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The Faith of the Millions (2nd series) by George Tyrrell

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surviving fragments of our patch-work Manetho, king for king and dynasty
for dynasty, as Mr. Laing would have us believe? On the contrary,
nothing would throw more suspicion on the interpretation of these
monuments than the assertion of such an improbable coincidence. What,
then, is the force of this argument from Egyptology? _If_ the records
from which Manetho compiled were historically accurate; _if_ he was
perfectly competent to understand them; _if_ he was scrupulously honest
and critical; _if_ from the tampered-with fragments in the Christian
Fathers we can arrive at a reliable and accurate knowledge of his
results; and _if_ the Bible in the original text--whatever that may
be--undoubtedly asserts that man was not created till 4000 B.C., then
according to certain Egyptologists (Boeck), Menes reigned fifteen
hundred years previously, and according to others (Wilkinson), one
thousand years subsequently. Similarly as to the argument from
coincidence: _if_, as before, we possess Manetho's genuine list intact,
and _if_ we have the clear testimony of the monuments giving a precisely
similar record, this coincidence, apart from all independent value to be
given to Manetho or to the monuments, is an effect demanding a cause,
for which the most probable is the objective truth from which both these
veracious records have been copied. But the monuments are not written in
plain English, and need a key; and we must be first assured that
Manetho's list has not been used for this purpose. We are told; for
example, [55] that the name "Snefura," deciphered on a tablet found at
the copper-mines of Wady Magerah, is the name of a King of the third
dynasty, who reigned about 4000 B.C. Now _if_ there were no doubt about
the reading of this name on the tablet, and _if_ his date and dynasty
were as plainly there recorded, and _if_ all this tallies exactly with
equally precise particulars in Manetho's list, it would indeed be a
remarkable coincidence and would imply some common source, whether
record or fact. But if having credited Manetho with the record of such a
name and date, one tortures a hieroglyph into a faintly similar name,
and concludes at once that the same name must be the same person, and
that therefore this is the oldest record in the world, the confirmation
is not so striking. That it is so in this instance we do not affirm; but
we should need the assertion of a man of more intellectual sobriety than
Mr. Laing to make it worth the trouble of investigating.

Passing over the confirmation which he draws from the "known rate of the
deposit of Nile mud of about three inches a century," which would give a
mild antiquity of twenty-six thousand years to pottery fished up from
borings in the mud, since he admits that "borings are not _very_
conclusive," we may notice how he deals with evidence from Chaldea on
much the same principles. Here, again, the source had been till lately
only "fragments quoted by later writers from the lost work of Berosus.
Berosus was a _learned priest_ of Babylon, who ... wrote in Greek a
history of the country from the most ancient times, compiled from the
annals preserved in the temples and from the oldest traditions." [56]
Still this "learned priest," though antecedently as competent a critic
as Manetho, is so portentously mythical in his accounts, that "no
historical value can be attached to them," which must be regretted,
since he pushes history back a quarter of a million years prior to the
Deluge, and the Deluge itself to about half a million years ago. Here,
therefore, we are thrown solely upon the independent value of the
monumental evidence, and must drop the argument from coincidence. This
evidence, we are told, "is not so conclusive as in the case of Egypt,
where the lists of Manetho, &c.... The date of Sargon I. [57] (3800 B.C.)
rests mainly on the authority of Nabonidus, who lived more than three
thousand years later, and may have been mistaken." "The probability of
such a remote date is enhanced _by the certainty_ that a high
civilization existed in Egypt as long ago as 5000 B.C." If the evidence
for the antiquity of Chaldee civilization is "less conclusive" than that
for Egyptian, and rests on it for an argument _a pari_, it cannot be
said in any way to strengthen Mr. Laing's position.

These strictures are directed chiefly to showing Mr. Laing's incapacity
for anything like coherent reasoning in historical matters. Subsequently
he uses these most lame and impotent conclusions as demonstrated
certainties, without the faintest qualification, and builds up on them
his refutation of dogmatic Christianity.

However, it is only in his more recent work on _Human Origins_ that he
thus comes forward as an historian, in preparation for which he seems to
have devoted himself to the study of cuneiform and hieroglyphs and
mastered the subject thoroughly and exhaustively, before bursting forth
from behind the clouds to flood the world with new-born light.

It is deep down in the bowels of the earth, at the bottom of a
geological well, that he has found not only truth but, also man--among
the monsters,

Dragons of the prime
Who tare each other in their slime,

and has hauled him up for our inspection. Mr. Laing is before all else
an evolutionist, with an unshaken belief in spontaneous generation. He
is quite confident that force and atoms will explain everything. He
seems to mean force, pure and simple, without any intelligent direction;
atoms, ultimate, homogeneous, undifferentiated. No doubt, if the
subsequent evolution depends on the _kind_ and _direction_ of force, or
on the _nature_ of the atoms; then there is a remoter question for
physics to determine; but if, as he implies, force and atoms are simple
and ultimate, then evolution is as fortuitous as a sand-storm, or more
so. All prior to force and atoms is "behind the veil." "The material
universe is composed of ether, matter, and energy." [58] Ether is a
billion times more elastic than air, "almost infinitely rare," [59] its
oscillations must be at least seven hundred billions per second, "it
exerts no gravitating or retarding force;" in short, Mr. Laing has to
confess some uncertainty about his original dogma as to the triple
constituents of the universe, and say "that it may be _almost doubted_
whether such an ether has any real material existence, and is anything
more than a sort of mathematical [why 'mathematical'?] entity." [60] "It
is clear that matter really does consist of minute particles which do
not touch," and even these we must conceive of as "corks as it were
floating in an ocean of ether, causing waves in it by their own proper
movement," [61]--an explanation which loses some of its helpfulness when
we remember that the ethereal ocean is only a mathematical entity. "A
cubic centimetre contains 21,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules,"
"the number of impacts received by each molecule of air during one
second will be 4,700 millions. The distance traversed between each
impact averages 95/1000000 of a millimetre," and so on with lines of
ciphers to overawe the gaping millions with Mr. Laing's minute certainty
as to the ultimate constitution of matter. [62]

As to _how_ atoms came into existence, he can only reply, "Behind the
veil, behind the veil;" for it is at this point at last that he becomes
agnostic.[63] The notion of creation is rejected (after Spencer) as
inconceivable, because unimaginable, as though the origination of every
change in the phenomenal world were not just as unimaginable; we see
movement _in process_, and we see its results, but its inception is
unimaginable, and its efficient cause still more so.

The evolution of man is practically taken for granted, the only question
being the _when_.

We have the old argument from embryonic transformism brought forward
without any hint that later investigation tends to show differentiation
further and further back, prior to segmentation and, according to some,
in the very protoplasm itself. Nothing could be more inaccurate than to
say "every human being passes through the stage of fish and reptile
before arriving at that of a mammal and finally of man." [64] All that
can be truly said is that the embryonic man is at certain stages not
superficially distinguishable from the embryonic fish--quite a different
thing, and no more significant than that the adult man possesses organs
and functions in common with other species of the animal genus.

Mr. Laing's own conclusions from skulls and human remains which he takes
to be those of tertiary man, show man to be as obstinately unlike the
"dryopithecus" as ever, in fact, the reputedly oldest skulls [65] are a
decided improvement on the Carnstadt and Neanderthal type. Even then man
seems to have been the same flint-chipping, tool-making, speaking animal
as now. So convinced is he of this essential and ineradicable difference
in his heart, that seeing traces of design in palaeolithic flint flakes,
and so forth, he has "not the remotest doubt as to their being the work
of human hands,"--"as impossible to doubt as it would be if we had found
clasp-knives and carpenters adzes." [66] Perhaps Professor Boyd-Dawkins,
who credits the "dryopithecus" with these productions, is a more
consistent evolutionist; but at present Mr. Laing is defending a thesis
as to _man's_ antiquity. Yet he has just said that these flint
instruments are "_only one step_ in advance of the rude, natural stone
which an _intelligent_ orang or chimpanzee might pick up to crack a
cocoa-nut with." Truly a very significant step, though it be only one.
How hard this is to reconcile with what Mr. Laing ascribes to dogs and
ants elsewhere, or with what he says on page 173, "These higher apes
remain creatures of very considerable intelligence.... There is a
chimpanzee now in the Zoological Gardens ... which can do _all but_
speak" [either it speaks, or it does not. It is precisely a case of the
"only one step" quoted above. Here if anywhere a "miss is as good as a
mile"], "which understands almost every word the keeper says to it, and
when told to sing will purse out its lips and try to utter connected
notes." [How on earth do we know what it is trying to do?] "In their
native state they (apes) form societies and obey a chief." [The old
fallacy of metaphors adverted to in relation to ants and dogs.] Yet "no
animal has ever learned to speak," "no chimpanzee or gorilla has ever
been known to fashion any implement." [67] Their nearest approach to
invention is in the building of huts or nests, in which they "are very
inferior to most species of birds, to say nothing of insects." On the
other hand, "as regards tool-making, no human race is known which has
not shown some faculty in this direction." [68] "The difference is a very
fundamental one," and "may be summed up in the words 'arrested
development.'" Words, indeed! but what do they mean? They mean that
these animals have not developed the faculties of speech and
tool-making, which would have been most useful to them in the struggle
for existence, the reason being _that they did not_; and this reason is
exalted into a cause or law of "arrested development." Who or what
arrested it? The advantage of the term is that it implies that they were
on the point of developing, that they could "all but speak," were
"trying to utter connected notes," were "but one step" behind flint
axes, when some cosmic power said, "Hitherto shalt thou come and no

If the dog had organs of speech or an instrument like the hand by which
to place himself in closer relation to the outer world, he would
doubtless be on a footing of mental equality with man, according to Mr.
Laing. [69] The elephant's trunk accounts for his superior sagacity, and
the horse suffers by his hoof-enclosed forefoot. [70] "Given a being
with man's brain, man's hand, and erect stature, _it is easy to see_ how
intelligence _must_ have been gradually evolved." [71] Now honestly it
seems to us that many animals are as well provided as man is with a
variety of flexible organs of communication with the outward world (for
example, the antennae of insects, the prehensile tails of some monkeys,
whose hands are as lithe as man's and articulated bone for bone and
joint for joint). But letting this pass, we thought evolutionists
allowed that structure is determined by function, rather than the
converse; and so the confession that "it is not so easy to see how this
difference of the structure arose," [72] surprises us, coming from Mr.
Laing; though why this difference should exist at all, on evolution
principles, is a far greater difficulty. Yet he confesses that "the
difference in structure between the lowest existing race of man and the
highest existing ape, [73] is too great to admit of one being possibly
the direct descendant of the other." The ape, then, is not a man whose
development is arrested. "The negro in some respects makes a slight
approximation, ... still he is essentially a man, and separated by a wide
gulf from the chimpanzee or gorilla. Even the idiot is ... an arrested
man and, not an ape." [74]

Nearly all these (higher intellectual and moral) faculties appear in a
rudimentary state in animals.... Still there is this wide distinction
that even in the highest animals these faculties remain rudimentary and
seem incapable of progress, while even in the lowest races of man they
have reached a much higher level [75] and seem capable of almost
unlimited development. [76] Why does he not seek out the reason of this,
or is he satisfied with the _words_ "arrested development"? If I find a
child who can repeat a poem of Tennyson's, am I to be puzzled because it
cannot originate one as good, or go on even to something better? Am I to
ascribe to it a rudimentary but arrested poetic faculty? Surely the same
poem proceeding from the lips of the poet and of the child he has
taught, are essentially different effects, though outwardly the same. If
there were a true living germ, it would most certainly develope. If the
savage developes through contact with the civilized man after centuries
of degradation, why have not domesticated dogs, who are, according to
Laing, their intellectual and moral equals, developed long ago?

However, as "evolution has become the axiom of science and is admitted
by every one who has the slightest pretensions to be considered a
competent authority," [77] it is preposterous to suppose man an
exception, whatever be the difficulties. [78] And so Mr. Laing, assuming
axiomatically that man and the ape have a common ancestor, is interested
to make the differences between them deeply marked, and that, as far
back as he can, for thereby "Human Origins" are pushed back by hundreds
of thousands of years. If miocene man is as distinct from the ape as
recent man, the inference is that we are then as far from the source as
ever. Hence it is to geology he looks for the strongest basis of his
position. One thought till lately that geology was a tentative science,
hardly credited with the name of science, but Mr. Laing wisely and
boldly classes it among the "exact sciences," whose subject-matter is
"flint instruments, incised bones, and a few rare specimens of human
skulls and skeletons, the meaning of which has to be deciphered by
skilled experts." [79] "The conclusions of geology," up to the Silurian
period, "are approximate facts, not theories." [80]

If he means that the only legitimate data of geologists are facts of
observation, classified and recorded, well and good; but to deny that
they deal largely in hypotheses, and use them constantly as the
premisses for inferences which are equally hypothetical, is palpably
absurd. First of all we are to "assume the principle of uniformity"
which Lyell is said to have established on an unassailable basis and to
have made the fundamental axiom of geological science. He "has shown
conclusively that while causes identical with ... existing causes will,
_if given sufficient time_, account for all the facts hitherto observed,
there is not a single fact which _proves_ the occurrence of a totally
different order of causes." [81] This, however, is (1) limited to the
period of geology which gives record of organic life, and not to the
earlier astronomical period; nor (2) does it exclude changes in
temperature, climate, distribution of seas and lands; nor (3) does it
"_affirm positively_ that there may not have been in past ages
explosions more violent than that of Krakatoa; lava-streams more
extensive than that of Skaptar-Jokul, and earthquakes more powerful than
that which uplifted five or six hundred miles of the Pacific coast of
South America six or seven feet." [82] Now, seeing that all these
cataclysms have occurred within the brief limits of most recent time,
compared with which the period of pretended uniformity is almost an
eternity, what sort of presumption or probability is there that such
occurrences should have been confined to historical times; and is not
the presumption all the other way? Again, it is largely on the
supposition of this antecedently unlikely uniformity, that Mr. Laing
argues to the antiquity of life on earth; whereas Lyell's conclusion
warrants nothing of the kind, being simply: that present causes, "_given
sufficient time_," would produce the observed effects. [83]

Our tests of geologic time are denudation and deposition. We are told
"the present rate of denudation of a continent is known with
_considerable accuracy_ from careful measurements of the quantity of
solid matter carried down by rivers." [84] Now it is a considerable tax
on our faith in science to believe that the _debris_ of the Mississippi
can be so accurately gauged as to give anything like approximate value
to the result of one foot of continental denudation in 6,000 years. We
cannot of course suppose this to be the result of 6,000 years registered
observations, but an inference from the observations of some
comparatively insignificant period; and we have also to suppose that the
very few rivers which have been observed form a sufficient basis for a
conclusion as to all rivers. In fact, a more feebly supported
generalization from more insufficient data it is hard to conceive. To
speak of it as "an _approximation_ based on our knowledge of the time in
which similar results on a smaller scale have been produced by existing
natural laws within the historical period," [85] is a very inadequate
qualification, especially when we have just been told that "here, at any
rate, we are on comparatively certain ground, ... these are measurable
facts which have been ascertained by competent observers." [86]

Assuming this rate of denudation as certain, and also the estimate of
the known sedimentary strata as 177,000 feet in depth, we are to
conclude that the formation took 56,000,000 years. A mountain mass which
ought to answer to certain fault 15,000 high, and therefore is presumed
to have vanished by denudation, points to a term of 90,000,000 years as
required for the process. [87]

"Reasoning from these _facts_, assuming the rate of change in the forms
of life to have been the same formerly, Lyell concludes that geological
phenomena postulate 200,000,000 years at least," [88] "to account for
the undoubted facts of geology since life began." [89] On the other
hand, mathematical astronomy, [90] on theories which Mr. Laing complains
of as wanting the solidity of geological calculations (yet which do not
involve more, but fewer assumptions), cannot allow the sun a past
existence of more than 15,000,000 years. [91] "It is evident that there
must be some fundamental error on one side or the other," [92] "for the
laws of nature are uniform, and there cannot be one code for
astronomers, and one for geologists." But while modestly relegating this
slight divergency among the "bell-wethers of science" (bell-wethers, I
presume, because the crowd follow them like sheep), to the "problems of
the future," Mr. Laing is quite confident that we should "distrust these
mathematical calculations," and rely on conclusions based on
_ascertained facts_ and undoubted deductions from them, rather than on
abstract and doubtful theories, "which would so reduce geological time
as to negative the idea of uniformity of law and evolution, and
introduce once more the chaos of catastrophes and supernatural
interferences."[93] As regards the ice-age, Mr. Laing is professedly
interested in putting it as far back as possible, since "a short date
for that period shortens that for which we have positive proof of the
existence of man, and ... a very short date ... brings us back to the
old theories of repeated and recent acts of supernatural interference."
[94] Strange, that in the same page he should refer to Sir J. Dawson as
an "extreme instance" of one who approaches the question with
"theological prepossessions;" and of course in complete ignorance of Mr.
Laing's indubitable conclusions about the antiquity of Egyptian
civilization. Unfortunately, even the best scientists have not that
perfect freedom from bias, which gives Mr. Laing such a towering
advantage over them all. "An authority like Prestwich," who "cannot be
accused of theological bias," influenced, however, by a servile
astronomical bias, "reduces to 20,000 years a period to which Lyell and
modern geologists assign a duration of more than 200,000 years;" [95]
which "shows in what a state of uncertainty we are as to this vitally
important problem;" for this time assigned by Prestwich "would be
clearly insufficient to allow for the development of Egyptian
civilization, as it existed 5,000 years ago, from savage and semi-animal
ancestors; as is _proved_ to be the case with the horse, stag, elephant,
ape," and so on. [96] Now Prestwich, we are told elsewhere, is "the
first living authority on the tertiary and quaternary strata." [97] If,
then, astronomical prepossession can reduce 200,000 to 20,000 years, the
sin of theology, which reduces 20,000 to 7,000 is comparatively venial.
Prestwich's two objections are (1) the data of astronomy, and (2) "the
difficulty of conceiving that man could have existed for 80,000 or
100,000 years without change and without progress." The former is "only
one degree less mischievous than the theological prepossession."
However, Prestwich has some "facts" as well as prepossessions, such as
"the rapid advance of the glaciers of Greenland,"[98] which does not
accord with the generalization from the Swiss glaciers;[99] and the
quicker erosion of river valleys, due to a greater rainfall; facts
which, however, are met by "a _minute description_ of the successive
changes by which in post-glacial time the Mersey valley and estuary were
brought into their present condition, with an estimate of the time they
may have required;" which is "in round numbers 60,000 years," as opposed
to Prestwich's 10,000 or 8,000. [100] The 200,000 years for the ice-age
depends chiefly on Croll's theory of secular variation of the earth's
orbitular eccentricity; but we are told it is open to the "objection
that it requires us to assume a periodical succession of glacial epochs"
of which two or three "must have occurred during each of the great
geological epochs. [101] This is opposed to geological evidence." "'Not
proven' is the verdict which most geologists would return." "The
confidence with which Croll's theory was first received has been a good
deal shaken." "We have to fall back, therefore, on the geological
evidence of deposition and denudation ... in any attempt to decide
between the 200,000 years of Lyell and the 20,000 years of
Prestwich." [102]

As to his arguments based on ancient human remains, their value depends
first on the accuracy of his geological conclusions, and then on
preclusion of all possibility of the conveyance of the remains from
upper strata to lower; on the certainty, moreover, of traces of design
in many of the would-be miocene or tertiary flint instruments (which
Prestwich is doubtful about).[103] He takes care not to tell us that the
Carstadt skull which gives name to a race, is a very doubtfully genuine
relic of one hundred and thirty years old, whose history is most
dubious. His evidence for the absence of the slightest approximation to
the simian type even in the oldest relics is cheering to the theologian,
though it loses its value when we know it is in the interests of his
foregone conclusions as to the unspeakable antiquity of man. The Nampe
image, the oldest relic yet discovered, "revolutionizes our conception
of this early palaeolithic age," being a "more artistic and better
representation of the human form than the little idols of many
comparatively modern and civilized people," very like those in Mexico,
"believed to be not much older than the date of the Spanish
conquest"--"and in truth, I believe, contemporaneous." [104]

As to his treatment of the Bible, it evinces everywhere the crudest
anthropomorphic method of interpretation such as we should expect to
find in a child or very ignorant person. In truth, Mr. Laing is in a
perfectly childish state of mind both as regards the Christian religion
and as regards philosophy, sciences, and all the subjects he dabbles

For our own part we have at most a general idea as to what exactly the
Church does teach or may teach with regard to the interpretation of the
Scripture. That she has so far acquiesced in the larger interpretation
of Genesiacal cosmogony, that now the literal six-day theory would be
very unsafe, forbids us to judge any present interpretation of other
parts by the number, noise, or notoriety of its adherents. The
universality of the Deluge is by no means the only tolerable
interpretation now; though the doctrine of a partial deluge would have
been most unsafe a century ago. All this does not mean giving up the
inspiration of the record, but determining gradually what is meant by
inspiration and the record. What could be less important to Christian
dogma than the date of the Deluge or of Adam's creation? If it were
proved that the original text _in this point_ had been hopelessly
corrupted, as the discrepancies between the LXX. numbers and the Hebrew
hint to be true to some extent, it would not touch the guaranteed
integrity of Christian dogma. If Christ is the "son" of David, and
Zachaeus is "son" of Abraham, what period may not an apparent single
generation stand for, especially in regard to the earlier Patriarchs? As
far as the prophetic import of the Deluge is concerned, a very small
local affair might be mystically large with foreshadowings, as we see
with regard to the enacted prophecies of the later prophets. For the
rest, we are quite weary of Mr. Laing, and are content to have shown
that everywhere he is the same biassed, inconsequent, untrustworthy
writer. His only power is a certain superficial clearness of diction and
brilliancy of style, and this is brought to bear on a mass of
information drawn confessedly from the labours of others, and selected
in the interest of a foregone conclusion, without a single attempt at a
fair presentment of the other side.

Here, then, we have a very fair specimen of the pseudo-philosophy which
is so admirably adapted to captivate the half-informed, wholly unformed
minds of the undiscriminating multitudes who have been taught little or
nothing well except to believe in their right, duty, and ability to
judge for themselves in matters for which a life-time of specialization
were barely sufficient. A congeries of dogmatic assertions and negations
raked together from the chief writers of a decadent school, discredited
twenty years ago by all men of thought, Christian or otherwise; a show
of logical order and reasoning which evades our grasp the instant we try
to lay critical hands on it; a profuse expression of disinterested
devotion to abstract truth, an occasional bow to conventional morality,
a racy, irreverent style, an elaborate display of miscellaneous
information; good paper, large type, cheap wood-cuts, and the work is

_Oct. Nov._ 1895.

[Footnote 1: M.S. 319.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid. 319.]

[Footnote 3: M.S. 229, 230.]

[Footnote 4: P.F. 279.]

[Footnote 5: P.F. 280]

[Footnote 6: Ibid.]

[Footnote 7: P.F. 281, 282.]

[Footnote 8: Ibid.]

[Footnote 9: Ibid. 210.]

[Footnote: 10 M.S. Preface]

[Footnote 11: "These subjects ... have been to me the solace of a long
life, the delight of _many quiet days_, and the soother of many troubled
ones ... a source of enjoyment.

"'The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.'" (H.O. 3.)]

[Footnote: 12 M.S. 319.]

[Footnote: 13 Ibid. 320.]

[Footnote: 14 Cf. Ibid. 104, 282.]

[Footnote 15: This expression seems inconsistent with his here and
elsewhere explicit maintenance of the hereditary transmission of
gathered moral experiences. He means here to exclude innate ideas of
morality as explained by Kant and by other intuitionists.]

[Footnote 16: M.S. 180.]

[Footnote 17: M.S. 285.]

[Footnote 18: M.S. 216.]

[Footnote 19: M.S. 294.]

[Footnote 20: M.S. 298, 299.]

[Footnote 21: P.F. 297. "The truth is that morals are built on a far
surer foundation than that of creeds, which are here to-day and gone
to-morrow. They are built on the solid rock of experiences, and of the
'survival of the fittest,' which in the long evolution of the human race
from primeval savages, have by 'natural selection' and 'heredity' become
almost instinctive." (How careless is this terminology. In the previous
page he denies morality to be a matter of hereditary instinct.)]

[Footnote 22: P.F. 206.]

[Footnote 23: Ibid. 207.]

[Footnote 24: P.P. 204.]

[Footnote 25: M.S. Preface.]

[Footnote 26: H.O. 3.]

[Footnote 27: P.P. 3.]

[Footnote 28: "The simple undoubting faith which for ages has been the
support and consolation of a large portion of mankind, especially of the
weak, the humble, the unlearned, who form an immense majority, cannot
disappear without a painful wrench, and leaving for a time a great blank
behind." (M.S. 284.)]

[Footnote 29: xxxiii.]

[Footnote 30: M.S. 261.]

[Footnote 31: P.F. 176.]

[Footnote 32: P. 177.]

[Footnote 33: P.F. 192.]

[Footnote 34: P. 245.]

[Footnote 35: P.F. 222.]

[Footnote 36: Thus he assumes Mr. Spurgeon's definition of inspiration
as the basis of operations (See H.O. 189), and says, "It is perfectly
obvious that for those who accept these confessions of faith ... all the
discoveries of modern science, from Galileo and Newton down to Lyall and
Darwin, are simple delusions."]

[Footnote 37: M.S. 215.]

[Footnote 38: Ibid. 251.]

[Footnote 39: "The _simplest straightforward evidence_ of the _earliest_
Christian writer who gives any account of their origin, viz., Papias."
(P.F. 236.) "What does Papias say? Practically this: that he preferred
oral tradition to written documents.... This is a _perfectly clear_ and
_intelligible_ statement made apparently in good faith without any
dogmatic or other prepossession.... It has always seemed to me that all
theories ... were comparatively worthless which did not take into
account _the fundamental fact_ of this statement of Papias." (238.) "The
_clear_ and _explicit_ statement of Papias." (250.)]

[Footnote 40: PP. 258--260.]

[Footnote 41: P. 262.]

[Footnote 42: P.F. 266.]

[Footnote 43: With regard to this "very precise statement," it is
noticeable that Matthew speaks of "Mary the mother of James and Joses;"
Mark, of "Mary the mother of James the less and of Joseph and Salome,"
but not "of Salome." If Mr. Laing's precise mind had looked for a moment
at the text he was criticizing he would have seen that Salome is a
common name in the nominative case. St. Luke does not give the names of
the women at all. These points are trifling in themselves, but important
as evidencing Mr. Laing's standard of intellectual conscientiousness.]

[Footnote 44: P.F. 235]

[Footnote 45: M.S. 332 ff.]

[Footnote 46: H.O. 2.]

[Footnote 47: H.O. 8.]

[Footnote 48: H.O. II]

[Footnote 49: H.O. 9 and 199.]

[Footnote 50: H.O. 10.]

[Footnote 51: This seems, later, to be an inference, not an assertion.
"Manetho was a learned priest of a celebrated temple, who _must have
had_ access to all the temples and royal records and other literature of
Egypt, and who _must have been_ also conversant with foreign literature
to have been selected as the best man to write a complete history of his
native country." (H.O. 22.)]

[Footnote 52: He seems to think that Josephus was a Christian, and
Syncellus a "Father." We might mention that from the fragments of
Africanus' _Pentabiblion Chronicon_, preserved in Eusebius, the author
places the Creation at 5499 B.C., which is certainly hardly compatible
with his giving such fragments of Manetho as would place Menes one year
before that date. If we know nothing of Manetho's results except through
these "orthodox" sources, it is inconceivable that Mr. Laing's version
of them should have any historical basis whatever. It comes in fine to
this, that because their report of Manetho does not give Mr. Laing what
he wants, they have been tampered with.]

[Footnote 53: H.O. 11.]

[Footnote 54: H.O. 22.]

[Footnote 55: H.O. 17.]

[Footnote 56: H.O. 42.]

[Footnote 57: "There can be no doubt, moreover, that this Sargon I. is a
perfectly historical personage. _A statue of him has been found at
Agade."_ (H.O. 55.)]

[Footnote 58: M.S. 50.]

[Footnote 59: Ibid.]

[Footnote 60: P.F. 28.]

[Footnote 61: M.S. 61.]

[Footnote 62: "Matter is made of molecules; molecules are made of atoms;
atoms are little magnets which link themselves together and form all the
complex creations of an ordered cosmos [an ordered order] by virtue of
the attractive and repulsive forces which are the result of polarity."
(P.F, 223.)]

[Footnote 63: We suppose he has a right to call himself _agnostic_ as
being a disciple of Professor Huxley, who, we believe, started or
revived the term in our own times. Of course he is also a dogmatic
materialist, and by no means an "agnostic" in the wider sense of general

[Footnote 64: M.S. 171.]

[Footnote 65: "Not only have no missing links been discovered, but the
oldest known human skulls and skeletons, which date from the glacial
period and are probably at least one hundred thousand years old, show no
very decided approximation towards any such pre-human type. On the
contrary," &c. (M.S. 181.) He replies (H.O. 373) that "five hundred
thousand years prior to these men of Spy and Neanderthal, the human race
has existed in higher physical perfection, nearer to the existing type
of modern man," (Cf. P.F. 158.)]

[Footnote 66: M.S. 112, 114.]

[Footnote 67: P.F. 154.]

[Footnote 68: P.F. 154.]

[Footnote 69: M.S. 175.]

[Footnote 70: The horse "may be taken as the typical instance of descent
by progressive specialization. What is a horse? It is essentially an
animal specialized for ... the rapid progression of a bulky body over
plains or deserts" [a definition which applies equally to the camel,
&c.]. It commenced existence as a "pentadactyle plantigrade bunodont."
For some indefined reason "the first step was to walking on the toes
instead of on the flat of the foot, ... which became general in most
lines of their descendants. For galloping on hard ground _it is evident_
that one strong and long toe, protected by a solid hoof, was more
serviceable than four short and weak toes." [But why should it gallop
more than other animals; or why on the _hard_ ground in the deserts and
plains; or would not _four_ strong and long toes have been better than
one?] "The coalescence of the toes is the fundamental fact in the
progress ... by which the primitive bunodont was converted into the
modern horse." But we thought evolution was a change from the
homogeneous, incoherent to the heterogeneous and coherent: surely the
change from five toes to one must have been a misfortune on the whole,
if the flexibility of the human hand accounts for man's intellect. The
advantages of a convenient gallop over occasional oases of hard ground
in the desert would hardly balance that of being able to climb trees.
(P.F. 143.)]

[Footnote 71: Cf. P.F. 151.]

[Footnote 72: M.S. 180.]

[Footnote 73: "A wide gap which has never been bridged over." (Huxley,
P.F. 150.)]

[Footnote 74: But cf. M.S. 181. "Attempt after attempt has been made to
find some fundamental characters in the human brain, on which to base a
generic distinction between man and the brute creation." (P.F. 149.)]

[Footnote 75: Cf. "It is probable, therefore, that this (drill-friction)
was the original mode of obtaining fire, but if so it must have required
a good deal of intelligence and observation, for the discovery is by no
means an obvious one." (M.S. 204.)]

[Footnote 76: P.F. 153.]

[Footnote 77: P.F. 135.]

[Footnote 78: "The inference, therefore, to be drawn alike from the
physical development of the individual man and from the origin and
growth" [as though he had explained their origin] "of all the faculties
which specially distinguish him from the brute creation, ... all point to
the conclusion that he is the product of evolution." (M.S. 210.) "Man
... whose higher faculties of intelligence and morality are _so clearly_
... the products of evolution and education." (M.S. 182.)]

[Footnote 79: H.O. 260.]

[Footnote 80: M.S. 48.]

[Footnote 81: P.F. 17.]

[Footnote 82: P.F. 17, 18. "The conclusion is therefore certain that the
land at this particular spot must have sunk twenty feet, and again risen
as much so as to bring the floor of the temple to its present position,
&c. Similar proofs may be multiplied to any extent.... In fact the more
we study geology the more we are impressed with the fact that the normal
states of the earth is and always has been one of incessant changes."
(M.S. 35--9.)]

[Footnote 83: i.e., Lyell says: Present causes could give these effects,
given the time. Laing says: Therefore, since they have given these
effects, we must suppose the time.]

[Footnote 84: P.F. 18]

[Footnote 85: P.F. 74.]

[Footnote 86: Ibid.]

[Footnote 87: P.F. 20.]

[Footnote 88: M.S. 34, 41.]

[Footnote 89: P.F. 6.]

[Footnote 90: P.F. 23.]

[Footnote 91: M.S. 46.]

[Footnote 92: P.F. 24.]

[Footnote 93: P.F. 32.]

[Footnote 94: P.F. 66.]

[Footnote 95: "Thus giving to palaeolithic man no greater antiquity than
perhaps about 20,000 to 30,000 years, while, should he be restricted to
the so-called post-glacial period, the antiquity need not go back
further than from 10,000 to 15,000 years before the time of neolithic
man." (57.)]

[Footnote 96: P.F. 67.]

[Footnote 97: M.S. 109.]

[Footnote 98: Prestwich evinces the same recalcitrance according to the
_Nineteenth Century_, December 4, 1894, p. 961, being one of the
geologists of high standing "who have lately come to believe in some
sudden and extensive submergence of continental dimensions in very
recent times."]

[Footnote 99: 74.]

[Footnote 100: P.F. 84.]

[Footnote 101: P.F. 69, 70.]

[Footnote 102: P.F. 70.]

[Footnote 103: H.O. 364.]

[Footnote 104: H.O. 388.]



Some twelve years since we read Mr. Tylor's well-known and able work on
_Primitive Culture_, and were much impressed with the evident
fair-mindedness and courageous impartiality which distinguished the
author so notably from the Clodds, the Allens, the Laings, and other
popularizers of the uncertain results of evolution-philosophy. For this
very reason we made a careful analysis of the whole work, and more
particularly of his "animistic" hypothesis, and laid it aside, waiting,
according to our wont, for further light bearing upon a difficulty
wherewith we felt ourselves then incompetent to deal. This further light
has been to some extent supplied to us by Mr. Andrew Lang's _Making of
Religion_, which deals mainly with that theory of animism which is
propounded by Mr. Tylor, and unhesitatingly accepted, dogmatically
preached, and universally assumed, by the crowd of sciolists who follow
like jackals in the lion's wake. Without denying the value of our
conceptions of God and of the human soul, Mr. Tylor believes that these
conceptions, however true in themselves, originated on the part of
primitive man in fallacious reasoning from the data of dreams and of
like states of illusory vision. He assumes, perhaps with some truth,
that the distinction between dream and reality is more faintly marked in
the less developed mind; in the child than in the adult, in the savage
than in the civilized man. Hence a belief arises in a filmy phantasmal
self that wanders abroad in sleep and leaves the body untenanted, and
meets and converses with other phantasmal selves. Nor is it hard to see
how death, being viewed as a permanent sleep, should be ascribed to the
final abandonment of the body by its "dream-stuff" occupant. Whether as
dreaded or loved or both, this ever-gathering crowd of disembodied
spirits wins for itself a certain _cultus_ of praise and propitiation,
and reverence, and is humoured with food-offerings and similar
sacrifices. Nor is it long before the form of an earthly polity is
transferred to that unearthly city of the dead, till for one reason or
another some jealous ghost gains a monarchic supremacy over his
brethren, and thus polytheism gives place to monotheism. It need not be
that this supreme deity is always conceived as a defunct ancestor, once
embodied, but no longer in the body. Rather it would seem that the
primitive savage, having once arrived at the conception of a ghost,
passes by generalization to that of incorporeal beings unborn and
undying, of spirits whose presence and power is revealed in stocks and
stones, or in idols shaped humanwise--spirits who preside over trees,
rivers, and elements, over species and classes and departments of
Nature, over tribes and peoples and nations; until, as before, the
struggle for existence or some other cause gives supremacy to some one
god fittest to survive either through being more conceivable, or more
powerful, or in some other way more popular than the rest of the

Again, it is assumed that the gods of primitive man are non-ethical,
that they do not "make for righteousness;" that they are at most jealous
powers to be feared and propitiated. When the savage speaks of a god as
good, he only means "favourable to me," "on my side;" he does not mean
"good to me if I am good." God is conceived first as power and force;
then as non-moral wisdom, or cunning, and only in the very latest
developments as holy and just and loving.

Starting with the assumptions of evolutionists, the theory is plausible
enough. Nor is it inconceivable that God, without using error and evil
directly as a means to truth and good, should passively permit error for
the sake of the truth that He foresees will come out of it. Astrology
was not incipient astronomy; nor was alchemy primitive chemistry; the
end and aim in each case was wholly different. Yet the pseudo-science
gave birth to the true; as false premisses often lead by bad logic to
sound conclusions. Totemism, "a perfectly crazy and degrading belief,"
says Mr. Lang, "rendered possible--nay, inevitable--the union of hostile
groups into large and relatively peaceful tribal societies.... We should
never have educated the world thus; and we do not see why it should have
been thus done. But we are very anthropomorphic, and totally ignorant of
the conditions of the problem." In like manner it might have been, that
God willed to let men wander through the slums and backways of animism
into the open road of theism.

But our concern is not with what might have been, but with what was.

Mr. Lang contends, first, that belief in spirits and in a circumambient
spiritual world, more probably originated in certain real or imaginary
experiences of supernormal phenomena, than in a fallacious explanation
of dreams; then, that belief in a supreme god is most probably not
derived from or dependent upon belief in ghosts.

Consistently with the whole trend of his thought in his recent work
connected with psychical research, in _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_, in
_Cock-Lane and Common-Sense_, Mr. Lang begins by entering a protest
against the attitude observed towards the subject by contemporary
science, especially by anthropology, which, as having been so lately "in
the same condemnation," might be expected to show itself superior to
that injustice which it had itself so much reason to complain of. Yet
anthropology, abandoning the first principles of modern science, still
refuses to listen to the facts alleged by psychical research, and
justifies its refusal on Hume's oft-exploded fallacy, namely, on an _a
priori_ conviction of their impossibility and therefore of their

However wide the range of experience upon which physical generalizations
are based, it can never be so wide as on this score alone to prove the
inherent possibility of exceptions; more especially when we consider the
confinement of the human race to what is relatively a momentary
existence on a whirling particle of dust in a sandstorm. There may
indeed be abundant evidence of a certain impetus or tendency enduring
from a comparatively distant and indefinite past and making for an
equally indefinite future; but there is not, cannot be evidence against
the possibility of interference from other laws whose paths, at points
unknown and incalculable, intersect those followed by the (to us)
ordinary course of events.

And in this wholesome agnosticism we are confirmed when we see that
while some animals are deprived of certain senses which we possess, and
all of them of the gift of reason, others are apparently endowed with
senses unknown to us, and are taught by seeming instincts which surpass
what reason could effect; whence we may infer that the likelihood of our
being _en rapport_ with the greater part of the _possible_ phenomena
amidst which we live, or of our possessing all possible senses or the
best of those possible, is infinitely small. What a magician a man with
eyes would be among a race of sightless men; or a man with ears among a
deaf population! How studiously would the scientists explain the effects
of sight as produced by subtilty of hearing; and those of hearing as due
to abnormal sensitiveness in some other respect!

But though there be no _a priori_ impossibility in deviations from the
beaten track, yet there is a certain _a priori_ improbability which may
seem to justify those who refuse to go into alleged instances of the
supernormal. There is a story against Thomas Aquinas, that on being
invited by a frisky brother-monk to come and see a cow flying, or some
such marvel, he gravely came and saw not, but expressed himself far more
astounded at the miracle that a religious man should say "the thing
which was not." This is certainly a glorious antithesis to Hume's
position. Whether we take it to illustrate the Saint's extreme lack of
humour, or a subtler depth of humour veiled under stolidity, or his
rigorous veracity, or his guileless confidence in the veracity of
others, we certainly cannot approve it as an example of the attitude we
ought to observe with regard to every newly recounted marvel. Truly
there might be more liberality, more enlightenment, more imagination in
such a ready credulity, than in the wall-eyed, ear-stopping scepticism
of popular science; but the mere inner possibility of a recounted marvel
does not oblige us to search into the matter unless the evidence offered
bear some reasonable proportion to the burden it has to support. That
this is the case as regards crystal-gazing, telepathy, possession, and
kindred manifestation, is what Mr. Lang contends; nor would he have any
quarrel with the anthropologists were they not fully impressed with the
importance of similar or even weaker cumulative evidence for conclusions
which happen to be in harmony with their preconceived hypotheses. Where
such evidence exists it must be faced, and at least its existence must
be explained.

True criticism should either account for the seeming breach of
uniformity, by reducing it to law; or else should show how the assertion
if false ever gained credence; but in no case is it scientific to put
aside, on an _a priori_ assumption, evidence that is offered from all
sides in great abundance. Psychic research is daily applying to that
tangled mass of world-wide evidence ancient and modern for the existence
of an X-region of experience, those same critical and historical
principles which created modern science. Men who, as often as not, have
no religion or no superstition themselves, see that both religion and
superstition are universal phenomena, and cannot be neglected by those
who would study humanity historically and scientifically. Even if there
be nothing in hallucinations, apparitions, scrying, second-sight,
poltergeists, and the rest, there is a great deal in the fact that
belief in these things is as wide and as old as the world; it is a fact
to be explained. "Each man," says Meister, "commonly defends himself as
long as possible from casting out the idols which he worships in his
soul; from acknowledging a master-error, and admitting any truth that
brings him to despair;" and indeed a system as complete and compact as
that of Mr. Spencer or Mr. Tylor is apt to become an intellectual idol
forbidding under pain of infidelity all inquiries that might cause it to
totter on its throne, or which might unravel in an instant what has been
woven by years of hard and honest thought. Few of us are in a position
to cast stones on this score; still, recognizing the weakness more
clearly in others than in ourselves, we are justified in reckoning with
it, and in discounting for the unwillingness of men of science to listen
to facts inconsistent with long-cherished theories, and for their
tendency to accumulate and magnify evidence on the other side. "If the
facts not fitting their theories are little observed by authorities so
popular as Mr. Huxley and Mr. Spencer; if _instantiae contradictoriae_
are ignored by them, or left vague; if these things are done in the
green tree, we may easily imagine what shall be done in the dry. But we
need not war with hasty _vulgarisateurs_ and headlong theorists."

We cannot for a moment question the sincerity of purpose and honesty of
intention of many of the leaders of modern scientific enlightenment,
whatever we may think of the said crowd of _vulgarisateurs_--those
camp-followers who bring disgrace on every respectable cause. But beside
wilful bias and unfairness, there is unconscious bias from which none of
us are free, but from which we need to be delivered by mutual criticism;
for, however much a man can see of himself, he can never get behind his
own back. Of such unwitting dishonesty men of thought are abundantly
guilty, when deeming themselves to be governed only by reason, they are
in fact slaves to some intellectual fashion of the day. Not one of them
in a thousand would dare to appear in public with the clothes of last
century, or to face the laughter of a crowd of his compeers. Hence a
certain indocility and rigidness of mind which they only escape who live
out of the fashion or have strength to lead it or to live above it.
Simple, whether from greatness or littleness, they escape the narrowing
influence inseparable from being identified, even in their own mind,
with a school or coterie; and can afford to say things as they see them.

Contemporary fashion says at present that there are to be no miracles,
nothing supernormal; whatever cannot be reduced in any way to known laws
and causes can be flatly denied, for the supposition of unknown causes
and laws is rank heresy. Until more recent years, it was not permitted
to listen to or show any disposition to investigate the narratives of
phenomena which have since been "explained" and reduced to such
legalized causes as hysteria or hypnotism, and even (of late) to
thought-transference. But since this happy reconciliation has been
effected, such stories are allowed to be believed on ordinary evidence,
although the accounts of other "unclassed" supernormal marvels coming
from the same lips with the same attestation are still brushed aside as
traveller's tales, or as the puerilities of hagiography--not worth a
thought. One would think that some kind of apology or reparation were
due to ecclesiastical tradition, which was credited with wholesale lying
so long as its recorded wonders were classed among impossibilities by
the intellectual fashion-mongers, but it seems we have only partly
escaped the reproach of knavery to incur that of wholesale folly for not
having seen that these apparent miracles were but forms of hysteria or

Yet what is hysteria and what does it really explain? [1] Surely the
etymology throws no light on the subject! Is it then merely a name for
the unknown cause of phenomena every whit as strange as those which were
held incredible till their like had been actually witnessed and forced
upon the unwilling eyes of science beyond all possibility of denial? Is
it that science blindly refused even to weigh the evidence for abnormal
facts till the same or similar had become matters of personal
observation? Is it that every reported breach of her assumed
uniformities is incredible, because impossible, until the possibility
has been proved by some fact which is then named, erected into a class,
a cause, a law, and used to explain away similar facts formerly denied,
and is thus taken into that bundle of generalizations called the "laws
of nature"? The ancients assumed all heavenly motion to be circular of
necessity, and where facts gave against them, they patched the matter up
with an epicycle or two. Are not hysteria, hypnotism, and
thought-transference of the nature of epicycles? It is now confessed
that the mind can so affect and dominate the body as to produce blisters
and wounds by mere force of suggestion and expectancy; that a like
"faith" can cure, not only such ailments as are clearly connected with
the nerves, but others where such connection is not yet traceable. And
this is supposed to tell in some way against like marvels reported by
hagiology, as though they were explained by being observed and named.
Yet what did that supposed marvellousness consist in, except in a
seeming revelation of the power and superiority of mind over matter, and
of things unseen over things seen and palpable; and in proving that
there were more wonders in heaven and earth than were dreamt of by a
crude and self-satisfied materialism? They were taken as evidence of a
circumambient X-region where the laws of mechanics were set at defiance
and where the fetters of time and place were loosened or cast aside.
Such an X-region being supposed by every supernatural religion and
denied by most of those who deny religion, and on the same grounds, its
establishment by any kind of experiment is rightly considered in some
sort to make for religion. Indeed, it is just on this account that the
evidence for it is so opposed by those who are pre-occupied by the
anti-religious bias of contemporary science. But unless hysterical
effects can be shown to be ultimately due, not to mind, but to matter
acting on matter, according to methods approved by materialism, hysteria
remains a word-cause and no more, like the meat-cooking quality of the

Hypnotism is a kindred cause in every way. It means sleep-ism; yet
manifestly it deals with characteristics which are utterly unlike those
of sleep; and it is precisely these that need to be explained away in
conformity with received laws, unless we are to find in these phenomena
evidence of such modes of being and operation as every kind of religion
postulates. "Possession" is of course a fable; the superabundant
world-wide, world-old evidence for the phenomenon was thrust aside
without a glance, till hypnotic experiments brought to light what is
called "alternating personality." As though this name had explained
everything in accordance with materialism, forthwith it was permitted to
believe the aforesaid evidence, provided one laughed loudly enough at
the theory of "possession." It is allowed that the hypnotic patient may
in some sense be said to be "possessed" by the hypnotiser for the time
being; nay, even a certain chronic possession of this kind is
observable. But an invisible hypnotiser and possession by a disembodied
spirit is still out of fashion, notwithstanding all Mrs. Piper's efforts
and Dr. Hodgson's audacious declaration of his not very willing belief
that those who speak through her "are veritably the personalities they
claim to be, and that they have survived the change we call death."

Thought-transference, however, promises to be a potent and popular
solvent of psychic problems. Thought-transference was a supremely
ludicrous supposition till comparatively recently; nor could there be
any credible testimony for what was known antecedently to be quite
impossible. But some way or other, facts which demanded a name were
forced upon the direct observation of science, and so Mr. F. Podmore has
written a book in which, assuming thought-transference to be a
scientifically recognized possibility, he proceeds to reduce many of the
marvels collected by the S.P.R. to that simple and obvious cause, and to
reject the residue on the sound old principle that what is known to be
impossible cannot be true. Hallucinations, solitary and collective, and
other perplexing instances are tortured into cases of thought-transfer
with an ingenuity which we should smile at in a mediaeval scholastic
explaining the universe by the four elements and the four temperaments.
But is not thought-transference itself lamentably unscientific? No;
because we see that unconnected magnets affect one another
sympathetically; and the brain being a sort of magnet may well affect
distant brains. Thought is a kind of electricity, and electricity, if
not exactly a fluid, yet may some day be liquefied and bottled. At all
events, science has seen something very remotely analogous to
thought-transference and every whit as unintelligible and antecedently
incredible till observed; and therefore it is permissible to listen to
the evidence for it, and forced thereto, to accept the fact.

But have we really disposed of ghosts if we prove the appearance to be
caused by a subjective modification of the perceiver's sensorium and not
by a modification of the external medium--the air or the ether? Since it
is a question of a spiritual substance independent of spatial dimensions
and relations, said to be present only so far and where its effects and
manifestations are present, what does it matter whether it reports
itself by an effect outside or inside the percipient--whether it be a
"vision sensible to feeling, as to sight," or but "a false creation
proceeding from a heat-oppressed brain"? Is not this very distinction of
outside and inside in the matter of perceptions open to no slight
ambiguity? The savage, familiar with the electric sparks caused by the
friction of deer-skins, ascribes the _aurora borealis_ to the friction
of a jostling herd of celestial deer. "Nonsense," says science, after
centuries of false hypotheses, "it is nothing more nor less than
electricity." This is very much the way she is dealing with the
supernormal at present; brushing aside as wholly nonsensical, beliefs
that envelope a core of useful fact in a wrapping of crude explanation,
and then receiving the same facts as new discoveries, because she has
fitted them into an involucre more to her own liking, though perhaps but
little less crude. "Not deer-skin," says science, "but amber; not
miracle, but faith-cure; not prophetic insight, but thought-transference;
not apparition, but hallucination." And so with the rest.

Considering then the bias of the dominant scientific school, which makes
it refuse even to examine the carefully gathered evidence of the S.P.R.;
we need not wonder if the reports of travellers concerning the existence
of like phenomena among savages and barbarians all over the world are
dismissed with a certain _a priori_ superciliousness. Yet surely, on
evolutionist principles, the only possible clue to the mode in which
belief in spirits and in God may have originated with "primitive man,"
is the mode in which those beliefs are actually now sustained, and, so
to say, "proved" by the most primitive specimens of existing humanity;
by, for example, those bushmen of Australia whose facial angle and
cerebral capacity is supposed to leave no room for much difference
between their mind and that of the higher anthropoids. Doubtless it is
hard to get anything like scientific evidence out of people so
uncultivated, whose language and modes of conception are so alien to our
own. Individual travellers, moreover, have been the victims of their own
credulity, stupidity, self-conceit, and prejudice. "But the best
testimony of the truth of the reports as to the actual belief in the
facts, is the undesigned coincidence of the evidence from all quarters.
When the stories brought by travellers, ancient and modern, learned and
unlearned, pious or sceptical, agree in the main, we have all the
certainty that anthropology can offer."

From this ever-growing mass of evidence, it would appear that the
universal belief among savages in a spirit-world is mainly strengthened
and sustained, not by the phenomena of dreaming but by what Mr. Spencer
would call "alleged" supernormal manifestations, such as those of
clairvoyance, crystal-gazing, apparitions, miracles, prophecies,
possession, and the like. For belief in such marvels exists beyond
doubt, and furnishes a very obvious and logical basis for the further
belief in the invisible causes of these visible effects; nor should we
have recourse to an hypothetical and more indirect explanation of belief
in a spirit-world when an actual and direct explanation is at hand. If
we see the branch growing out of the tree, we need not inquire what
trunk it sprang from, unless we have strong evidence that it is only a
graft. All investigation tends to show that savages believe in spirits
and in the spirit-world because they witness, or firmly believe they
witness, supernormal phenomena.

Besides this, it must be allowed that together with the _normal_
phenomena of dreaming, there are abnormal dreams which even to
cultivated minds seem at times as supernormal as second-sight or
prophecy. But it is not on supernormal, but on normal dreams that
animists base their explanation. We need not deny that dreams and
delirium may have given palpable shape to the conception of a ghost, and
may also have helped forward the notion of a spirit by furnishing
something intermediary between the grossness of our waking
sense-experiences, and the altogether elusive and difficult thought of
unembodied will and intelligence independent of space and time.

In the main then it seems more plausible to maintain that the idea of
unembodied or disembodied spirits was shaped by that instinctive law of
our mind which makes us argue from the nature of effects to the nature
of the agency. The first impulse would be to ascribe every intelligent
effect to some human agency, but other circumstances would subsequently
incline the savage reluctantly to divest the agent of one or more of the
limitations of humanity, and to clothe him with preter-human attributes.
Nearly all the supernormal phenomena believed in by primitive man--so
far as we can judge of him from contemporary savagery--would suggest the
agency of an invisible man; clairvoyance, and other manifestations of
preternatural knowledge, would suggest independence of the senses in the
acquisition of knowledge; every kind of "miracle" would bespeak an
extension of power over physical nature beyond human wont; while all
these together would point to that freedom from the trammels of space
and time, which is of the very essence of immaterial or spiritual
subsistence. Thus, by a gradual process of dehumanization, the mind
would be instinctively led from the notion of a man magnified in all
excellences and refined from all limitations, to the conception of
spirit. But coexistently with this progress of the reason, the
imagination would ever strain to clothe the thought in bodily form as
far as possible, and would cling to the notions suggested by dreams and
waking hallucinations, while language, after its wont, would speak of
the spirit as the _umbra_, the _imago_, the shadow, the breath, the
attenuated replica of the body. Thus we find among all men, savage and
civilized, a certain unsteadiness in their notion of spirit, whether
created or divine--a continual tendency to corruption and
anthropomorphism, due to the conflict between reason and imagination,
resulting so often in the domination of the latter.

For this view of the subject it is not necessary that we should admit
the preternatural character of the phenomena which form the
subject-matter of psychical research, but only that we should
acknowledge the hardly disputable fact that belief in such marvels is
universal and persistent among savages--a fact which science is bound by
its own principles to explain, and not to ignore. Whether, as Mr. Lang
seems inclined to think, among much illusion, chicanery, and ignorance,
there may not be truth enough to make the inference of an X-world
legitimate, whether the said universality, persistence, and
recrudescence of this seeming credulity can be accounted for in any
other satisfactory way, is a further consideration. If in some dim
fashion the Northern Indians anticipated modern science in their
explanation of the _aurora borealis_, connecting it with familiar
electric manifestations, may it not be, asks Mr. Lang, that in their
inference from supernormal facts which experimental science refuses to
hear of or to examine, they have again been sagaciously beforehand?
Doubtless their explanation is crude and inadequate in both cases; but
is it much more so than that offered by supposing electricity to be a
fluid subject to currents; or by assigning many inexplicable psychic
phenomena to "hysteria"--a mere word-cause?

The supposition is somewhat favoured if we give ear to that crowd of
witnesses whose combined evidence, duly discounted and tested, makes it
clear that even among those who ought to have been civilized out of all
belief in aught behind the veil, the very same superstitions break out,
or creep in, time after time, with new names perhaps, new clothes, new
faces, but in substance identical with those held by what we esteem the
most benighted races.

Further, it is evident that savages pay attention--over-attention, no
doubt--to these supernormal phenomena, being free from hostile
philosophic bias in the matter, and bent the other way; and that in
consequence they have everywhere observed, classified, and systematized
them in their own rude, simple way, and have thus forestalled what the
S.P.R., in the teeth of science, is now endeavouring to do
scientifically. With us, moreover, it is mere chance that reveals a
"medium," or hypnotic subject here and there: but with savages they are
sought out diligently, and all who have any latent aptitude that way are
detected and utilized; and thus the field of their experience is
considerably widened.

But besides all this, it seems more than plausible to suppose that among
primitive and undeveloped races such preternatural phenomena either
occur, or seem to occur, much more frequently and extensively; and that
apparently supernormal faculties are more often developed.

Nor can this be explained solely on the score of their readier credulity
and their lack of criticism; for there is good evidence to show that the
development of the rational and self-directive faculties is at the
sacrifice of those instinctive and intuitional modes of operation which
do duty for them while man is yet in a state of pupilage. Memory, for
example, is fresher and more assimilative in childhood, but deteriorates
very often as the higher faculties come into use; and indeed we cannot
fail to see how the introduction of printing, writing, and mnemonic arts
and artifices of all kinds, has lowered the average power of civilized
memory, and made the ordinary feats of more primitive times seem to us
magical and incredible. We also notice the high development of hearing,
sight, and other forms of perception among savages who live by their
five senses rather than by their wits. When we descend to the
animal-world we are confronted by cognitive faculties whose effects we
see, but of whose precise nature we can form no conjecture whatever.
That which guides the migratory birds in their wanderings, and simulates
polity in the bee-hive and ant-hill, is not reason, but is something for
practical purposes far better than reason. Putting a number of these and
of similar considerations together seems to suggest that development in
the direction of self-instruction (which is reason) and self-management
and independence, is loss as well as gain.

What we gain is no doubt our own in a truer sense than that we had when
we hung upon Nature's breast, and were guided passively by instincts and
intuitions to purposes that reason can never reach to.

By far the most wonderful and seemingly intelligent work of the soul is
that by which it builds up, nourishes, repairs, developes, and finally
reproduces the body it dwells in. Yet in all this it is almost as
passive and unconscious as a vegetable. The effect is (as far as our
comprehension of it goes) altogether preternatural and inexplicable; yet
it is far less _our_ effect than what we do by reason and by taking
thought. What we pay for in dignity we lose in efficiency. While Nature
carries us in her arms we move swiftly enough, but when she sets us on
our feet to learn independence and self-rule, we cut a sorry figure. In
our helplessness she does all for us as though we were yet part of her;
but in the measure that we are weaned and begin to fend for ourselves as
responsible agents, we are deprived of the aids and easements befitting
the childhood of our race.

If this be true, if man in his primitive state possessed intuitive
powers which have sunk into abeyance, either through the diversion of
psychic energy to the development of other powers, or through desuetude,
or as the instincts of the new-born babe are lost when their brief
purpose is fulfilled; if the occasional recrudescence of these powers
among civilized peoples is really a survival of an earlier state; then
indeed we can understand that the evidence, or apparent evidence, for
the existence of an X-region, or spirit-world, may have been
immeasurably more abundant in the infancy of the human race, than it is
now even among contemporary savages.

Put it how we will, it cannot be denied that belief in divination, in
diabolic possession, and in magic, has largely contributed to belief in
spirits; and that to ignore this contribution by throwing the whole
burden on ordinary dreams is unscientific. During sleep Mr. Tylor
himself is as much a prey to delusion as the most primitive savage; but
the criteria by which on waking we condemn _most_ of our dreams as
illusions, seem really as accessible and obvious to the child or savage
as to the philosopher; though the former through carelessness or poverty
of language will perhaps say: "I saw," instead of: "I dreamt I saw."
Children will speak as it were historically of even their day-dreams
and imaginings, not from any untruthfulness or wish to deceive, but from
that romancing tendency rightly reprehended in their elders, who should
be alive to the conventional value of language. But the first and most
natural use of speech is simply to express and embody the thought that
is in us, not to assert, or affirm, or to instruct others. The child's
romancing is not intended as assertion, although so taken by prosaic
adults. It is from the same instinct which lies at the back of his
eternal monologue, of the "Let's pretend" by which he is for the moment
transformed into a soldier, or a steam-engine, or a horse. Eye-reading
without articulation is impossible for the beginner, and thought that is
not talked and acted is impossible for the child. Yet deeply as the
child is wrapped up in his dreams, there is nothing more certain than
that he is as clear as any adult as to the difference between romance
and fact; and so it is no doubt with the savage, who can hardly be
denied to have at least as much reason as an average child.

Closer study of the savage points to the conclusion that the civilized
man falls into the same error in his regard as many adults do with
respect to children, whom they fail hopelessly to interpret through lack
of imagination, and to whom they are but tedious and ridiculous when
they would fain be instructive and amusing; forgetting that the
difference between the two stages of life is rather in the size of the
toys played with, than in the way they are regarded. So too we are apt
to look on foreign, and still more on savage language, symbolism, ways,
and customs, as indicative of a far more radical difference and greater
inferiority of mental constitution and ethical instincts than really
exists. Mr. Kidd, in his book on Social Evolution, has contended with
some plausibility that the brain-power of the Bushman and of the Cockney
is much on a par at starting, and that the subsequent divergence is due
chiefly to education and moral training; and certainly much of the
evidence brought forward in Mr. Lang's volume seems to look that way. If
the aboriginal Australian has a faith in the immortality of the soul and
in a supreme God, the rewarder of righteousness, if he summarizes the
laws of God under the precept of unselfishness; if in all this he is but
a type of the universal savage, surely it were well if some of the
missionary zeal which is devoted to supplying the heathen with Bibles
which they cannot understand, were turned to the work of bringing our
own godless millions up to their religious level.

But this takes us to the second and still more interesting part of _The
Making of Religion_, which we shall have to discuss in the next section.
At present we only wish to insist that it is a mistake to assume that
because savages and children are, when compared with ourselves, so
little, therefore their thoughts and ideas can be understood with little
difficulty. Contrariwise, as the apparent difference in life and
language is greater, the deeper and more patient investigation will it
need to detect that radical sameness of mental and moral constitution
which binds men together far more than diversity of education and
environment can ever separate them. It is, therefore, exceedingly
unlikely that either the child or the savage should, by failing to
distinguish between dream and reality, introduce into his whole life
that incoherence which is just the distinguishing characteristic of
dreaming and lunacy. And, as a fact, do we really find the savage as
depressed, on waking, by a dreamt-of calamity as by a real one; or as
elated after a visionary scalping of foes as after a real victory? Does
he on waking look for the said scalps among his collection of trophies,
and is he perplexed and incensed at not finding them? Even if, like
ourselves, he has occasionally a very vivid and coherent dream
reconcilable with his waking circumstances, will he not judge of it by
the vast majority of his dreams which are palpable illusions, and not by
the few exceptional cases? If at times we ourselves doubt whether we
witnessed something or dreamt it, yet we do so not because the seeming
fact is one which makes for the existence of another world of a
different order to this, but for the very contrary reason. If the savage
only dreamt of the dead, he might find in this an evidence of their
survival, but he dreams far more often of the living, and that, with
circumstances which make the illusion manifest on waking. Seeing the awe
and terror which all men have of the supernatural region, we ought, on
the animistic hypothesis, to find among savages a great reluctance to go
to bed--"to sleep! Perchance to dream--aye, there's the rub!" But we do
not. Finally, just as the Chinese, who are supposed to mistake epilepsy
for possession, have, unfortunately for the supposition, got two
distinct words for the two phenomena, so it will doubtless be found that
there is no savage who has not some word to express illusion; or whose
language does not prove that he knows dreams are but dreams. We may well
doubt if even animals on waking are affected by their dreams as by
realities, or if a dog ever bit a man for a kick received in a dream. In
short the dream-theory of souls is plausible only in the gross, but
melts away under closer examination bit by bit.

Whether the S.P.R. will ever succeed in bottling a ghost, and in
submitting it to the tests necessary to convince science, matters
little. The real fruit of its labours will be to "convince men of sin,"
to convict science of being unscientific, and criticism of being
uncritical--of being biassed by fashion to the extent of refusing to
examine evidence which must be either admitted or explained away.
Scepticism and credulity alike are hostile both to science and religion,
and it is the common interest of these latter to secure a full
recognition, on the one side of the principle of faith, that with God
all things are possible; and on the other, of the principle of science
which is: to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.
Credulity tends to make the actual co-extensive with the possible; while
scepticism would limit the possible to the known actual. The true mind
would be one in which faith and criticism were so tempered as to secure
width without slovenliness, and exactitude without narrowness.


How, apart from the imperfect lingering tradition of some primitive
revelation, the belief in a surviving soul originates with contemporary
savages, or might have originated among still ruder past races, is a
question of some interest, not only for its own sake, but for the sake
of whatever little light it may throw upon the more vital question as to
the value of that belief. Had the doctrine of souls no other origin than
a false inference from the ordinary phenomena of sleeping and dreaming;
were it in no sense an instinctive belief, suggested perhaps and
confirmed by supernormal facts, it would still have interest for the
anthropologist as one of those almost necessary and universal errors
through which the human mind struggles to the truth, such as the errors
of astrology or alchemy; but it would in no way contribute to the
argument for immortality _ex consensu hominum_--an argument of much
avail when it is a case of man's instinctive judgments and primary
intuitions, which are God-given, but of ever less value in proportion as
there is a question of deductions, inferences, and self-formed
judgments. Even if we discard the dream-theory altogether, we get no
support from the consensus of savages as to the soul's survival, unless
we have reason to think that the facts on which their inference rests
are truly, and not only apparently, supernormal, and are, moreover, such
as leave no other inference possible.

We know only too well that there are universal fallacies as well as
universal truths of the human mind. For the practical necessities of
life the imagination stands to man in good stead, but as the inadequate
instrument of speculative thought its fertile deceitfulness is betrayed
in his very earliest attempts at philosophy; nor are his subsequent
efforts directed to anything else than the endeavour to correct and
allow for its refractions and distortions, to transcend its narrow
limitations, to force it to express, meanly and clumsily, truths which
otherwise it would entirely obscure and deny. There might well be facts,
nay, there are undoubtedly facts, which to the untutored mind
necessarily and always seem altogether supernormal, but which science
rightly explains to be, however unusual, yet natural, and in no way
outside the ordinary laws. So far as the marvels of sorcerers and
medicine-men are the work of chicanery, they will lack that persistence
and ubiquity which justifies the investigation of other marvels for
whose universality some basis must be sought in the uniform nature of
things. Cheats will not always and everywhere hit on the same plan, nor
will the independent testimony of false witnesses be found agreeing.

But if besides facts and appearances that science can really explain
away, there be a residue which takes us into a region wherein science as
yet has set no foot, then we may indeed be on our way to a confirmation
of the usually accepted arguments for immortality by which the
positivist may be met upon his own ground. In truth, metaphysical,
moral, and religious arguments, however much they may avail with
individuals who are subjectively disposed to receive them, cannot in
these days influence the crowd of men who need some sort of violence
offered to their intellect if they are to accept truths against which
they are biassed. The temper of the majority is positivist; it will
believe what it can see, touch, and handle, and no more. If then the
natural truth of the independent existence of spirits can be inade
experimentally evident--and _a priori_, why should it not?--men may not
like it, but they will have either to accept it, or to deny all that
they accept on like evidence. Such unwilling concession would of itself
make little for personal religion in the individual; but its widespread
acceptance could not fail to counteract the ethics of materialism, and
so prepare the way for perhaps a fuller return to religion on the part
of the many.

It is the belief, and perhaps the hope, of not a few men of light and
learning that a comparison of the results of the S.P.R. investigations
with those of anthropology touching the beliefs and superstitions of
savages and ruder races, may point to an order of facts which, with
reference to the admissions of existing science, are rightly called
supernormal, and yet which are in another sense strictly normal, namely,
with reference to that science of experimental psychology which, amid
the usual storm of ridicule and jealousy, is slowly struggling into
existence--ridicule from all devout slaves of the intellectual fashion
of the times; jealousy from the neighbour sciences of mental physiology
and neurology, which it declares bankrupt in the face of
newly-discovered liabilities.

So far this gathered evidence seems, in the eyes of some of its
interpreters, to point to a close connection, if not of being, at least
of influence, between soul and soul, such as binds each atom of matter
to every other; a connection which increases as we descend from the
above-ground level of full consciousness, through ever lower strata of
subconsciousness, to those hidden depths of unconscious operation from
which the most unintelligibly intelligent effects of the soul
proceed--as though, in the darkness, it were taught by God, and guided
blindfold by the hand of its Maker. In other words, the individuation of
souls is conceived to be somewhat like that of the separate branches of
the same tree which, traced downwards, run into a common root, from
whence they are differenced by every hour of their growth, yet not
disconnected, as though each several consciousness sprang from some
unconscious psychic basis common to all, wherein, like forgotten
memories, the experiences of all are buried, at a depth far beyond the
reach of all normal powers of reminiscence, yet through which terminus
of converging souls thoughts can, in our intenser moments, pass from
mind to mind,--reverberated as it were from the base, and thence caught
by the one consciousness altogether resonant to that particular
vibration. How far such an interpretation may favour pantheism, or
imperil personality, or involve a doctrine of "pre-existence," or of
innate ideas, is not for us here to discuss. If we are to judge it
fairly, it must be simply as a provisional working-hypothesis
explanatory of certain observations, and apart from all other
psychological theories with which it may seem in conflict. Truth will in
the end adjust itself with truth, but nothing is to be hoped from forced
and premature adjustments.

Mr. Lang's second and principal contention is that even if we allow the
animistic account of the belief in spirits, in no sense can we admit
that process by which belief in God is supposed to be a later
development of the belief in spirits, as though inequality among spirits
had given rise to aristocracy, and aristocracy to monarchy.

By God here we understand: "a primal eternal Being, author of all
things, the father and the friend of man, the invisible omniscient
guardian of morality," a definition which, while it fixes the high-water
mark of monotheism, yet only states with formidable distinctness what,
according to Mr. Lang, is found confusedly in the apprehension of the
rudest savages. There are two senses in which we can understand an
evolution of this idea of God; first, as Mr. Tylor understands it, in
the sense of a development by accretion from a simple germ, from the
idea of a phantasm nowise a god, to that of a spirit still lacking
divinity, thence to that of a Supreme Spirit in whom first the essential
definition of God is somewhat fulfilled. Secondly, it can be understood
strictly as a mere unfolding of the contents of a confused apprehension;
so that there is an advance only in point of coherence and distinctness.
Thus understood, the entire religious history of the race, as also of
the individual, viewed from its mental side, consists in an evolution of
the idea of God and culminates in a face-to-face seeing of God.

From the evidence amassed, or perhaps rather, sampled, by Mr. Lang it
would seem that, what we account the lowest races are in possession of a
confused idea of God, whencesoever derived, which is in substantial
agreement with the reflex conception contained in the above definition;
and that there is no existing series of intellectual stages whereby this
can be seen, as it were, in the act of growing out of previous simpler
ideas. Evolution in the direction of greater clearness and distinctness
is to be observed, as well as a downward process of obscuration and
confusion: but for a substantial development of the idea of God from an
idea of "not God" there is no proof forthcoming so far.

On the animistic hypothesis we should be prepared to find the notion of
God, as above stated, to be of very late development and accepted only
by races fairly advanced in culture. We should, _a priori_, deem it
impossible to discover more among the lower savages than a rude religion
of ghost-worship, without any consciousness of a moral Supreme Being,
the father and friend of man. Whatever might seem to suggest the
contrary, would be explainable by some infiltration of more civilized

Armed with this hypothesis the eye is quick "to see that it brings with
it the power of seeing," and to impose its own forms and schemata on the
phenomena offered to its observation. The "animist" ill-acquainted with
the savage's language and modes of thought; excluded from those inner
"mysteries" which figure in nearly every savage religion; confounding
the symbolism, the popular mythology, and also the corruptions,
distortions, and abuses which are the parasites of all religion, with
the religion itself, can easily come away with the impression that there
is nothing but ghost-worship, priestcraft, and superstition, no
conception whatever of a personal "Power that makes for Righteousness."
If Protestants have almost as crude an idea of the religion of their
Catholic fellow-Christians with whom they live side by side, and
converse in the same language, if they are so absolutely dominated by
their own form of religious thought, as to be as helpless as idiots in
the presence of any other, can we expect that the ordinary British
traveller, "brandishing his Bible and his bath," strong in the smug
conviction of his mental, moral, and religious preeminence, will be a
very sympathetic, conscientious, and reliable interpreter of the
religion of the Zulu or the Andamanese?

The fact is that without a preliminary hypothesis he would see nothing
at all except dire confusion. But an assumption such as that of
"animism," has the selective power of a magnet, drawing to itself all
congruous facts and little filings of probability, until it so bristles
over with evidence that a hedge-hog is easier to handle.

But before discussing the relation of this assumption to existing facts
and so bringing it to an _a posteriori_ test, let us examine its _a
priori_ supports.

First of all, as Mr. Lang points out, it takes for granted that the
savage can have no idea of the Creator until he conceive Him as a
spirit. "God is a spirit," has been dinned into our ears from childhood;
and hence we conclude that he who has no notion of a spirit can have no
notion of God; and that the idea of God is of later growth than that of
a ghost. In truth, he who ascribes to God a body does not know _all_
about Him; but which of us knows _all_ about God? The point is, not
whether the savage can know the metaphysics of divinity, but whether he
can conceive a primal eternal moral being, author of all things, man's
father and judge--a conception which abstracts entirely from the
question of matter and spirit. We ourselves, like the savage,
necessarily speak of God and imagine Him humanwise,--although our
instructed reason, at times, corrects the error of our fancy,--and
perhaps only "at times,"--only when we leave the ground of spontaneous
thought, to walk on metaphysical stilts--nor while that childish image
remains uncorrected and we neither affirm nor deny to Him a body, can
our notion be called false, however obscure it be and inadequate. If the
savage has no notion of spirit, yet he may have, and often seems to have
a very true, though of course infinitely imperfect, notion of God; nay,
perhaps a truer notion than those who affirm, without any sense of using
analogy, that God is a spirit. For if His spirituality is insisted on,
it is rather to exclude from Him the grossness and limitation of matter,
and to ascribe to Him a transcendental degree of whatever perfection our
notion of spirit may involve, than to classify Him, or to predicate of
Him that finite nature which we call a spirit. God is neither a spirit
nor a body; but rather like Ndengei of the Fijians: "an impersonation of
the abstract idea of eternal existence;" one who is to be "regarded as a
deathless _Being_, no question of 'spirit' being raised;" so that the
first intuition of the unsophisticated mind is found to be in more
substantial agreement with the last results of reflex philosophical
thought, than those early philosophizings which halt between the
affirmation and denial of bodily attributes, unable to prescind from the
difficulty and unable to solve it. The history of the Jews, nay, the
history of our own mind proves to demonstration that the thought of God
is a far easier thought and a far earlier, than that of a spirit. Our
mind, oar heart, our conscience, affirm the former instinctively, while
the latter does continual violence to our imagination, except so far as
spirit is misconceived to be an attenuated phantasmal body. Not only,
therefore, does the savage imagine God and speak of Him humanwise, as we
all do; but if he does not actually believe Him to be material, he at
least will be slow in mastering the thought of His spirituality.

Another assumption underlying the animistic hypothesis, and also
borrowed from Christian teaching, is that the savage regards the soul or
ghost as the liberated and consummated man, and that therefore he will
place God rather in the category of disembodied than of embodied men.
Yet not only the Greek and Roman, but even the Jew, looked on the shade
of the departed as a mere fraction of humanity, as a miserable residue
of man, helpless and hopeless, and withal disposed to be mischievous and
exacting, and therefore needing to be humoured in various ways. Nay,
even Christianity with its dogma of the bodily resurrection, denies that
Platonic doctrine which views the body as the prison rather than as the
complement and consort of the soul; although it holds the soul to be of
an altogether higher, because spiritual, order. But to the primitive
savage, who everywhere regards death as non-natural, as accidental and
violent, the surviving spirit, however uncertain-tempered and
incalculable in its movements, however much to be feared and
propitiated, does not command reverence as a being of a superior order.
At best it is: "Alas! poor ghost!" Better a live dog than a dead lion;
better the meanest slave that draws breath, than the monarch of Orcus.
Surely it is not in the region of shadows that the savage will look for
the great "all-father;" but in the world of solid, tangible realities.

Again, it is assumed that progress in one point is progress in all; that
because we surpass all other races and generations in physical science
and useful arts, we surpass them in every other way; and that they must
be far behind us in ethical and religious conceptions, as they are in
inventions and the production of comforts. To find our own theism and
morality among savages is therefore impossible; for as the crooked stick
is unto the steam-plough, so is the god of the savage unto the God of
Great Britain. Yet when we consider how closely religious and ethical
principles are intertwined, and how glaringly untrue it is to say that
industrial civilization makes for morality,--for purity or self-denial,
or justice, or truth, or honour: how manifestly it is accompanied with a
deterioration of the higher perceptions and tastes, we must surely pause
before taking it for granted that the course of true religion has been
running smoothly parallel to that of commerce.

In a thoughtful essay, entitled _The Disenchantment of France_, Mr. F.W.
Myers points out the goal towards which "progress" is leading us,
through the destruction of those four "illusions" which formerly gave
life all its value and dignity,--namely, belief in religion; devotion to
the State--whether to the prince or to the people; belief in the
eternity and spirituality of human love; belief in man's freedom and
imperishable personal unity. "I cannot avoid the conclusion," he says,
"that we are bound to be prepared for the worst. Yet by the worst I do
not mean any catastrophe of despair, any cosmic suicide, any world-wide
unchaining of the brute that lies pent in man. I mean merely the
peaceful, progressive, orderly triumph of _l'homme sensuel moyen_; the
gradual adaptation of hopes and occupations to a purely terrestrial
standard; the calculated pleasures of the cynic who is resolved to be a
dupe no more."

In other words, if we accept this very temperate and reluctant
conclusion, we must confess that the one-sided progress, with whose
all-sufficiency we are so thoroughly satisfied, is making straight for
the extermination, not only of religion, but of morality in any received
sense of the term.

But when Mr. Lang, who has no hypothesis of his own as to the origin of
belief in God, brings the animistic theory to an _a posteriori_ test, he
finds it encumbered with still greater difficulties; for nothing is as,
_a priori_, it ought to be.

While Mr. Tylor asserts "that no savage tribe of monotheists has ever
been known," but that all ascribe the attributes of deity to other
beings than the Almighty Creator, it appears in fact that many of the
rudest savages "are as monotheistic as some Christians. They have a
Supreme Being, and the 'distinctive attributes of deity' are not by them
assigned to other beings further than as Christianity assigns them to
angels, saints, the devil," &c. Catholics at least will readily
understand how hastily and unjustly the charge of polytheism is made by
the protestantized mind against any religion which believes in a
Heavenly Court as well as in a Heavenly Monarch. "Of the existence of a
belief in a Supreme Being" amongst the lowest savages, "there is as good
evidence as we possess for any fact in the ethnographic region. It is
certain that savages, when first approached by curious travellers and
missionaries, have again and again recognized our God in theirs."

If, therefore, belief in God grew out of belief in ghosts, it must have
been in some stage of culture lower than any of which we have experience
so far; and at some period which belongs to the region of hypothesis and
conjecture. There are no known tribes where ghosts are worshipped and
God is not known, or where the supposed process of development can be
watched in action. Nor is it only that links are missing, but one of the
very terms to be connected, namely, a godless race, is conjectural.
Still more unfortunate is it for the animists that evidence points to
the fact that advance in civilization often means the decay of
monotheism, and that the ruder races are the purer in their religious
and ethical conceptions. Once more, all facts are against the theory
that tribes transfer their earthly polity to the heavenly city; for
monotheism is found where monarchy is unknown. "God cannot be a
reflection from human kings where there are no kings; nor a president
elected out of a polytheistic society of gods, where there is as yet no
polytheism; nor an ideal first ancestor where men do not worship their
ancestors." To the substantiating of these facts Mr. Lang then applies
himself, and shows us how among the Australians, Red Indians, Figians,
Andamanese, Dinkas, Yao, Zulus, and all known savages there lives the
conception of a Supreme Being (not necessarily spirit) who is variously
styled Father, Master, Our Father, The Ancient One in the skyland, The
Great Father. He shows us, moreover, that this deity is the God of
conscience, a power making for goodness, a guardian and enforcer of the
interests of justice and truth and purity; good to the good, and froward
with the froward.

But surely, it will be said, all this is too paradoxical, too violently
in conflict with what is notorious concerning the religion and morality
of savages.

The reason of this seeming contradiction is, however, not altogether
difficult. It is to be found partly in the fact that religion, like
morality, being counter to those laws which govern the physical world
and the animal man,--to the law of egoism and competition and struggle
for existence; to the law that "might is right,"--tends from the very
nature of the case towards decay and disintegration. The movement of
material progress is in some sense a downhill movement. No doubt it
evokes much seeming virtue, such as is necessary to secure the end; but
the motive force is one with regard to which man is passive rather than
active, a slave rather than a master, as a miser is in respect to that
passion which stimulates him to struggle for gain. Religion and morality
are uphill work, needing continual strain and attention if the motive
force is to be maintained at all. Huxley, in one of his later
utterances, allowed this with regard to morality; and it is not less but
more true with regard to faith in the value of unseen realities. Even if
belief in a moral God be as natural to man as are the promptings of
conscience, it ought not to surprise us that it should be as universally
stifled, neglected, seemingly denied, as conscience is. It is not
usually in old age and after years of conflict with the world that
conscience is most sensitive and faithful to light, but rather in early
childhood. And similarly the sense of God and of His will is apparently
more strong and lively in the childhood of races than after it has been
stifled by the struggle for wealth and pre-eminence--

When yet I had not walked above
A mile or two from my first love:
But felt through all this fleshly dress
Bright shoots of everlastingness. [2]

Degradation may almost be considered a law of religion and morality
which needs some kind of violent counteraction, some continual
intervention and providence, if it is to be kept in check. After all,
this is only a dressing-up of the old platitude that a holy life means
continual warfare and straining of the spirit against the flesh, of the
moral order against the physical order, of altruism or the true egoism
against selfishness or the false egoism. Of course an ideal civilization
would help and not hinder religion; but the chances against civilization
being ideal are so large as to make it historically true that, advance
in civilization does not always mean advance in religion and morality,
and often means decay.

Far from animism being the root of theism, more often it is rather the
ivy that grows up about it, hides it and chokes it. Just because the
demands of religion and morality are so burdensome to men, they will
ever seek short-cuts to salvation; and the intercession of presumably
corruptible courtiers will be secured to win the favour, or avert the
displeasure, of the rigorously incorruptible and inexorable King, who is
"no respecter of persons." Except among Jews and Christians, the Supreme
Being is nowhere worshipped with sacrifice--that service of
food-offering being reserved for subordinate deities susceptible to
gentle bribery. The great God of conscience is naturally the least
popular object of cultus; though, were the animists right, He should be
the most popular, seeing He would be the latest development demanded and
created by the popular mind. But contrariwise, He tends to recede more
and more into the background, behind the ever-multiplying crowd of
patron-spirits, guardians, family-gods; till, as in Greece and Rome, He
is almost entirely obscured, "an unknown God ignorantly worshipped"--the
End, as usual, being forgotten and buried in the means. All this process
of degradation will be hastened by the corruption of priests whose
avarice or ambition, as Mr. Lang says, will tempt them to exploit the
lucrative elements in religion at the expense of the ethical; to
whittle-away the decrees of God and conscience to suit the wealthy and
easy-going; to substitute purchasable sacrifice, for obedience; and the
fat of rams, for charity. We need only look to the history of Israel and
of the Christian Church to see all these tendencies continually at work,
and only held in check by innumerable interventions of Divine
Providence, and of that Spirit which is always striving with man.

Scant, however, as may be the amount of direct worship accorded to the
Supreme God, compared with that received by subordinate spiritual
powers, yet it is _sui generis_, and of an infinitely higher order. The
familiar distinction of _latria_ and _dulia_ seems to obtain everywhere;
as also that between _Elohim_ and _Javeh_, that is, between supernal
beings in general, and the Supreme Being who is also supernal. Yet so
excessive in quantity is the secondary cultus compared with the primary,
that an outsider may well be pardoned for thinking that there is nothing
beyond what meets the eye on every side. As has been said, the Supreme
Being alone is usually considered above the weakness of caring for
sacrifice, or for external worship in "temples made with hands." His
name is commonly tabooed, only to be whispered in those mysteries of
initiation which are met with so universally. Outside these mysteries He
may only be spoken of in parables and myths, grotesque, irreverent,
designed to conceal rather than to reveal. But rarely is there an image
or an altar to this unknown God.

It is easy for those who recognize no other religion among savages
behind the popular observances and cults which are so much to the front,
to believe that early religion is non-ethical. For indeed, for the most
part, all this secondary cultus is directed to the mitigation of the
moral code and the substitution of exterior for interior sacrifice. It
is the result of an endeavour to compound with conscience; and to hide
away sins from the all-seeing eye. Again it is chiefly in the secrecy of
the mysteries that the higher ethical doctrine is propounded--a doctrine
usually covering all the substantials of the decalogue; and in some
cases, approaching the Christian summary of the same under the one
heading of love and unselfishness. As for the corrupt lives of savages,
if it proves their religion to be non-ethical, what should we have to
think of Christianity? We cry out in horror against cannibalism as the
_ne plus ultra_ of wickedness., but except so far as it involves murder,
it is hard to find in it more than a violation of our own convention,
while a mystical mind might find more to say for it than for cremation.
Certainly it is not so bad as slander and backbiting. Human sacrifice
offered to the Lord of life and death at His own behest, is something
that did not seem wicked and inconceivable to Abraham. Head-hunting is
not a pretty game; nor is scalping and mutilation the most generous
treatment of a fallen foe; yet war has seen worse things done by those
who professed an ethical religion.

But, chief among the causes why savage religion has been so
misrepresented, is the almost universal co-existence of a popularized
form of religion addressed to the imagination, with that which speaks to
the understanding alone. As has already been said, man's imagination is
at war with his intelligence when supersensible realities, such as God
and the soul, are in question. Without figures we cannot think; yet the
timeless and spaceless world can ill be figured after the likeness of
things limited by time and space. This mental law is the secret of the
invariable association of mythology with religion. Setting aside the
problem as to how the truths of natural religion (_sc._ that there is a
God the rewarder of them that seek Him) are first brought home to man,
it is certain that if he does not receive them embedded in history or
parable, in spoken or enacted symbolism, he will soon fix and record
them in some such language for himself. Christ recognized the necessity
of speaking to the multitude in parables, not attempting to precise or
define the indefinable; but contenting Himself with: "The Kingdom of
Heaven is _like_," &c. "I am content," says Sir Thomas Browne, "to
understand a mystery without a rigid definition, in an easie and
Platonick description," and it is only through such easie and Platonick
descriptions that spiritual truth can slowly be filtered into the
popular mind. Still when we consider how prone all metaphors are to be
pressed inexactly, either too far, or else not far enough, how abundant
a source they are of misapprehension, owing to the curiosity that will
not be content to have the gold in the ore, but must needs vainly strive
to refine it out, we can well understand how mythology tends to corrupt
and debase religion if it be not continually watched and weeded; and
how, being, from the nature of the case, ever to the front, ever on
men's lips and mingling with their lives, it should seem to the outsider
to be not the imperfect garment of religion, but a substitute for it.
Yet in some sense these mythologies are a safeguard of reverence in that
they provide a theme for humour and profanity and rough handling, which
is thus expended, not on the sacred realities themselves, but on their
shadows and images. Among certain savages God's personal name is too
holy to be breathed but in mysteries; yet His mythological substitute is
represented to be as grotesque, freakish, and immoral as the Zeus of the
populace. We can hardly enter into such a frame of mind, though possibly
the irreverences and buffooneries of some of the miracle-plays of the
middle ages are similarly to be explained as the rebound from the strain
incident to a continual sense of the nearness of the supernatural; and
perhaps the _Messer Domeniddio_ of the Florentines stood rather for a
mental effigy that might be played with, than for the reasoned
conception of the dread Deity. If we possessed a minutely elaborated
history of the Good Shepherd and His adventures, or of the Prodigal's
father, or of the Good Samaritan, interspersed with all manner of
ludicrous and profane incidents, and losing sight of the original
purport of the figure, we should have something like a mythology. Were
it not stereotyped as part of an inspired record, the mere romancing
tendency of the imagination would easily have added continually to the
original parable, wholly forgetful of its spiritual significance.

It is part of the very economy of the Incarnation to meet this weakness,
to provide for this want of the human mind; to satisfy the imagination
as well as the intelligence. Here Divine truth has received a Divine
embodiment, has been set forth in the language of deeds, in a real and
not in a fictitious history. Sacrifice and sacrament, and every kind of
natural religious symbolism, has been appropriated and consecrated to
the service of truth and to the fullest utterance of God that such weak
accents will stretch to. Here the channel of communication between
Heaven and earth is not of man's creation but of God's; or at least is
of God's composition. This is the great difference between the ethnic
religions and a religion that professes to be revealed--that is, spoken
by God and put into language by Him. The latter is, so to say, cased in
an incorruptible body, its very expression being chosen and sealed for
ever with Divine approval, and rescued from the fluent and unstable
condition of religions whose clothes are the works of men's hands. Here
it is that Catholic Christianity stands out as altogether catholic and
human, adapted as it is to the world-wide cravings of the religious
instinct; satisfying the imagination and the emotions, no less than the
intellect and the will; and yet saving us from the perils of the
myth-making tendency of our mind.

The same thought is pressed upon us when we view the collective evidence
as to the universal demand for a mediatorial system--for intercessors,
and patrons, for a heavenly court surrounding the Heavenly Monarch; a
demand often created by and tending to a degradation of purer religion,
yet most surely embodying and expressing a spiritual instinct which is
only fully explained and satisfied by the Catholic doctrine of the
communion of saints and souls in one great society, labouring for a
conjoint salvation and beatitude. We Catholics know well enough that the
degraded and superstitious will pervert saint-worship as they pervert
other good things to their own hurt and to God's dishonour, but we also
know that of itself the doctrine of the Heavenly Court is altogether in
the interests of the very highest and purest religion. In all this
matter, needless to say, Mr. Lang is not with us; but the affinities of
Catholicism with universal religion, which he marks to our prejudice,
are really in some sort proof of our contention that the Church is the
divinely conceived fulfilment of all man's natural religious instincts,
providing harmless and healthy outlets for humours otherwise dangerous
and morbid; never forgetful of man's double nature and its claims,
neither wearying him with an impossible intellectualism--a religion of
pure philosophy--not suffering him to be the prey of mere imagination
and sentiment, but tempering the divine and human, the thought and the
word, so as to bring all his faculties under the yoke of Christ.

Mr. Lang's concern is with the universality of belief in God the
Rewarder, not with its origin nor even its value; though he seems at
times to imply that the solution may be found in a primitive revelation
of some sort. For ourselves, accordant as such a notion would be with
popular Christian tradition, we do not think that the adduced evidence
needs that hypothesis; but is explained sufficiently by "the hypothesis
of St. Paul," which, as Mr. Lang admits, "seem not the most
unsatisfactory." The mere verbal tradition of a primitive "deposit" not
committed to any authorized guardians would, to say the least, be a
hazardous and conjectural way of accounting for the facts; nor is there
any evidence offered to show that such religious beliefs are held, as
the Catholic religion is, on the authority of antiquity, interpreted by
a living voice. The substance of this elementary religion--the existence
of God the Rewarder of them that seek Him--is naturally suggested to the
simple-minded by the data of unspoilt conscience, confirmed and
supplemented by the spectacle of Nature. That the truth would be
borne-in on a solitary and isolated soul we need not maintain; for in
solitude and isolation man is not man, and neither reason nor language
can develop aright. Further we may allow that as Nature or God provides
for society, and therefore for individuals, by an equal distribution of
gifts and talents, giving some to be politicians, others poets, others
philosophers, others inventors, so He gives to some what might be called
natural religious genius or talent or spiritual insight, for the benefit
of the community. Thus whatever be true of the individual savage, we
cannot well suppose that any tribe or people, taken collectively, should
fail to draw the fundamental truths of religion from the data of
conscience and nature. In this sense no doubt they would become
traditional--the common property of all--so that the innate facility of
each individual mind in regard to them would be stimulated and
supplemented by suggestion from without.

How far God can be said actually to "speak" to the soul through
conscience or through Nature so as to make faith, in the strict sense of
reliance on the word of another, possible, is for theologians to
discuss. If besides expressing these truths in creation or in
conscience, He also expresses in some way His intention to reveal them
to the particular soul, we have all that is requisite. In what way, or
innumerable ways He makes His voice heard in every human heart day by
day, and causes general truths to be brought near and recognized and
received as a particular message, each can answer best for himself.

But undoubtedly the results of comparative religion are, so far, almost
entirely favourable to the doctrine of God's all-saving will; and in
many other points confirmatory of received beliefs. Even where, for
example, in the question of the origin and meaning of sacrifice, they
seem to necessitate a modification of the somewhat elaborate _a priori_
definition, popular in some modern schools (though not in them all), yet
that modification is altogether favourable to the sounder conception of
the Eucharistic Sacrifice as a food-offering complementary to the
Sacrifice of the Cross. Above all it is in bringing out the unity of
type between natural ethnic religions, and that revealed Catholic
religion which is their correction and fulfilment, that the studies of
Mr. Lang and Mr. Jevons are of such service. The militant Protestant
delights to dwell on the analogies between Romanism and Paganism; we too
may dwell on them with delight, as evidence of that substantial unity of
the human mind which underlies all surface diversities of mode and
language, and binds together, as children of one family, all who believe
in God the Rewarder of them that seek Him, who is no respecter of
persons. What man in his darkness and sinfulness has feebly been trying
to utter in every nation from the beginning, that God has formulated and
written down for him in the great Catholic religion of the Word made

Which he may read that binds the sheaf
Or builds the house, or digs the grave,
And those wild eyes that watch the wave
In roarings round the coral reef.

True, even could it be established beyond all doubt that belief in the
one God were universal among rude and uncultivated races, this would not
add any new proof to the truth of religion, unless it could be shown
that it was really an instinctive, inwritten judgment, and not one of
those many natural fallacies into which all men fall until they are
educated out of them. Still, for those who do not need conviction on
this point, it is no slight consolation to be assured that simplicity
and savagery do not shut men out from the truths best worth knowing;
that even where the earthen vessel is most corrupted, the heavenly
treasure is not altogether lost; that it is only those who deliberately
go in search of obscurities who need stumble. It was not the crowds of
pagandom that St. Paul censured, but the philosophers. God made man's
feet for the earth, and not for the tight-rope. Whatever be the truth
about Idealism, man is by nature a Realist; and similarly he is by
nature a theist, until he has studiously learnt to balance himself in
the non-natural pose.

Will a man be excused for deliberately dashing his foot against a stone
because forsooth he has persuaded himself with Zeno, that there is no
such thing as motion; or with Berkeley, that the externality of the
world is a delusion; or will he be pardoned in his unbelief because he
could not justify by philosophy the truth which conscience and nature
are dinning into his ears: that there is a God the Rewarder of them that
seek Him?

_Sept. Oct._ 1898.


[Footnote 1: "A hysterical fit indicates a lamentable instability of the
nervous system. But it is by no means certain _a priori_ that every

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