrariness"?

Conceivably part of it lies before us in Dr. Jevons’s page of denial. The very illustration first given by him for the proposition last cited from him is that "the mourner is as dangerous as the corpse he has touched," "the mourner is as dangerous to those he loves as to those he hates." Here, one would suppose, was a pretty obvious clue to an intelligible causation. Is it to be "arbitrarily" decided that primitive men never observed the phenomena of contagion from corpse to mourners, and from mourners to their families; or, observing it, never sought to act on the experience? Is it not notorious that among contemporary primitives there is often an intense and vigilant fear of contagious disease? 1

The only fair objection to accepting such a basis for one species of taboo is that for other species no such explanation is available. But what science looks for in such a matter is not a direct explanation for every instance: it suffices that we find an explanation or explanations for such a principle or conception as taboo, and then recognise that, once set up, it may be turned to really "arbitrary" account by chiefs, priests, and adventurers.

"Arbitrary" has two significations, in two references: it means "illogical" in reference to reason, or "representative of one will as against the general will." In the first sense, it is here irrelevant, for

 

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no one pretends that taboo is right; but it may apply in the other in a way not intended by Dr. Jevons. For nothing can be more obvious than the adaptability of the idea of taboo, once crystallised or conventionalised in a code, to purposes of individual malice, and to all such procedure as men indicate by the term "priestcraft." Dr. Jevons, in his concern to prove, what no one ever seriously disputed, that priests did not and could not create the religious or superstitious instinct, leaves entirely out of his exposition, and even by implication denies, the vitally relevant truth that they exploit it. And in overlooking this he sadly burdens, if he does not wreck, his own unduly biassed theory of the religious instinct as something relatively "deep," and as proceeding in terms of an abnormal consciousness of contact with "the divine." For if those relatively "arbitrary" and "irrational" forms of taboo do not come from the priest—that is, from the religion-maker or -monger, whether official or not—they must, on Dr. Jevons’s own showing, come from "religion."

It may be that he would not at once reject such a conclusion; for the apparent motive of much of his treatment of taboo is the sanctification of it as an element in the ancestry of the Christian religion. For this purpose he is ready to go to notable lengths, as when 1 he allows cannibalism to be sometimes "religious in intention." But while insisting at one point on the absolute unreasonedness and immediate certitude of the notion of taboo, apparently in order to place it on all fours with the "direct consciousness" which for him is the mark of a religious belief, he admits in so many words, as we have seen, that it is "arbitrary" and "irrational," which is scarcely a way of accrediting it as a religious phenomenon. Rather the purpose of that aspersion seems to be to open the way for another aggrandisement of religion as having suppressed irrational taboo. On the one hand we are told 2 that the savage's fallacious belief in the transmissibility of taboo was "the sheath which enclosed and protected a conception that was to blossom and bear a priceless fruit—the conception of Social Obligation." This is an arguable thesis, not framed by Dr. Jevons for the purposes of his theorem, but spontaneously set forth by several missionaries. 3 Here we need but note the implication of the old fallacy that when any good is seen to follow upon an evil wemust assume the evil to have been a conditio sine quâ non of the good. The missionaries and

 

 

 

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[paragraph continues]Dr. Jevons have assumed that but for the device of taboo there could have been no social code—a thesis not to be substantiated either deductively or inductively. But with this problem we need not now concern ourselves, since Dr. Jevons himself turns the tables on it. After the claim has been made for the salvatory action of taboo, we read 1 that "it was only among the minority of mankind, and there only under exceptional circumstances, that the institution bore its best fruit......Indeed, in many respects the evolution of taboo has been fatal to the progress of humanity." And again:—

 

In religion the institution also had a baneful effect: the irrational restrictions, touch not, taste not, handle not, which constitute formalism, are essentially taboos—essential to the education of man at one period of his development, but a bar to his progress later.

 

But now is introduced 2 the theorem of the process by which taboo has been converted into an element of civilisation: it is this:—

 

From the fallacy of magic man was delivered by religion; and there are reasons.....for believing that it was by the same aid he escaped from the irrational restrictions of taboo. 3

 

In the higher forms of religion.....the trivial and absurd restrictions are cast off, and those alone retained which are essential to morality and religion4

 

We shall have to deal later with the direct propositions here put; but for the moment it specially concerns us to note that thedénoûment does not hold scientifically or logically good. The fact remains that irrational taboo as such was, in the terms of the argument, strictly religious; that religion in this aspect had "no sense in it," inasmuch as taboo had passed from a primitive precaution to a priest-made convention; 5 and that what religion is alleged to deliver man from is just religion. Thus alternately does religion figure for the apologist as a rational tendency correcting an irrational, and as an irrational tendency doing good which a rational one cannot. And the further we follow his teaching the more frequently does such a contradiction emerge.

 

 

 

 

 


Footnotes

4:2 Jevons, Introduction cited, p. 91; Lang, Myth, Ritual, and Religion, 1st ed. i, 95.

4:3 As cited, pp. 11-12. Cp. p. 68, where the question is begged with much simplicity.

5:1 E.g., Turner, Samoa a Hundred Years Ago, 1884, pp. 306, 322.

6:1 P. 201.

6:2 P. 87.

6:3 E.g., Rev. Richard Taylor, Te Ika a Maui: or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants, 1870, pp. 8, 163 sq.; Rev. J. Buller, Forty Years in New Zealand, 1878, p. 203.

7:1 P. 88.

7:2 P. 89.

7:3 P. 91.

7:4 P. 93.

7:5 Cp. Rev. R. Taylor, as cited, ch. viii.



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3.

At the close of his work, apparently forgetting the propositions of his first chapter as to the priority of the sense of obstacle in the primitive man's notion of supernatural forces, Dr. Jevons affirms that the "earliest attempt" towards harmonising the facts of the "external and inner consciousness"—by which is meant observation and reflection

 

took the form of ascribing the external prosperity which befell a man to the

 

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action of the divine love of which he was conscious within himself; and the misfortunes which befell him to the wrath of the justly offended divine will. 1

 

Here we have either a contradiction of the thesis before cited, or a resort to the extremely arbitrary assumption that in taking credit to himself for successful management of things, and imputing his miscarriages to a superior power, the primitive man is not trying to "harmonise the facts of his experience." Such an argument would be on every ground untenable; but it appears to be all that can stand between Dr. Jevons and self-contradiction. The way to a sound position is by settling impartially the definition of the term "religion." How Dr. Jevons misses this may be gathered from the continuation of the passage under notice:—

 

Man, being by nature religious, began by a religious explanation of nature. To assume, as is often done, that man had no religious consciousness 1, begin with, and that the misfortunes which befell him inspired him with fear, and fear led him to propitiate the malignant beings whom he imagined to be the causes of his suffering, fails to account for the very thing it intended to explain—namely, the existence of religion. It might account for superstitious dread of malignant beings: it does not account for the grateful worship of benignant beings, nor for the universal satisfaction which man finds in that worship.

 

[paragraph continues]As we have seen, Dr. Jevons himself had at the outset plainly posited what he now describes as a fallacious assumption. On his prior showing, man's experience of apparent hostility in Nature "first called forth" his belief in supernatural power. The interposed phrase, "was not created but," looks like an after attempt to reconcile the earlier proposition with the later. But there is no real reconciliation, for Dr. Jevons thus sets up only the vain suggestion that the primitive man was from the first conscious of the existence of good supernatural powers but did not think they did him any good—another collapse in countersense—or else the equally unmanageable notion that primitive man recognised helpful supernatural being-, but was not grateful to them for their help.

That the argument has not been scientifically conducted is further clear from the use now of the expression "superstitious dread" as the equivalent of "fear," while "grateful worship" stands for "satisfaction." Why "superstitious dread" and not "superstitious gratitude"? A scientific inquiry will treat the phenomena on a moral par, and will at this stage simply put aside the term "superstition." It is relevant only as imputing a superior degree of gratuitousness of belief (whether by way of fear or of satisfaction) at a comparatively

 

p. 9

advanced state of culture. To call a savage superstitious when he fears a God, and religious when he thanks one, is not only to warp the "science of religion" at the start, but to block even the purpose in view, for, as we have seen, Dr. Jevons is constrained by his own motive of edification to assume that the benignant God ought by rights to be sometimes feared.


Footnotes

8:1 Work cited, p. 410.

 



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 4.

Putting aside as unscientific all such prejudgments, and leaving the professed religionist his personal remedy of discriminating finally between "true" and "false" religion, let us begin at the beginning by noting that "religious consciousness" can intelligibly mean only a given direction of consciousness. And if we are to make any consistent specification of the point at which consciousness begins to be religious, we shall put it impartially in simple animism—the spontaneous surmise, seen to be dimly made or makable even by animals, "that not only animals and plants, but inanimate things, may possess life." Dr. Jevons rightly points out 1 that this primary notion "neither proceeds from nor implies nor accounts for belief in the supernatural"; and he goes on to show (developing here the doctrine which he ultimately repudiates) how the latter notion would arise through man's connecting with certain agencies or "spirits" the frustrative or molestive power "which he had already found to exercise an unexpected and irresistible control over his destiny." "In this way," continues Dr. Jevons, suddenly granting much more than he need or ought, "the notion of supernatural power, which originally was purely negative and manifested itself merely in suspending or counteracting the uniformity of nature, came to have a positive content." From this point, as might have been divined, the argument becomes confused to the last degree. We have been brought to the supernatural as a primitive product of (a) the recognition of irregular and frustrative forces in nature, and (b) the identification of them as personalities or spirits like man. But immediately, in the interests of another preconception, the theorist proceeds in effect to cancel this by arguing that, when men resort to magic, the idea of the supernatural has disappeared. His proposition is that "the belief in the supernatural was prior to the belief in magic, and that the latter, whenever it sprang up, was a degradation or relapse in the evolution of religion," 2 inasmuch as it assumed man's power to control the forces of Nature by certain stratagems. And as he argues at the

 

 

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same time that "religion and magic had different origins, and were always essentially distinct from one another," it is implied that religion began in that belief in a (frustrative) supernatural which is asserted to have preceded magic. That is to say, religion began in the recognition of hostile or dangerous powers.

Now, a logically vigilant investigator would either not have said that belief in a supernatural was constituted by the recognition of hostile personal forces in Nature, or, having said it, would have granted that magic was an effort to circumvent supernatural as well as other forces. Dr. Jevons first credits the early savage with, among other things, a conception of supernatural power which excluded the idea of man's opposition, and then with the power so to transform his first notion as to see in the so-called supernatural merely forms of Nature. An intellectual process achieved in the civilised world only as a long and arduous upward evolution on scientific lines is thus supposed to have been more or less sudden'': effected as a mere matter either of ignorant downward drift or of perverse experiment by primeval man, or at least by savage man. It is not easy to be more arbitrary in the way of hypothesis.

Combating the contrary view, which makes magic prior to religion, Dr. Jevons writes:—

 

To read some writers, who derive the powers of priests (and even of the gods) from those of the magician, and who consider apparently that magic requires no explanation, one would imagine that the savage, surrounded by supernatural powers and a prey to supernatural terrors, one day conceived the happy idea that he too would himself exercise supernatural power—and the thing was done: sorcery was invented, and the rest of the evolution of religion follows without difficulty. 1

 

It is difficult to estimate the relevance of this criticism without knowing the precise expressions which provoked it; but as regards any prevailing view of evolution it is somewhat pointless. "One day" is not the formula of evolutionary conceptions. But Dr. Jevons’s own doctrine, which is to the effect that magical rites arose by way of parody of worship-rites after the latter had for ages been in undisputed possession, suggests just such a catastrophic conception as he imputes. Rejecting the obvious evolutionary hypothesis that explicit magic and explicit religion so-called arose confusedly together—that magic employs early religious machinery because it is but a contemporary expression of the state of mind in which religion rises and roots—he insists that magic cannot have been tried save by way of late "parody," in an intellectual atmosphere

 

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which, nevertheless, he declares to be extremely conservative, 1 and which is therefore extremely unlikely to develop such parodies. 2

Dr. Jevons’s doctrinal motive, it is pretty clear, is his wish to relieve "religion" of the discredit of "magic," even as he finally and remorsefully seeks to relieve it of the discredit of originating in "fear." Having no such axe to grind, the scientific inquirer might here offer to let "religion" mean anything Dr. Jevons likes, if he will only stick to one definition. But science must stipulate for some term to designate a series of psychological processes which originate in the same order of cognitions and conceptions, on the same plane of knowledge, and have strictly correlative results in action. And as such a term would certainly have to be applied sooner or later to much of what Dr. Jevons wants to call "religion," we may just as well thrash out the issue over that long-established name.

 

 


Footnotes

9:1 P. 22.

9:2 P. 25.

10:1 Pp, 35, 36.

11:1 p. 36

11:2 Dr. Jevons has latterly (Sociological Review, April, 1908) treated the problem in a very lucid essay on "The Definition of Magic," in which he discusses the positions of Dr. Frazer, MM. Hubert and Mauss, and Professor Wundt. He sums up, without dogmatism, on the side of the view of Wundt, which, as I understand it, is in harmony with that set forth in these pages, and is certainly in apparent opposition to that of Dr. Jevons as here criticised. I infer that Dr. Jevons has now modified his theory, but leave my discussion standing, for what it is worth. [Note to 2nd ed.]



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 5.

The need for an understanding becomes pressing when we compare with the conceptions of Dr. Jevons those of Dr. J. G. Frazer, as set forth in the revised edition of his great work, The Golden Bough. Having before the issue of his first edition "failed, perhaps inexcusably," he modestly avows, "to define even to myself my notion of religion," he was then "disposed to class magic loosely under it as one of its lower forms." Now he has "come to agree with Sir A. C. Lyall and Mr. F. B. Jevons in recognising a fundamental distinction and even opposition of principle between magic and religion." 3 On this view he defines religion as "a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life. In this sense," he adds, "it will readily be perceived that religion is opposed in principle both to magic and to science." 4

The first comment on such a proposition is that it all depends on what you mean by "principle." If religion means only the act of propitiation and conciliation of certain alleged powers, its principle "may be placed either in the hope that such propitiation will succeed or in the feeling that it ought to be tried. In either case, the accuracy of the proposition is far from clear. But we

 

 

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must widen the issue. It will be seen that Dr. Frazer's formal definition of religion is as inadequate as that implied in the argument of Dr. Jevons, though his practical handling of the case is finally the more scientific. On the above definition, beliefis no part of religion; 1 and neither is gratitude; though fear may be held to be implied in propitiation. Further, religion has by this definition nothing to do with ethics; and even conduct shaped by way of simple obedience to a God's alleged commands is barely recognised under the head of "propitiation." Finally, a theist who has ever so reverently arrived at the idea of an All-wise Omnipotence which needs not to be propitiated or conciliated, has on Dr. Frazer's definition ceased to be religious. It will really not do.

I am not here pressing for a wider definition, as do some professed rationalists, by way of securing for my own philosophy or ethic the prestige of a highly respectable name; nor do I even endorse their claim as for themselves. I simply urge that as a matter of scientific convenience and consistency the word must be allowed to cover at least the bulk of the phenomena to which it has immemorially been applied. Where Dr. Frazer by his definition makes religion "nearly unknown" to the Australian, because the Australian (mainly for lack of the wherewithal) does not sacrifice, 2 Mr. Lang ascribes to them a higher or deeper religious feeling on that very account. 3 Such chaos of definition must be averted by a more comprehensive theory. Whether or not we oppose magic to religion, we cannot exclude from the latter term the whole process of non-propitiatory religious ethic, of thanksgiving ritual, and of cosmological doctrine. Later we shall have to deal with Dr. Jevons’s attempt to withdraw the term from theistic philosophy and from mythology; but we may provisionally insist that emotional resignation to "the divine will" is in terms of all usage whatsoever a religious phenomenon.

It remains to consider the alleged severance between religion and magic. It is interesting to find Dr. Jevons and Dr. Frazer here partially at one, as against the general opinion of anthropologists. That may be cited from a theologian, Professor T. W. Davies, in whose doctoral thesis on Magic, Divination, and Demonology—a performance both learned and judicious—it is argued that "all

 

 

 

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magic is a sort of religion." 1 Dr. Frazer, while agreeing with Dr. Jevons that they are "opposed," differs from him in holding that magic preceded religion; and by an odd fatality Dr. Frazer contradicts himself as explicitly as does Dr. Jevons. After avowing the belief that in the evolution of thought, magic, as representing a lower intellectual stratum, has probably everywhere preceded religion," 2 he also avows that the antagonism between the two

 

seems to have made its appearance comparatively late in the history of religion. At an earlier stage the functions of priest and sorcerer were often combined, or, to speak perhaps more correctly, were not yet differentiated from each other. To serve his purpose, man wooed the good-will of gods or spirits by prayer and sacrifice, while at the same time he had recourse to ceremonies and forms of words which he hoped would of themselves bring about the desired result without the help of god or devil. In short, he performed religious and magical rites simultaneously; he uttered prayers and incantations almost in the same breath, knowing or reeking little of the theoretical inconsistency of his behaviour, so long as by hook or crook he contrived to get what he wanted. 3

 

Proceeding with his ostensible support of the thesis that magic preceded religion, Dr. Frazer, in his admirably learned way, gives us fresh illustrations of the "same confusion of magic and religion" in civilised and uncivilised peoples. 4 From Dr. Oldenberg he cites the observation that

 

"the ritual of the very sacrifices for which the metrical prayers were composed is described in the older Vedic texts as saturated from beginning to end with magical practices which were to be carried out by the sacrificial priests"; and that the Brahmanic rites of marriage initiation and king-anointing "are complete models of magic of every kind, and in every case the form of magic employed bears the stamp of the highest antiquity." 5

 

From Sir Gaston Maspero he accepts the weighty reminder that in regard to ancient Egypt

 

we ought not to attach to the word "magic" the degrading idea which it almost inevitably calls up in the mind of a modern. Ancient magic was the very foundation of religion. The faithful who desired to obtain some favour from a god had no chance of succeeding except by laying hands on the deity; and this arrest could only be effected by means of a certain number of rites, sacrifices, prayers, and chants, which the god himself had revealed, and which obliged him to do what was demanded of him. 6

 

A closely similar state of things is seen in the practice of the Maoris, who, when using coercive spells "to compel the Gods to

 

 

 

 

 

 

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yield to their wishes, added sacrifices and offerings at the same time to appease as it were their anger for being thus constrained." And the missionary who on these data represents the Maoris as rather coercing their Gods than praying to them, puts their usage on all fours with that of many French Catholics. 1

To all this, obviously, Dr. Jevons may reply that it does not prove the priority of magic to religion. 2 Neither, however, does it give any basis for Dr. Jevons’s thesis of the secondariness of magic. It simply sets forth that in the earliest available records, as in the practice of contemporary savages, magic so-called and propitiatory religion so-called co-exist and cohere. In Dr. Frazer's own words, they were not yet differentiated from each other—differentiated, that is, in the moral estimate of priest and worshipper. But in the terms of the proposition, the practice of propitiation was there; and there is nothing to show that it was a late variation on confident magic. On the other hand, the documentary evidence, so far as it goes, is in favour of the priority of magic so-called. "The magical texts formed the earliest sacred literature of Chaldæa. This fact remains unshaken." 3

What, then, becomes of the argument that magic and religion so-called are "opposed" because they are logically inconsistent with each other? Like Dr. Jevons, Dr. Frazer makes a good deal of the theoretic analogy of magic with science, both being alleged to rest upon the assumption of the "uniformity of nature" and "the operation of immutable laws acting mechanically." 4Now, while we need not hesitate to see in magic in particular, even as in religion in general, man's early gropings towards science, we must not let ourselves be by a mere verbalism confused as to what magic is. Obviously it does not assume the uniformity of nature; inasmuch as it assumes to control nature by different devices, framing

 

 

 

 

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new procedures where the old fail. It does not even invariably assume strict uniformity in the magical processus itself; but that is the one sort of uniformity of cause and effect that the magician as approaches to conceiving. Now, this conception connects much less with that of what we may term the normal relation of man to nature than with that of his relation to the sets of forces apprehended by late thought as "spiritual," but by early thought merely as unseen. Early man, presumably, had a normal notion of the process of breaking a stone or killing a foe; and there if anywhere lay the beginnings of his science. As Adam Smith put it, "Fire burns and water refreshes, heavy bodies descend, and lighter substances fly upwards, by the necessity of their own nature; nor was the invisible hand of Jupiter ever apprehended to be employed in those matters." 1 As Comte put it, primitive man never made a god of weight. 2 But even as he thought the invisible or inferrible personalities could do many kinds of "great" things, so he thought that, by taking pains, he could; inasmuch as he never clearly differentiated them from himself in nature and capacity. Thus his magic was part of his way of thinking about what was for him the "occult" or inferred side of things, which way of thinking as a whole was his religion. To speak in terms of Dr. Jevons’s primary position, he was as magician interfering with the sequences of nature as he supposed the occult personalities did.

On yet another ground, we are disallowed from charging inconsistency on primitive or ancient religious thought in respect of divergences from later conceptions. One of the more notable of those divergences is the idea that the Gods themselves are subject to the course of Nature, or the law of Fate: it is reached by modern Native Americans, 3 as it was by some ancient Egyptians, 4 and it stands out from the religious speculation of ancient Greece. 5 In both stages it is compatible with propitiation; and yet it gives a quasi-logical basis for the resort to magic, regarded as a temporary circumvention of the law of things. So with the belief in opposed deities: even if

 

 

 

 

 

p. 16

none be regarded as evil, like Ahriman, there is nothing specially inconsistent in a magic that seeks to employ a power of which, in the terms of the case, no deity has a monopoly. On this basis polytheism offers an easy way out of the indictment for inconsistency. When Porphyry asked Abammon, "Does not he who says he will burst the heavens, or reveal the secrets of Isis, or expose the arcanum in the adytum, or scatter the members of Osiris to Typhon—does not he who says this, by thus threatening what he knows not and cannot do, prove himself grossly foolish?"—the sage answers with confidence that such threats are used against not any of the celestial Gods but a lower order of powers, and that the theurgist commands these "as existing superior to them in the order of the Gods," and possessing power "through a union with the Gods" in virtue of his magic. 1

That is, of course, a late and sophisticated account of the matter the earlier theologian simply did not realise that any charge of inconsistency could arise. In any case, the Old Testament abounds in cases of sympathetic magic: the sprinkling of the blood of the hallowed sacrifice upon the ears and thumbs and toes of the priests; 2 the holding up of the arms of Moses, 3 in the attitude of the Sun-God and War-God Mithra, 4 to sway the battle; the sending forth of the scape-goat; 5 the blowing of the trumpets before the walls of Jericho; 6 the raising of the widow's son by Elijah, "stretching himself upon the child three times" 7—all these are acts neither of prayer nor of propitiation, but of sympathetic magic, "which is the germ of all magic"; and the theorist may be defied to show that they stood for a "degradation or relapse in the evolution of religion." 8 If, indeed, he could show it, he would be putting a rod in pickle for his theory of the super-excellence of Hebrew monotheism, which evolved itself with these accompaniments.

The early priest, then, is to be called inconsistent in his resort to magic only on the view that he had the definite modern conception of the Omnipotence of a supernatural power; and this he simply had not. It is, then, quite beside the case to argue, as does even Dr. Frazer, 9 that "the fatal flaw of magic lies in its total misconception of the particular laws which govern" natural sequences. That is not a differentiation between magic and religion; for the "religious" conception that nature is to be affected by propitiating

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

p. 17

unseen powers is just as fatally wrong; and it arose in the same fashion by "association of ideas," men assuming that nature was ruled by a personality like themselves. Why, then, is the "flaw" dwelt upon? If it be to prepare for the view that at a certain stage a portion of mankind began to "abandon magic as a principle of faith and practice and to betake themselves to religion instead," 1 the answer is that on Dr. Frazer's own showing men for whole ages practised both concurrently; 2 and that in the terms of the case they are as likely to have taken to magic because prayer failed as vice versa. Dr. Frazer, indeed, only diffidently suggests that "a tardy recognition of the inherent falsehood and barrenness of magic set the more thoughtful part of mankind to cast about for a truer theory of nature and a more fruitful method of turning her resources to account." But by his own showing he has no right to this hypothesis even on an avowal of diffidence. As well might the contrary theory of Dr. Jevons be supported by the suggestion that the inherent falsehood and barrenness of the theory of prayer and propitiation set the more resourceful part of mankind on a more effectual control of nature by way of magic. 3 Had not men all along been trying both?

Equally untenable, surely, is the distinction drawn by Dr. Frazer 4 between "the haughty self-sufficiency of the magician, his arrogant demeanour towards the higher powers, and his unabashed claim to exercise a sway like theirs," and the attitude of the priest "with his awful sense of the divine majesty and his humble prostration in presence of it." Dr. Frazer can hardly mean to be ironical; but his words may very well serve to convey such a sense when applied to the attitude of the priesthoods of all ages, Brahmanical 5 or Papal, Semitic or Aryan. It would be difficult to distinguish in the matter of modesty between Moses 6and the magicians of Pharaoh, or Samuel and the Witch of Endor, or Elijah and the priests of Baal, or an excommunicating and flag-blessing bishop and an incantating wizard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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[paragraph continues]All the while we have Dr. Frazer's own assurance that for long ages the priest was the magician.

If, seeking to form a just judgment, we turn to actual evidence for the attitude of the primitive magician, it lies to our hand in Livingstone's account of the negro rain-doctors of Bechuanaland. Here we have a typical dialogue between the missionary and the magician. The latter complained in friendly fashion to the missionary, "You see we never get rain, while those tribes who never pray as we do [i.e., Christian fashion] obtain abundance." "This," the missionary confesses, "was a fact; and we often saw it raining on the hills ten miles off, while it would not look at us 'even with one eye.'" When the rain-doctor set to work, on the score that "the whole country needs the rain I am making," there ensues the argument:—

 

"M.D. [i.e., Livingstone] . So you really believe that you can command the clouds? I think that can be done by God alone.

 

"Rain Doctor. We both believe the very same thing. It is God that makes the rain, but I pray to him by means of these medicines, and, the rain coming, of course it is then mine......

"M.D. But we are distinctly told in the parting words of our Saviour that we can pray to God acceptably in his name alone, and not by means of medicines.

"R.D. Truly! but God told us differently. He made black men first, and did not love us as he did the white men......Other tribes place medicines about our country to prevent the rain, so that we may be dispersed by hunger and go to them and augment their power. We must dissolve their charms by our medicines. God has given us one little thing which you know nothing of. He has given us the knowledge of certain medicines by which we can make rain. We do not despise those things which you possess, though we are ignorant of them. You ought not to despise our little knowledge, though you are ignorant of it."

"This [adds Livingstone] is a brief specimen of their mode of reasoning, which is often remarkably acute. I never succeeded in convincing a single individual of the fallacy of his belief; and the usual effect of discussion is to produce the impression that you yourself are not anxious for rain." 1

 

Quite so. How could the missionary hope to convince the rain-needy? Delusion for delusion, which was the more "religious"? And which was the plainer "fallacy" of the two fashions of prayer? The true solution of the problem is that set forth in the essay

 

p. 19

[paragraph continues]Sur le totemisme of M. Durkheim, 1 who may be supposed to speak for scientific sociology if any one does. In that essay he deals incidentally with the view of Dr. Frazer that the Australian Aruntas 2 are at the stage of pure magic, not having yet reached religion. Dr. Jevons, on the contrary, would regard them as truly religious in respect of their totem sacrament. M. Durkheim, applying the inductive method, notes indeed 3 that the life of the Aruntas is "stamped with religiosity, and that this religiosity is in origin essentially totemic"; but he adds: "The territory is covered with sacred trees, and groves, and mysterious grottos, where are piously preserved the objects of the cult. None of those sacred places is approached without a religious terror." And he concludes: "What is essential is that the rites of the Aruntas are at all points comparable to those which are found in systems incontestably religious: then they proceed from the same ideas and the same sentiments; and it is arbitrary to refuse them the same title."

The final condemnation of Dr. Frazer's definition, however, is, as we shall see cause later to say of that of Dr. Jevons, that in strictness it ignores the bulk of the religious life of mankind. He himself avows that only a part of mankind has ever abandoned magic and taken to "religion instead." In his own words, magic is a "universal faith," a "truly Catholic creed"; 4and he might, without extending his ample anthropological learning, further establish this fact by reference to current religion. If religion is to mean only the ideas of "the more thoughtful part of mankind," we shall simply be committed to a new inquiry as to who are the more thoughtful; and the agnostic will have something to say on that head.

Are they the believers in the efficacy of prayer? Insofar as such believers profess belief in an Omnipotent and Unchanging Providence, they stultify their theistic creed as vitally as ever did the magician. Prayer presupposes the changeableness of a Divine will declared to be unchangeable. Then prayer, like magic, is fundamentally opposed to belief in an omnipotent deity! Where shall we stop? Dr. Frazer 5 supposes the reader to ask, "How was it that intelligent men did not sooner detect the fallacy of magic?"; and he thoughtfully and rightly answers that before the age of science it was really not easy to detect. But he could hardly say as much of prayer, whereof the "fallacy" was detected among

 

 

 

 

 

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[paragraph continues]Hebrews and heathens thousands of years ago. Yet by his definition the contemporary believer in prayer is religious and the ancient worshipper of Isis was not. On such principles there can be no science of religion whatever, any more than there is a science of orthodoxy. In order to classify the very phenomena with which Dr. Frazer mainly occupies himself, we should have to create a new set of terms for nine-tenths of them, recognising "religion" only as a certain procedure that chronically obtruded itself among them. And then would come Dr. Jevons to explain that this religion was not a religion at all, inasmuch as it resulted from a process of reasoning!

Science, then, is driven to reject both apriorisms alike, and to proceed to find a definition by way of a loyal induction.


Footnotes

11:3 Golden Bough, 2nd ed., pref., p. xvi, and i, 63, note.

11:4 Golden Bough, 2nd ed. i, 63.

12:1 A similar criticism, I find, is passed by Mr. Lang (Magic and Religion, 1901, pp. 48. 49, etc.), who seeks to turn Dr. Frazer's oversight to the account of his own theory of an occult primeval but non-primitive monotheism. It is doubly unfortunate that Dr. Frazer's error should thus be made to seem part of the rationalist case against traditionalism.

12:2 Golden Bough, 2nd ed. i, 71.

12:3 The Making of Religion: cp. Magic and Religion, passim.

13:1 Work cited, pp, 1, 3.

13:2 Pref., p. xvii; cp. i, 70.

13:3 i. 64-65.

13:4 See his previous instances, pp. 19, 33, 45.

13:5 Oldenberg, Die Religion des Veda, pp. 59, 477. Ref. also to pp. 311, 369, 476, 522.

13:6 Maspero, Études de mythologie et d’archéologie égyptienne, i, 106. Cp. Dr. Frazer's farther citations from Erman and Wiedemann, to the same effect; and see Budge, Intr. to trans. of Book of the Dead, p cxlvii.; Davies, Magic, Divination, and Demonology, 1898, p. 2; and Hillebrandt, Ritual-literatur, 1897, p. 167 sq., there cited.

14:1 Rev. R. Taylor, Te Ika a Maui: or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants, 1870, pp. 180-1. Cp. p. 102 as to prayers and medicine.

14:2 For that thesis there is some support in the testimonies which limit the "religion" of some primitive tribes to a few forms of magic. According to Messrs. Spencer and Gillen there is hardly anything else in the mental apparatus of many tribes of Australian aborigines. Cp. A. E. Pratt, Two Years Among New Guinea Cannibals, 1906, pp. 314-7; Knud Rasmussen, The People of the Polar North, 1908, pp. 123-5. Mr. Pratt pronounces that "the most elementary ideas of religion do not seem to exist" among the Papuans, who practise a little magic; and Mr. Rasmussen says the Eskimos worship no deity, but merely dread a collective evil power, which they propitiate by observance of customs. Cp. further L. Decle, Three Years in Savage Africa, 1900, pp. 153, 343-6.

14:3 Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 237. Cp. Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, 1898, pp. 253-4; O. Weber, Die Literatur der Babylonier and Assyrier, 1907, p. 151.

14:4 Dr. Frazer further writes (p. 61) that in both "the elements of caprice, of chance, and of accident are banished from the course of nature." This is a further and a gratuitous logical confusion. Magic certainly recognises "caprice" in its "nature"; and science certainly notes "chance" and "accident," which are not negations of, but aspects of, the uniformity of nature. Where could science place them, save in nature, if she recognises them; and if she does not recognise them, how can she name or banish them? As to the scientific force of the terms, cp. the author's Letters on Reasoning, vii.

15:1 Essay on the History of Astronomy, sect. iii.

15:2 Philosophie Positive, 4é ed. iv, 491.

15:3 J. C. Müller, Geschichte der Amerikanischen Urreligionen, ed. 1867, p. 149.

15:4 Prof. Erman, Handbook of Egyptian Religion, Eng. trans. 1907, pp. 91, 255.

15:5 Herodotus i, 91; Homer, Iliad, xiv, 434-442. Philemon ap Stobaei Serm. lxii. 8; Aeschylus, Prom. Vinct. 908-927; Diogenes Laërt. vii, 74 (149); ix, 6 (7); Clemens Alexand. Stromata, v, 14; Plutarch, De Exilio, xi; De Defectu Orac. xxviii-xxix; De Stoic. Repugnant. xxxiv; De Placitis Philos. i, § 7, 17; ii, 25-28; Aulus Gellius, vi, 1, 2; Seneca, De Providentia, v, 5-7; Cicero, De Diviniatione, ii, 10. A history of the discussion  seems wanting. Cp. H. N. Coleridge, Introduction to the Study of the Greek Classic Poets, Pt. i, 2nd ed. 1834, pp. 184-187: and Ueberweg, History of Philosophy, Eng. trans. i, 194-196. V. Fabricius, in his essay De Jove et Fato in p. Vergili Aeneide (1896, p. 21), sums up: "Nullo Vergili carminis loco Jovem fato subiectum esse plane ac clare dici nobis confitendum est. Sunt quidem nonnulla quibus Jovis potentia et fati vis simul dominari videntur." This coincides with the summary of H. N. Coleridge as to Homer.

16:1 Jamblichus, De Mysteriis, Ep. Porph. and vi, 5-7. It is noteworthy that according to Abammon the Chaldeans never use threats in their magic, but the Egyptians sometimes do.

16:2 Ex. xxix, 19-21.

16:3 Ex. xvii, 9-13.

16:4 Zendavesta, Mihir Yasht, xxxi.

16:5 Lev. xvi.

16:6 Josh. vi.

16:7 1 Kings xvii, 21.

16:8 Jevons, Introd. pp. 25, 35.

16:9 G. B. i, 62.

17:1 G. B. i. 75.

17:2 See for further instances in Babylonian practice, Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, pp. 316- Compare Dr. Frazer's Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship, 1905, pp. 46, 94, for instances of late combinations of "magic" with "religion"; and p. 97 for an instance among contemporary primitives.

17:3 Cp Ellis, Polynesian Researches, 2nd ed. iv, 294-5, where it is noted that the islanders try different priests and sorcerers as more civilised people try different doctors. "The sorcerers were a distinct class among the priests of the island; and their art appears to claim equal antiquity with the other parts of that cruel system of idolatry," etc. (Cp. i, iii, 36-37.) The difference is simply socio-political: the sorcerer is an independent performer who does not run a God or a temple.

17:4 G. B. i, 64. Contrast Erman, Handbk. of Eg. Rel., p. 148.

17:5 Cp. Dr. Frazer's own citations as to the Brahmans, G. B. i, 145-6.

17:6 "And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a God to Pharaoh," Exodus vii, 1. Cp. xvii, 11; xvii, 15, etc. Steinthal's theory (Essay on Prometheus, Eng. tr. by R. Martineau in vol. with Goldziher, p. 392), that from the Yahwist point of view Moses must ultimately die for playing the heathen God in bringing water from the rock, will hardly consist with such passages.

18:1 Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, ed. 1861, pp. 17, 18 (ed. 1905, p. 15).

19:1 L’Année Sociologique, 5e année, 1902.

19:2 Described by Messrs. Spencer rand Gillen (in their Native Tribes of Central Australia, 1899).

19:3 P. 87.

19:4 Id. i, 74.

19:5 Id. i, 78.



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6.

As thus. In terms of many observations, and of some of Dr. Jevons’s admissions, we are led to realise that the idea of what we term "the supernatural" not only does not mean for primitive man a consistent distinction: it does not mean it for civilised man. Yet the logical burden of Dr. Jevons’s as of Dr. Frazer's indictment against magic is simply that it is inconsistent 1 with the admission of the "superiority"—the "super"-ness—of the "divine" to the human. For the purpose of his plea, he necessarily ignores the salient historical fact made clear by Dr. Frazer, that men have abundantly practised magic towards the very Gods to whom they prayed, and whose "supernaturalness" they not only avowed but believed in to the extent of holding them "immortal." Assyrian, Egyptian, and Indian religious literatures alike are full of cases of such practice. It may be argued that that is still an imperfect conception of "the supernatural": that the consistent conception requires the ascription of eternity, of omnipotence, of uncreatedness, of never-having-begun. But then men have also humbly prayed, without thought of magic, to Gods to whom they were grateful and whom they believed to be suffering sons of older Gods; and these attitudes of mind Dr. Jevons has fully certificated as "religious." But, again, men have similarly prayed to mere "saints." What degree, then, of recognition of superiority is to be regarded as Constituting recognition of "the" supernatural? One is moved to ask.

 

p. 21

[paragraph continues]What is the theorist's own conception of "the supernatural"? and, What does he mean by the term when he speaks of "supernatural terrors"?

When the critic is himself so far from a clear definition, it is very obviously a mere rhetorical device to say that for the magic-monger the conception of the supernatural "by definition" is inconsistent with his practice. He had never given any definition; 1 neither had the "religious man" who is alleged to have preceded him; and it was simply impossible that they should. The à priori argument against him is thus irrelevant from the start, no less than the à posteriori; and both are further negligible as being inferribly motived by a non-scientific purpose. The right view is to be reached on another line.

Proceeding on the clear lines of human psychology, we can be absolutely certain of this, that a savage may alternately seek to propitiate and seek to coerce or circumvent a human enemy whom he regards as normally stronger than himself. As Dr. Jevons notes, savage hunters on killing a bear will use a ritual to propitiate the bear clan. As he is well aware, Brahmans and other priests have taught that an ascetic or a ritualist can by his practices gain power to coerce or command the highest Gods, 2to whom ordinary men can but pray. Such a notion, he argues, is a negation of a supernatural in that it assumes the Gods to be subject to an order of causation which man can control. But, once more, is it not equally a negation of a supernatural to assume, as the highest religions have done and do, that man can persuade the God by prayer, or propitiate him by confession and sacrifices, or keep him friendly by professing esteem and gratitude? Is not every one of these acts an assumption that the God's moral and mental processes are on a par with those of men, and that he is merely stronger than they? So considered, in what sense is he supernatural? And is not the inconsistency gross when men at once practise prayer and ascribe to their deity fore-ordination of all things? It is not too much to say that the procedure by which Dr. Jevons classifies magic as anti-religious must logically end in so classing every historic religion, and

 

 

p. 22

leaving the title to the name vested solely in professed Agnostics and Atheists. Some reasoners have actually so allotted the term; but that conclusion will scarcely suit Dr. Jevons’s book, so to speak.

In view of the whole facts, the terms "belief in the supernatural" must be recognised as signifying for practical purposes merely belief in a personal power that is superhuman, or rather extra-human, yet quasi-human. And such powers are the Gods alike of the earliest savage and the contemporary Christian, the humble offerer of prayer and the practiser of magic. The offerer of prayer, it is true, remains substantially the original type, loyally prostrate before power; civilisation having developed the original docility of the cowed savage through the deadly discipline of great despotisms. On the other hand, the magician of the past has either succumbed to that discipline or developed into the man of science—a function which he finds the worshipper of power often sharing with him. But just as they can so coincide now in practice, they coincided at the start in psychology. This view of the case finally follows from another of Dr. Jevons’s most definite positions; for he repeatedly describes the primitive "sacramental meal" as truly religious, in that it is a "higher" form of sacrifice than the mere gift-sacrifice, being a means of communion with the God, who actually joined in the meal. He does not deny it the title of "religion" even when it involves the conception that in the sacramental meal the God is actually eaten. 1 In each of these cases the worshipper certainly believed he had acquired a force not previously his own, even as does the practiser of magic; while the eating of the God is the reductio ad absurdum of his "superiority." Here, then, is even a more complete stultification of the logical idea of the supernatural than is committed by the magician, and it is actually made to validate the "religion" of the sacrificer as against the anti-religion of the magic-monger.

 


Footnotes

20:1 Dr. Jevons distinguishes between "sympathetic magic" (exemplified in "killing the God" and other devices to produce fertility, rain, etc.) and "art magic." The former, he says, "does not involve in itself the idea of the supernatural, but was simply the applied science of the savage." Art magic, he says, is the exercise by man of powers which are supernatural—i.e., of powers which by their definition it is beyond man to exercise. Thus the very conception of magic is one which is essentially inconsistent with itself" (p. 35).

21:1 In the Egyptian system, magic was normally operated through a God or Goddess (usually Isis) who "delivers the sick and suffering from the gods and goddesses who afflict them" (Renouf, Hibbert Lectures, 2nd ed. p. 212). It was thus on the same moral plane with not only the religion of the Homeric Greeks but that of Catholic Christianity, in which the saints are separately invoked and the will of Mary is practically omnipotent. So with the virtue of the words of Thoth, and of the names of the Gods (Budge, Introd. pp. cxlviii-ix, clxv): similar beliefs were held by the Jews and by the Christian Father Origen.

21:2 See Rhys David's Buddhism, 10th ed., p. 34 and American Lectures on Buddhism, p. 103; Frazer, as cited above; Granger, The Worship of the Romans, 1895, pp. 290-1; Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 335.

22:1 Pp. 224, 295.



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 7.

This contradiction naturally reiterates itself in Dr. Jevons’s treatise at a hundred points: being fundamental, it strikes through the entire argument. While premising that religion is "universally human," and finally contending that man is "by nature religious," and therefore "began by a religious explanation of nature," 2 he pronounces 3 that "four-fifths of mankind, probably, believe in sympathetic magic," which, he declares, not only "does not involve in itself the idea of the supernatural," 4 but is "hostile from the

 

 

 

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beginning" 1 to religion, and is the "negation" thereof. 2 While affirming that the belief in the supernatural (= religion) was prior to magic, he explains 3 that it was man's "intellectual helplessness in grappling with the forces of nature which led him into the way of religion" (i.e., the way in which he began, before he had tried his intellect), and, again, that religion led certain men out of magic, though at the same time they were converted by simply seeing that magic is inefficacious.

Again, reverting for one purpose to his original doctrine of the primacy of fear, Dr. Jevons writes 4:—

 

Magic is, in fact, a direct relapse into the state of things in which man found himself when he was surrounded by supernatural beings, none of which was bound to him by any tie of goodwill, with none of which had he any stated relations, but all were uncertain, capricious, and caused in him unreasoning terror. This reign of terror magic tends to re-establish, and does re-establish, wherever the belief in magic prevails5

 

A few chapters further on, discussing fire-festivals and water rites, without asking wherein they psychologically differ from sacramental meals, he writes 6:—

 

If we regard those fire-festivals and water rites as pieces of sympathetic magic, they are clear instances in which man imagines himself able to constrain the gods—in this case the god of vegetation—to subserve his own ends. Now, this vain imagination is not merely non-religious, but anti-religious; and it is difficult to see how religion could have been developed out of it. It is inconsistent with the abject fear which the savage feels of the supernatural, and which is sometimes supposed to be the origin of religion; and it is inconsistent with that sense of man's dependence on a superior being which is a real element in religion.

 

The contradiction is absolute. For one purpose, magic is declared to restore the primary reign of terror; for another purpose it is declared to be incompatible with a reign of terror, which is now at once implied and denied to be the primary state. We are in fine told that the savage does and does not fear a "supernatural."

Another series of contradictions is set up by the theorist's determination at certain points so to define "religion" as to secure a unique status for Judaism and Christianity—a breach of scientific method on all fours with his dichotomy of religion and magic. Dealing with the Egyptian conception of a future state, and noting how the first chapter of the Book of the Dead promises a future life which simply repeats the earthly, he declares that "no higher or

 

 

 

 

 

 

p. 24

more spiritual ideal entered or could enter into the composition of the Egyptian abode of bliss, because its origin was essentially nonreligious." 1 Such being, however, the nature of the conception of the future life entertained by at least nine-tenths of the human race, savage and civilised, we are here again asked to associate the "universally human" influence with only a fraction of ostensible religious doctrine on one of the most specifically religious topics.

In the same fashion every modification of religious doctrine under the influence of political and religious thought is classed as non-religious. Thus, we are told 2 that "the eschatology of the Egyptian and Indian religions......was not generated by the religious spirit, but was due to the incorporation of early philosophical speculations into those religions."

Further (in flat defiance of Mr. Lang's doctrine as to the primary and pious character of savage Supreme Gods), Dr. Jevons lays it down that the idea of a Supreme God, at the head of a pantheon, "is scarcely a religious idea at all; it is not drawn from the spiritual depths of man's nature; it is a conception borrowed from politics"; 3 and pantheism in turn "is a metaphysical speculation, not a fact of which the religious consciousness has direct intuition." 4 The upshot is that only that idea is religious which "proceeds from an inner consciousness" of connection with or perception of deity: there must be no process of reasoning, no philosophy, no criticism. Dr. Frazer's view of religion as beginning in criticism of magic is ruled out as Dr. Frazer ruled out magic itself. And if it should be supposed that on this definition primary animism is clearly religious, Dr. Jevons has his veto ready: "In animism man projects his own personality on to external nature; in religion he is increasingly [why only increasingly?] impressed by the divine personality." 5

Now, postponing for the moment the scientific answer—the answer of elementary and ultimate psychology—to Dr. Jevons, we have only to turn to the next chapter of his own treatise to find him nullifying this stage of his definition as he has nullified every other. First we are asked 6 to "note that faith is not something peculiar or confined to religion, but is interwoven with every act of reason," and that "the period of faith does not terminate when the pupil has come to have immediate consciousness of the facts which he could not see." Next, we are assured 7 that "the religious mind believes that all facts of which we have immediate consciousness can be reconciled with one another," and that "the religious faith which

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

p. 25

looks forward to the synthesis of all facts in a manner satisfying to the reason......covers a much larger area than either science or moral philosophy." Either, then, the religious person becomes utterly irreligious when he thus reasons beyond the immediate "facts," so-called, of his consciousness, or Dr. Jevons’s definition of religion is once more cancelled by himself.

If, again, we return to the chapter on "Taboo, Morality, and Religion," where it is argued that religion rationalised taboo, we read that "when the taboos which receive the sanction of religion are regarded as reasonable, as being the commands of a being possessing reason, then the other taboos also may be brought to the test of reason."' 1 On the later view, this is an essentially irreligious process. It is true that Dr. Jevons hastens to say, 2 "Taboo has indeed been rationalised, but not in all cases by reason," and to urge 3 that the prophets and other religious reformers who discriminate between taboos "have usually considered themselves in so doing to be speaking, not their own words or thoughts, but those of their God"—that is, have spoken as do cannibal priests among Polynesians and the impostor priests of the Slave Coast. 4 This, however, does not save his thesis from the fatal reproach of having explicitly admitted the element of reason for a moment into the religious process. And the lapse recurs, again with a contradiction. In the closing chapter we have from Dr. Jevons successively these three propositions:—

 

A belief is an inference, and as such is the work of the reason. The reason endeavours to anticipate the movement of facts. 5

 

It is an established fact of psychology that every act, mental or physical, requires the concurrence, not only of the reason and the will, but of emotion. 6

Indeed, the reason of primitive man was ex hypothesi undeveloped; and, in any case, religious belief is not an inference reached by reason, but is the immediate consciousness of certain facts. 7

 

These internecine dicta are offered without apology or apparent misgiving as steps in a continuous process of argument. And just such another series occurs in the chapter in which Dr. Jevons undertakes to make out the characteristic thesis that "Mythology is not religion." In passing, and apart from the scientific rebuttal, it may be well to note that what Dr. Jevons calls "the extraordinary notion that mythology is religion," 8 has never been propounded by any writer in the only sense in which it would be either false or

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

p. 26

extraordinary—that is, that "mythology is the whole of religion." That it is an element in religion and an aspect or function of "the religious consciousness" is affirmed by Dr. Jevons himself in the very act of denying it. As thus:—

 

Mythology was primitive man's romance, as well as his history, his science, his philosophy. 1

 

The narratives in which primitive speculations [i.e., myths] were embodied were not merely intellectual exercises, nor the work of the abstract imagination: they reflect or express the mind of the author in its totality, for they are the work of a human being, not of a creature possessingreason and no morality, or imagination and no feeling......In the same way, then, as the moral tone and temper of the author and his age makes itself felt in these primitive speculations, so will the religious spirit of the time......Mythology is one of the spheres of human activity in which religion may manifest itself: one of the departments of human reason which religion may penetrate, suffuse, and inspire2

Mythology is primitive science [etcetera], but it is not primitive religion. It is not necessarily or usually even religious. It is not the proper [!] or even the ordinary vehicle for the religious spirit. Prayer, meditation, devotional poetry, are the chosen vehicles in thought and word; ritual in outward deed and act. Myths originate in a totally different psychological quarter: they are the work of the human reason, acting in accordance with the laws of primitive logic; or are the outcome of the imagination, playing with the freedom of the poetic fancy. In neither case are they primarily the product of religious feeling: it is not the function of feeling to draw inferences3

 

It is here categorically asserted, first, that myths are not the work of any one side of the human personality—neither of reason without moral feeling nor of imagination without "feeling." Finally, it is asserted that they are the work either of reason without feeling or of imagination without feeling. After the express denial that any human being can mythologise with one faculty only, and the necessary implication that religious feeling may "penetrate" the other faculties in the act of myth-making or myth-believing, we are told that myths originate in a "totally different psychological quarter" from the "religious spirit."

As to the other italicised propositions, it may suffice at this point to note (1) that it is plainly wrong to say mythology isprimitive science, history, etcetera, in the sense in which it is not (i.e., is not the whole of) primitive religion; (2) that prayer and devotional poetry are normally full of myths; (3) that ritual is in many cases conceived (though clearly not originated) by the worshipper as an imitation of an episode in the history of the God (i.e., a myth); and (4) that by explicitly reducing religion to

 

 

 

p. 27

[paragraph continues]"feeling" Dr. Jevons, like Dr. Frazer, has eliminated every belief as such from religious consciousness. Tantum relligio! 


Footnotes

22:2 P. 410. Cp. pp. 7, 9.

22:3 P. 33.

22:4 P. 35.

23:1 P. 38.

23:2 P. 178. "Fundamentally irreligious" is the expression in the Index.

23:3 P. 21.

23:4 P. 177.

23:5 On p. 290 Dr. Jevons notes how the Indians of Guiana would live in terror of wizards were it not for the protection of other wizards. Here things are balanced! Is magic, then, anti-magical?

23:6 P. 233.

24:1 P. 309.

24:2 P. 331.

24:3 P. 389.

24:4 Pp. 389-390.

24:5 P. 394.

24:6 P. 406.

24:7 P. 407.

25:1 P. 92.

25:2 P. 93.

25:3 P. 94.

25:4 See refs. in Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. p. 84. Cp. Rev. R. Taylor, Te Ika a Maui: or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants, 1870, p. 183, as to the Maoris.

25:5 P. 403.

25:6 P. 409.

25:7 P. 410.

25:8 P. 266.

26:1 P. 263.

26:2 P. 264.

26:3 Pp. 266-7.



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