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The Making of Religion by Andrew Lang

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[Footnote 13: _Proceedings_, xii. 7, 8.]

[Footnote 14: _Personal Narrative_, by M. Zoller. Hanke, Zurich, 1863.]

[Footnote 15: Daumer, _Reich des Wundersamen_, Regensburg, 1872,
pp. 265, 266.]

[Footnote 16: A criticism of modern explanations of the phenomena here
touched upon will be found in Appendix B.]

[Footnote 17: See Appendix B.]



To the anthropological philosopher 'a plain man' would naturally put the
question: 'Having got your idea of spirit or soul--your theory of
Animism--out of the idea of ghosts, and having got your idea of ghosts out
of dreams and visions, how do you get at the Idea of God?' Now by 'God'
the proverbial 'plain man' of controversy means a primal eternal Being,
author of all things, the father and friend of man, the invisible,
omniscient guardian of morality.

The usual though not invariable reply of the anthropologist might be given
in the words of Mr. Im Thurn, author of a most interesting work on the
Indians of British Guiana:

'From the notion of ghosts,' says Mr. Im Thurn, 'a belief has arisen, but
very gradually, in higher spirits, and eventually in a Highest Spirit,
and, keeping pace with the growth of these beliefs, a habit of reverence
for, and worship of spirits.... The Indians of Guiana know no God.'[1]

As another example of Mr. Im Thurn's hypothesis that God is a late
development from the idea of spirit may be cited Mr. Payne's learned
'History of the New World,' a work of much research:[2]

'The lowest savages not only have no gods, but do not even recognise those
lower beings usually called spirits, the conception of which has
invariably preceded that of gods in the human mind.'

Mr. Payne here differs, _toto caelo_, from Mr. Tylor, who finds no
sufficient proof for wholly non-religious savages, and from Roskoff, who
has disposed of the arguments of Sir John Lubbock. Mr. Payne, then, for
ethnological purposes, defines a god as 'a benevolent spirit, permanently
embodied in some tangible object, usually an image, and to whom food,
drink,' and so on, 'are regularly offered for the purpose of securing
assistance in the affairs of life.'

On this theory 'the lowest savages' are devoid of the idea of god or of
spirit. Later they develop the idea of spirit, and when they have secured
the spirit, as it were, in a tangible object, and kept it on board wages,
then the spirit has attained to the dignity and the savage to the
conception of a god. But while a god of this kind is, in Mr. Payne's
opinion, relatively a late flower of culture, for the hunting races
generally (with some exceptions) have no gods, yet 'the conception of a
creator or maker of all things ... obviously a great spirit' is 'one of
the earliest efforts of primitive logic.'[3]

Mr. Payne's own logic is not very clear. The 'primitive logic' of the
savage leads him to seek for a cause or maker of things, which he finds in
a great creative spirit. Yet the lowest savages have no idea even of
spirit, and the hunting races, as a rule, have no god. Does Mr. Payne mean
that a great creative spirit is _not_ a god, while a spirit kept on board
wages in a tangible object is a god? We are unable, by reason of evidence
later to be given, to agree with Mr. Payne's view of the facts, while his
reasoning appears somewhat inconsistent, the lowest savages having, in his
opinion, no idea of spirit, though the idea of a creative spirit is, for
all that, one of the earliest efforts of primitive logic.

On any such theories as these the belief in a moral Supreme Being is a
very late (or a very early?) result of evolution, due to the action of
advancing thought upon the original conception of ghosts. This opinion of
Mr. Im Thurn's is, roughly stated, the usual theory of anthropologists.
We wish, on the other hand, to show that the idea of God, as he is
conceived of by our inquiring plain man, is shadowed forth (among
contradictory fables) in the lowest-known grades of savagery, and
therefore cannot arise from the later speculation of men, comparatively
civilised and advanced, on the original datum of ghosts. We shall
demonstrate, contrary to the opinion of Mr. Spencer, Mr. Huxley, and even
Mr. Tylor, that the Supreme Being, and, in one case at least, the casual
sprites of savage faith, are active moral influences. What is even more
important, we shall make it undeniable that Anthropology has simplified
her problem by neglecting or ignoring her facts. While the real problem is
to account for the evolution out of ghosts of the eternal, creative moral
god of the 'plain man,' the germ of such a god or being in the creeds of
the lowest savages is by anthropologists denied, or left out of sight, or
accounted for by theories contradicted by facts, or, at best, is explained
away as a result of European or Islamite influences. Now, as the problem
is to account for the evolution of the highest conception of God, as far
as that conception exists among the most backward races, the problem can
never be solved while that highest conception of God is practically

Thus, anthropologists, as a rule, in place of facing and solving their
problem, have merely evaded it--doubtless unwittingly. This, of course, is
not the practice of Mr. Tylor, though even his great work is professedly
much more concerned with the development of the idea of spirit and with
the lower forms of animism than with the real crux--the evolution of the
idea (always obscured by mythology) of a moral, uncreated, undying God
among the lowest savages. This negligence of anthropologists has arisen
from a single circumstance. They take it for granted that God is always
(except where the word for God is applied to a living human being)
regarded as Spirit. Thus, having accounted for the development of the
idea of spirit, they regard God as that idea carried to its highest
power, and as the final step in its evolution. But, if we can show that
the early idea of an undying, moral, creative being does not necessarily
or logically imply the doctrine of spirit (or ghost), then this idea of an
eternal, moral, creative being may have existed even before the doctrine
of spirit was evolved.

We may admit that Mr. Tylor's account of the process by which Gods were
evolved out of ghosts is a little _touffu_--rather buried in facts. We
'can scarcely see the wood for the trees.' We want to know how Gods,
makers of things (or of most things), fathers in heaven, and friends,
guardians of morality, seeing what is good or bad in the hearts of men,
were evolved, as is supposed, out of ghosts or surviving souls of the
dead. That such moral, practically omniscient Gods are known to the very
lowest savages--Bushmen, Fuegians, Australians--we shall demonstrate.

Here the inquirer must be careful not to adopt the common opinion that
Gods improve, morally and otherwise, in direct ratio to the rising grades
in the evolution of culture and civilisation. That is not necessarily the
case; usually the reverse occurs. Still less must we take it for granted,
following Mr. Tylor and Mr. Huxley, that the 'alliance [of religion and
morality] belongs almost, or wholly, to religions above the savage
level--not to the earlier and lower creeds;' or that 'among the Australian
savages,' and 'in its simplest condition,' 'theology is wholly independent
of ethics.'[4] These statements can be proved (by such evidence as
anthropology is obliged to rely upon) to be erroneous. And, just because
these statements are put forward, Anthropology has an easier task in
explaining the origin of religion; while, just because these statements
are incorrect, her conclusion, being deduced from premises so far false,
is invalidated.

Given souls, acquired by thinking on the lines already described, Mr.
Tylor develops Gods out of them. But he is not one of the writers who is
certain about every detail. He 'scarcely attempts to clear away the haze
that covers great parts of the subject.'[5]

The human soul, he says, has been the model on which man 'framed his
ideas of spiritual beings in general, from the tiniest elf that sports
in the grass up to the heavenly creator and ruler of the world, the
Great Spirit.' Here it is taken for granted that the Heavenly Ruler was
from the first envisaged as a '_spiritual_ being'-which is just the
difficulty. Was He?[6]

The process of framing these ideas is rather obscure. The savage 'lives
in terror of the souls of the dead as harmful spirits.' This might yield
a Devil; it would not yield a God who 'makes for righteousness.'
Happily, 'deified ancestors are regarded, on the whole, as kindly
spirits.' The dead ancestor is 'now passed into a deity.'[7] Examples of
ancestor-worship follow. But we are no nearer home. For among the Zulus
many Amatongo (ancestral spirits) are sacred. 'Yet their father
[i.e. the father of each actual family] is far before all others when
they worship the Amatongo.... They do not know the ancients who are dead,
nor their laud-giving names, nor their names.'[8] Thus, each new
generation of Zulus must have a new first worshipful object--its own
father's Itongo. This father, and his very name, are, in a generation or
two, forgotten. The name of such a man, therefore, cannot survive as that
of the God or Supreme Being from age to age; and, obviously, such a real
dead man, while known at all, is much too well known to be taken for the
creator and ruler of the world, despite some African flattering titles and
superstitions about kings who control the weather. The Zulus, about
as 'godless' a people as possible, have a mythical first ancestor,
Unkulunkulu, but he is 'beyond the reach of rites,' and is a centre of
myths rather than of worship or of moral ideas [9]

After other examples of ancestor-worship, Mr. Tylor branches off into a
long discussion of the theory of 'possession' or inspiration,[10] which
does not assist the argument at the present point. Thence he passes to
fetishism (already discussed by us), and the transitions from the
fetish--(1) to the idol; (2) to the guardian angel ('subliminal self');
(3) to tree and river spirits, and local spirits which cause volcanoes;
and (4) to polytheism. A fetish may inhabit a tree; trees being
generalised, the fetish of one oak becomes the god of the forest. Or,
again, fetishes rise into 'species gods;' the gods of _all_ bees, owls,
or rabbits are thus evolved.


'As chiefs and kings are among men, so are the great gods among the lesser
spirits.... With little exception, wherever a savage or barbaric system of
religion is thoroughly described, great gods make their appearance in the
spiritual world as distinctly as chiefs in the human tribe.'

Very good; but whence comes the great God among tribes which have neither
chief nor king and probably never had, as among the Fuegians, Bushmen, and
Australians? The maker and ruler of the world known to _these_ races
cannot be the shadow of king or chief, reflected and magnified on the mist
of thought; for chief or king these peoples have none. This theory
(Hume's) will not work where people have a great God but no king or
chief; nor where they have a king but no Zeus or other supreme King-god,
as (I conceive) among the Aztecs.

We now reach, in Mr. Tylor's theory, great fetish deities, such as Heaven
and Earth, Sun and Moon, and 'departmental deities,' gods of Agriculture,
War, and so forth, unknown to low savages.

Next Mr. Tylor introduces an important personage. 'The theory of family
Manes, carried back to tribal Gods, leads to the recognition of superior
deities of the nature of Divine Ancestor, or First Man,' who sometimes
ranks as Lord of the Dead. As an instance, Mr. Tylor gives the Maori Maui,
who, like the Indian Yama, trod first of men the path of death. But
whether Maui and Yama are the Sun, or not, both Maori and Sanskrit
religion regard these heroes as much later than the Original Gods. In
Kamschatka the First Man is the 'son' of the Creator, and it is about the
origin of the idea of the Creator, not of the First Man, that we are
inquiring. Adam is called 'the son of God' in a Biblical genealogy, but,
of course, Adam was made, not begotten. The case of the Zulu belief will
be analysed later. On the whole, we cannot explain away the conception
of the Creator as a form of the conception of an idealised divine
First Ancestor, because the conception of a Creator occurs where
ancestor-worship does not occur; and again, because, supposing that the
idea of a Creator came first, and that ancestor-worship later grew more
popular, the popular idea of Ancestor might be transferred to the waning
idea of Creator. The Creator might be recognised as the First Ancestor,
_apres coup_.

Mr. Tylor next approaches Dualism, the idea of hostile Good and Bad
Beings. We must, as he says, be careful to discount European teaching,
still, he admits, the savage has this dualistic belief in a 'primitive'
form. But the savage conception is not merely that of 'good = friendly
to me,' 'bad = hostile to me.' Ethics, as we shall show, already come into
play in his theology.

Mr. Tylor arrives, at last, at the Supreme Being of savage creeds. His
words, well weighed, must be cited textually--

'To mark off the doctrines of monotheism, closer definition is required
[than the bare idea of a Supreme Creator], assigning the distinctive
attributes of Deity to none save the Almighty Creator. It may be declared
that, in this strict sense, no savage tribe of monotheists has been ever
known.[12] Nor are any fair representatives of the lower culture in a
strict sense pantheists. The doctrine which they do widely hold, and
which opens to them a course tending in one or other of these directions,
is polytheism culminating in the rule of one supreme divinity. High above
the doctrine of souls, of divine Manes, of local nature gods, of the great
gods of class and element, there are to be discerned in barbaric theology,
shadowings, quaint or majestic, of the conception of a Supreme Deity,
henceforth to be traced onward in expanding power and brightening glory
along the history of Religion. It is no unimportant task, partial as it
is, to select and group the typical data which show the nature and
position of the doctrine of supremacy, as it comes into view within the
lower culture.[13]

We shall show that certain low 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, and, strange as
it appears, among savages, to mediating 'Sons.'

It is not known that, among the Andamanese and other tribes, this last
notion is due to missionary influence. But, in regard to the whole chapter
of savage Supreme Beings, we must, as Mr. Tylor advises, keep watching for
Christian and Islamite contamination. The savage notions, as Mr. Tylor
says, even when thus contaminated, may have 'to some extent, a native
substratum.' We shall select such savage examples of the idea of a
Supreme Being as are attested by ancient native hymns, or are inculcated
in the most sacred and secret savage institutions, the religious Mysteries
(manifestly the last things to be touched by missionary influence), or are
found among low insular races defended from European contact by the
jealous ferocity and poisonous jungles of people and soil. We also note
cases in which missionaries found such native names as 'Father,' 'Ancient
of Heaven,' 'Maker of All,' ready-made to their hands.

It is to be remarked that, while this branch of the inquiry is practically
omitted by Mr. Spencer, Mr. Tylor can spare for it but some twenty pages
out of his large work. He arranges the probable germs of the savage
idea of a Supreme Being thus: A god of the polytheistic crowd is simply
raised to the primacy, which, of course, cannot occur where there is no
polytheism. Or the principle of Manes worship may make a Supreme Deity
out of 'a primeval ancestor' say Unkulunkulu, who is so far from being
supreme, that he is abject. Or, again, a great phenomenon or force in
Nature-worship, say Sun, or Heaven, is raised to supremacy. Or speculative
philosophy ascends from the Many to the One by trying to discern through
and beyond the universe a First Cause. Animistic conceptions thus reach
their utmost limit in the notion of the Anima Mundi. He may accumulate all
powers of all polytheistic gods, or he may 'loom vast, shadowy, and
calm ... too benevolent to need human worship ... too merely existent to
concern himself with the petty race of men.'[14] But he is always

Now, in addition to the objections already noted in passing, how can we
tell that the Supreme Being of low savages was, in original conception,
_animistic_ at all? How can we know that he was envisaged, originally, as
_Spirit_? We shall show that he probably was not, that the question
'spirit or not spirit' was not raised at all, that the Maker and Father in
Heaven, prior to Death, was merely regarded as a deathless _Being_, no
question of 'spirit' being raised. If so, Animism was not needed for
the earliest idea of a moral Eternal. This hypothesis will be found to
lead to some very singular conclusions.

It will be more fully stated and illustrated, presently, but I find that
it had already occurred to Dr. Brinton.[15] He is talking specially of a
heaven-god; he says 'it came to pass that the idea of God was linked to
the heavens _long ere man asked himself, Are the heavens material and God
spiritual_?' Dr. Brinton, however, does not develop his idea, nor am I
aware that it has been developed previously.

The notion of a God about whose spirituality nobody has inquired is new to
us. To ourselves, and doubtless or probably to barbarians on a certain
level of culture, such a Divine Being _must_ be animistic, _must_ be a
'spirit.' To take only one case, to which we shall return, the Banks
Islanders (Melanesia) believe in ghosts, 'and in the existence of Beings
who were not, and never had been, human. All alike might be called
spirits,' says Dr. Codrington, but, _ex hypothesi_, the Beings 'who
never were human' are only called 'spirits,' by us, because our habits of
thought do not enable us to envisage them _except_ as 'spirits.' They
never were men, 'the natives will always maintain that he (the _Vui_) was
_something different_, and deny to him the fleshly body of a man,' while
resolute that he was not a ghost.[16]

This point will be amply illustrated later, as we study that strangely
neglected chapter, that essential chapter, the Higher beliefs of the
Lowest savages. Of the existence of a belief in a Supreme Being, not as
merely 'alleged,' 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 recognised our God in theirs.

The mythical details and fables about the savage God are, indeed,
different; the ethical, benevolent, admonishing, rewarding, and creative
aspects of the Gods are apt to be the same.[17]

'There is no necessity for beginning to tell even the most degraded of
these people of the existence of God, or of a future state, 'the facts
being universally admitted.'[18]

'Intelligent men among the Bakwains have scouted the idea of any of them
ever having been without a tolerably clear conception of good and evil,
God and the future state; Nothing we indicate as sin ever appeared to
them as otherwise,' except polygamy, says Livingstone.

Now we may agree with Mr. Tylor that modern theologians, familiar
with savage creeds, will scarcely argue that 'they are direct or
nearly direct products of revelation' (vol. ii. p. 356). But we may
argue that, considering their nascent ethics (denied or minimised by many
anthropologists) and the distance which separates the high gods of
savagery from the ghosts out of which they are said to have sprung;
considering too, that the relatively pure and lofty element which, _ex
hypothesi_, is most recent in evolution, is also, _not_ the most honoured,
but often just the reverse; remembering, above all, that we know nothing
historically of the mental condition of the founders of religion, we may
hesitate to accept the anthropological hypothesis _en masse_. At best
it is conjectural, and the facts are such that opponents have more
justification than is commonly admitted for regarding the bulk of
savage religion as degenerate, or corrupted, from its own highest
elements. I am by no means, as yet, arguing positively in favour of that
hypothesis, but I see what its advocates mean, or ought to mean, and the
strength of their position. Mr. Tylor, with his unique fairness, says
'the degeneration theory, no doubt in some instances with justice, may
claim such beliefs as mutilated and perverted remains of higher religion'
(vol. ii. p. 336).

I do not pretend to know how the lowest savages evolved the theory of a
God who reads the heart and 'makes for righteousness,' It is as easy,
almost, for me to believe that they 'were not left without a witness,'
as to believe that this God of theirs was evolved out of the maleficent
ghost of a dirty mischievous medicine-man.

Here one may repeat that while the 'quaint or majestic foreshadowings'
of a Supreme Being, among very low savages, are only sketched lightly
by Mr. Tylor; in Mr. Herbert Spencer's system they seem to be almost
omitted. In his 'Principles of Sociology' and 'Ecclesiastical
Institutions' one looks in vain for an adequate notice; in vain for almost
any notice, of this part of his topic. The watcher of conduct, the
friendly, creative being of low savage faith, whence was he evolved? The
circumstance of his existence, as far as I can see; the chastity, the
unselfishness, the pitifulness, the loyalty to plighted word, the
prohibition of even extra-tribal homicide, enjoined in various places on
his worshippers, are problems that appear somehow to have escaped
Mr. Spencer's notice. We are puzzled by endless difficulties in his
system: for example as to how savages can forget their great-grandfathers'
very names, and yet remember 'traditional persons from generation to
generation,' so that 'in time any amount of expansion and idealisation can
be reached,'[19]

Again, Mr. Spencer will argue that it is a strange thing if 'primitive men
had, as some think, the consciousness of a Universal Power whence they and
all other things proceeded,' and yet 'spontaneously performed to that
Power an act like that performed by them to the dead body of a fellow
savage'--by offerings of food.[20]

Now, first, there would be nothing strange in the matter if the crude idea
of 'Universal Power' came _earliest_, and was superseded, in part, by a
later propitiation of the dead and ghosts. The new religious idea would
soon refract back on, and influence by its ritual, the older conception.
And, secondly, it is precisely this 'Universal Power' that is _not_
propitiated by offerings of food, in Tonga, (despite Mr. Huxley)
Australia, and Africa, for example. We cannot escape the difficulty by
saying that there the old ghost of Universal Power is regarded as dead,
decrepit, or as a _roi-faineant_ not worth propitiating, for that is not
true of the punisher of sin, the teacher of generosity, and the solitary
sanction of faith between men and peoples.

It would appear then, on the whole, that the question of the plain man to
the anthropologist, 'Having got your idea of spirit into the savage's
mind, how does he develop out of it what I call God?' has not been
answered. God cannot be a reflection from human kings where there have
been 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; while, again, the spirit of a
man who died, real or ideal, does not answer to a common savage conception
of the Creator. All this will become much more obvious as we study in
detail the highest gods of the lowest races.

Our study, of course, does not pretend to embrace the religion of all the
savages in the world. We are content with typical, and, as a rule,
well-observed examples. We range from the creeds of the most backward and
worst-equipped nomad races, to those of peoples with an aristocracy,
hereditary kings, houses and agriculture, ending with the Supreme Being of
the highly civilised Incas, and with the Jehovah of the Hebrews.

[Footnote 1: _Journal Anthrop. Inst._ xi. 874. We shall return to this

[Footnote 2: Vol. i. p. 389, 1892.]

[Footnote 3: Payne, i. 458.]

[Footnote 4: _Prim. Cult._ vol. ii. p. 381; _Science and Hebrew
Tradition_, pp. 346, 372.]

[Footnote 5: _Prim. Cult_. vol. ii. p. 109.]

[Footnote 6: Ibid. vol. ii. p. 110.]

[Footnote 7: Ibid. vol. ii. p. 113.]

[Footnote 8: _Prim. Cult_. vol. ii. pp. 115, 116, citing Callaway and

[Footnote 9: The Zulu religion will be analysed later.]

[Footnote 10: _Prim. Cult_. vol. ii. pp. 130-144.]

[Footnote 11: Ibid. vol. ii. p. 248.]

[Footnote 12: And very few civilised populations, if any, are monotheistic
in this sense.]

[Footnote 13: _Prim. Cult_. vol. ii. pp. 332, 333.]

[Footnote 14: _Prim. Cult_. vol. ii. pp. 335, 336.]

[Footnote 15: _Myths of the New World_, 1868, p. 47.]

[Footnote 16: I observed this point in _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_, while
I did not see the implication, that the idea of 'spirit' was not
necessarily present in the savage conception of the primal Beings,
Creators, or Makers.]

[Footnote 17: See one or two cases in _Prim. Cult_. vol. ii. p. 340.]

[Footnote 18: Livingstone, speaking of the Bakwain, _Missionary Travels_,
p. 168.]

[Footnote 19: _Principles of Sociology_, vol. i. p. 450.]

[Footnote 20: Op. cit. vol. i. p. 302.]



To avoid misconception we must repeat the necessary cautions about
accepting evidence as to high gods of low races. The missionary who does
not see in every alien god a devil is apt to welcome traces of an original
supernatural revelation, darkened by all peoples but the Jews. We shall
not, however, rely much on missionary evidence, and, when we do, we must
now be equally on our guard against the anthropological bias in the
missionary himself. Having read Mr. Spencer and Mr. Tylor, and finding
himself among ancestor-worshippers (as he sometimes does), he is apt to
think that ancestor-worship explains any traces of a belief in the Supreme
Being. Against each and every bias of observers we must be watchful.

It may be needful, too, to point out once again another weak point in all
reasoning about savage religion, namely that we cannot always tell what
may have been borrowed from Europeans. Thus, the Fuegians, in 1830-1840,
were far out of the way, but one tribe, near Magellan's Straits,
worshipped an image called Cristo. Fitzroy attributes this obvious trace
of Catholicism to a Captain Pelippa, who visited the district some time
before his own expedition. It is less probable that Spaniards established
a belief in a moral Deity in regions where they left no material traces of
their faith. The Fuegians are not easily proselytised. 'When discovered by
strangers, the instant impulse of a Fuegian family is to run off into the
woods.' Occasionally they will emerge to barter, but 'sometimes nothing
will induce a single individual of the family to appear.' Fitzroy thought
they had no idea of a future state, because, among other reasons not
given, 'the evil spirit torments them in _this_ world, if they do wrong,
by storms, hail, snow, &c.' Why the evil spirit should punish evil deeds
is not evident. 'A great black man is supposed to be always wandering
about the woods and mountains, who is certain of knowing every word and
every action, who cannot be escaped and who influences the weather
according to men's conduct.'[1]

There are no traces of propitiation by food, or sacrifice, or anything but
conduct. To regard the Deity as 'a magnified non-natural man' is not
peculiar to Fuegian theologians, and does not imply Animism, but the
reverse. But the point is that this ethical judge of perhaps the lowest
savages 'makes for righteousness' and searches the heart. His morality is
so much above the ordinary savage standard that he regards the slaying of
a stranger and an enemy, caught redhanded in robbery, as a sin. York's
brother (York was a Fuegian brought to England by Fitzroy) killed a 'wild
man' who was stealing his birds. 'Rain come down, snow come down, hail
come down, wind blow, blow, very much blow. Very bad to kill man. Big man
in woods no like it, he very angry.' Here be ethics in savage religion.
The Sixth Commandment is in force. The Being also prohibits the slaying of
flappers before they can fly. 'Very bad to shoot little duck, come wind,
come rain, blow, very much blow.'[2]

Now this big man is not a deified chief, for the Fuegians 'have no
superiority of one over another ... but the doctor-wizard of each party has
much influence.' Mr. Spencer disposes of this moral 'big man' of the
Fuegians as 'evidently a deceased weather-doctor.'[3] But, first, there is
no evidence that the being is regarded as ever having died. Again, it is
not shown that Fuegians are ancestor-worshippers. Next, Fitzroy did not
think that the Fuegians believed in a future life. Lastly, when were
medicine-men such notable moralists? The worst spirits among the
neighbouring Patagonians are those of dead medicine-men. As a rule
everywhere the ghost of a 'doctor-wizard,' shaman, or whatever he may be
called, is the worst and wickedest of all ghosts. How, then, the Fuegians,
who are not proved to be ancestor-worshippers, evolved out of the
malignant ghost of an ancestor a being whose strong point is morality, one
does not easily conceive. The adjacent Chonos 'have great faith in a good
spirit, whom they call Yerri Yuppon, and consider to be the author of all
good; him they invoke in distress or danger.' However starved they do not
touch food till a short prayer has been muttered over each portion, 'the
praying man looking upward.'[4] They have magicians, but no details are
given as to spirits or ghosts. If Fuegian and Chono religion is on this
level, and if this be the earliest, then the theology of many other higher
savages (as of the Zulus) is decidedly degenerate. 'The Bantu gives one
accustomed to the negro the impression that he once had the same set of
ideas, _but has forgotten half of them_,' says Miss Kingsley.[5]

Of all races now extant, the Australians are probably lowest in culture,
and, like the fauna of the continent, are nearest to the primitive
model. They have neither metals, bows, pottery, agriculture, nor fixed
habitations; and no traces of higher culture have anywhere been found
above or in the soil of the continent. This is important, for in some
respects their religious conceptions are so lofty that it would be natural
to explain them as the result either of European influence, or as relics
of a higher civilisation in the past. The former notion is discredited
by the fact that their best religious ideas are imparted in connection
with their ancient and secret mysteries, while for the second idea, that
they are degenerate from a loftier civilisation, there is absolutely no

It has been suggested, indeed, by Mr. Spencer that the singularly complex
marriage customs of the Australian blacks point to a more polite condition
in their past history. Of this stage, as we said, no material traces have
ever been discovered, nor can degeneration be recent. Our earliest account
of the Australians is that of Dampier, who visited New Holland in the
unhappy year 1688. He found the natives 'the miserablest people in the
world. The Hodmadods, of Mononamatapa, though a nasty people, yet for
wealth are gentlemen to these: who have no houses, sheep, poultry, and
fruits of the earth.... They have no houses, but lie in the open air.'
Curiously enough, Dampier attests their _unselfishness_: the main ethical
feature in their religious teaching. 'Be it little or be it much they get,
every one has his part, as well the young and tender as the old and
feeble, who are not able to go abroad, as the strong and lusty.' Dampier
saw no metals used, nor any bows, merely boomerangs ('wooden cutlasses'),
and lances with points hardened in the fire. 'Their place of dwelling was
only a fire with a few boughs before it' (the _gunyeh_).

This description remains accurate for most of the unsophisticated
Australian tribes, but Dampier appears only to have seen ichthyophagous
coast blacks.

There is one more important point. In the _Bora_, or Australian
mysteries, at which knowledge of 'The Maker' and of his commandments is
imparted, the front teeth of the initiated are still knocked out. Now,
Dampier observed 'the two fore-teeth of their upper jaw are wanting in all
of them, men and women, old and young.' If this is to be taken quite
literally, the Bora rite, in 1688, must have included the women, at least
locally. Dampier was on the north-west coast in latitude 16 degrees,
longitude 122-1/4 degrees east (Dampier Land, West Australia). The natives
had neither boats, canoes, nor bark logs; but it seems that they had their
religious mysteries and their unselfishness, two hundred years ago.[6]

The Australians have been very carefully studied by many observers, and
the results entirely overthrow Mr. Huxley's bold statement that 'in its
simplest condition, such as may be met with among the Australian savages,
theology is a mere belief in the existence, powers, and dispositions
(usually malignant) of ghost-like entities who may be propitiated or
scared away; but no cult can properly be said to exist. And in this stage
theology is wholly independent of ethics.'

Remarks more crudely in defiance of known facts could not be made. The
Australians, assuredly, believe in 'spirits,' often malicious, and
probably in most cases regarded as ghosts of men. These aid the wizard,
and occasionally inspire him. That these ghosts are _worshipped_ does not
appear, and is denied by Waitz. Again, in the matter of cult, 'there is
none' in the way of _sacrifice_ to higher gods, as there should be if
these gods were hungry ghosts. The cult among the Australians is the
keeping of certain 'laws,' expressed in moral teaching, supposed to be in
conformity with the institutes of their God. Worship takes the form, as at
Eleusis, of tribal mysteries, originally instituted, as at Eleusis, by
the God. The young men are initiated with many ceremonies, some of which
are cruel and farcical, but the initiation includes ethical instruction,
in conformity with the supposed commands of a God who watches over
conduct. As among ourselves, the ethical ideal, with its theological
sanction, is probably rather above the moral standard of ordinary
practice. What conclusion we should draw from these facts is uncertain,
but the facts, at least, cannot be disputed, and precisely contradict the
statement of Mr. Huxley. He was wholly in the wrong when he said: 'The
moral code, such as is implied by public opinion, derives no sanction from
theological dogmas,'[7] It reposes, for its origin and sanction, on such

The evidence as to Australian religion is abundant, and is being added to
yearly. I shall here content myself with Mr. Howitt's accounts.[8]

As regards the possible evolution of the Australian God from
ancestor-worship, it must be noted that Mr. Howitt credits the groups with
possessing 'headmen,' a kind of chiefs, whereas some inquirers, in Brough
Smyth's collection, disbelieve in regular chiefs. Mr. Howitt writes:--

'The Supreme Spirit, who is believed in by all the tribes I refer to here
[in South-Eastern Australia], either as a benevolent, or more frequently
as a malevolent being, it seems to me represents the defunct headman.'

Now, the traces of 'headmanship' among the tribes are extremely faint; no
such headman rules large areas of country, none is known to be worshipped
after death, and the malevolence of the Supreme Spirit is not illustrated
by the details of Mr. Howitt's own statement, but the reverse. Indeed, he
goes on at once to remark that '_Darumulun_ was not, it seems to me,
everywhere thought a malevolent being, but he was dreaded as one who could
severely punish the trespasses committed against these tribal ordinances
and customs whose first institution is ascribed to him.'

To punish transgressions of his law is not the essence of a malevolent
being. Darumulun 'watched the youths from the sky, prompt to punish, by
disease or death, the breach of his ordinances,' moral or ritual. His name
is too sacred to be spoken except in whispers, and the anthropologist will
observe that the names of the human dead are also often tabooed. But the
divine name is not thus tabooed and sacred when the mere folklore about
him is narrated. The informants of Mr. Howitt instinctively distinguished
between the mythology and the religion of Darumulun.[9] This distinction--
the secrecy about the religion, the candour about the mythology--is
essential, and accounts for our ignorance about the inner religious
beliefs of early races. Mr. Howitt himself knew little till he was
initiated. The grandfather of Mr. Howitt's friend, _before the white men
came to Melbourne_, took him out at night, and, pointing to a star, said:
'You will soon be a man; you see _Bunjil_ [Supreme Being of certain
tribes] up there, and he can see you, and all you do down here.' Mr.
Palmer, speaking of the Mysteries of Northern Australians (mysteries under
divine sanction), mentions the nature of the moral instruction. Each lad
is given, 'by one of the elders, advice so kindly, fatherly, and
impressive, as often to soften the heart, and draw tears from the youth.'
He is to avoid adultery, not to take advantage of a woman if he finds her
alone, he is not to be quarrelsome.[10]

At the Mysteries Darumulun's real name may be uttered, at other times he
is 'Master' (_Biamban_) or 'Father' (_Papang_), exactly as we say 'Lord'
and 'Father.'

It is known that all these things are not due to missionaries, whose
instructions would certainly not be conveyed in the _Bora_, or tribal
mysteries, which, again, are partly described by Collins as early as 1798,
and must have been practised in 1688. Mr. Howitt mentions, among moral
lessons divinely sanctioned, respect for old age, abstinence from lawless
love, and avoidance of the sins so popular, poetic, and sanctioned by the
example of Gods, in classical Greece.[11] A representation is made of the
Master, Biamban; and to make such idols, except at the Mysteries, is
forbidden 'under pain of death.' Those which are made are destroyed as
soon as the rites are ended.[12] The future life (apparently) is then
illustrated by the burial of a living elder, who rises from a grave.
This may, however, symbolise the 'new life' of the Mystae, 'Worse have I
fled; better have I found,' as was sung in an Athenian rite. The whole
result is, by what Mr. Howitt calls 'a quasi-religious element,' to
'impress upon the mind of the youth, in an indelible manner, those rules
of conduct which form the moral law of the tribe.'[13]

Many other authorities could be adduced for the religious sanction of
morals in Australia. A watchful being observes and rewards the conduct or
men; he is named with reverence, if named at all; his abode is the
heavens; he is the Master and Lord of things; his lessons 'soften the

'What wants this Knave
That a _God_ should have?'

I shall now demonstrate that the religion patronised by the Australian
Supreme Being, and inculcated in his Mysteries, is actually used to
counteract the immoral character which natives acquire by associating with
Anglo-Saxon Christians.[15]

Mr. Howitt[16] gives an account of the Jeraeil, or Mysteries of the
Kurnai. The old men deemed that through intercourse with whites 'the lads
had become selfish and no longer inclined to share that which they
obtained by their own exertions, or had given them, with their friends.'
One need not say that selflessness is the very essence of goodness, and
the central moral doctrine of Christianity. So it is in the religious
Mysteries of the African Yao; a selfish man, we shall see, is spoken of as
'uninitiated.' So it is with the Australian Kurnai, whose mysteries and
ethical teaching are under the sanction of their Supreme Being. So much
for the anthropological dogma that early theology has no ethics.

The Kurnai began by kneading the stomachs of the lads about to be
initiated (that is, if they have been associating with Christians), to
expel selfishness and greed. The chief rite, later, is to blindfold every
lad, with a blanket closely drawn over his head, to make whirring sounds
with the _tundun_, or Greek _rhombos_, then to pluck off the blankets, and
bid the initiate raise their faces to the sky. The initiator points to it,
calling out, 'Look there, look there, look there!' They have seen in this
solemn way the home of the Supreme Being, 'Our Father,' Mungan-ngaur
(Mungan = 'Father,' ngaur = 'our'), whose doctrine is then unfolded by the
old initiator ('headman') 'in an impressive manner,'[17] Long ago there
was a great Being, Mungan-ngaur, who lived on the earth,' His son Tundun
is _direct ancestor_ of the Kurnai. Mungan initiated the rites, and
destroyed earth by water when they were impiously revealed. 'Mungan left
the earth, and ascended to the sky, where he still remains.'

Here Mungan-ngaur, a Being not defined as spirit, but immortal, and
dwelling in heaven, is Father, or rather grandfather, not maker,
of the Kurnai. This _may_ be interpreted as ancestor-worship, but the
opposite myth, of making or creating, is of frequent occurrence in many
widely-severed Australian districts, and co-exists with evolutionary
myths. Mungan-ngaur's precepts are:

1. _To listen to and obey the old men_.
2. _To share everything they have with their friends_.
3. _To live peaceably with their friends_.

4. _Not to interfere with girls or married women_.

5. _To obey the food restrictions until they are released from them by
the old men_.

Mr. Howitt concludes: 'I venture to assert that it can no longer be
maintained that the Australians have no belief which can be called
religious, that is, in the sense of beliefs which govern tribal and
individual morality under a supernatural sanction.' On this topic
Mr. Hewitt's opinion became more affirmative the more deeply he was

The Australians are the lowest, most primitive savages, yet no
propitiation by food is made to their moral Ruler, in heaven, as if he
were a ghost.

The laws of these Australian divine beings apply to ritual as well as to
ethics, as might naturally be expected. But the moral element is
conspicuous, the reverence is conspicuous: we have here no mere ghost,
propitiated by food or sacrifice, or by purely magical rites. His very
image (modelled on a large scale in earth) is no vulgar idol: to make such
a thing, except on the rare sacred occasions, is a capital offence.
Meanwhile the mythology of the God has often, in or out of the rites,
nothing rational about it.

On the whole it is evident that Mr. Herbert Spencer, for example,
underrates the nature of Australian religion. He cites a case of
addressing the ghost of a man recently dead, which is asked not to bring
sickness, 'or make loud noises in the night,' and says: 'Here we may
recognise the essential elements of a cult.' But Mr. Spencer does not
allude to the much more essentially religious elements which he might have
found in the very authority whom he cites, Mr. Brough Smyth.[19] This
appears, as far as my scrutiny goes, to be Mr. Spencer's solitary
reference to Australia in the work on 'Ecclesiastical Institutions.' Yet
the facts which he and Mr. Huxley ignore throw a light very different from
theirs on what they consider 'the simplest condition of theology.'

Among the causes of confusion in thought upon religion, Mr. Tylor mentions
'the partial and one-sided application of the historical method of inquiry
into theological doctrines.'[20] Here, perhaps, we have examples. In its
highest aspect that 'simplest theology' of Australia is free from the
faults of popular theology in Greece. The God discourages sin, though, in
myth, he is far from impeccable. He is almost too revered to be named
(except in mythology) and is not to be represented by idols. He is not
moved by sacrifice; he has not the chance; like Death in Greece, 'he only,
of all Gods, loves not gifts.' Thus the status of theology does not
correspond to what we look for in very low culture. It would scarcely be a
paradox to say that the popular Zeus, or Ares, is degenerate from
Mungan-ngaur, or the Fuegian being who forbids the slaying of an enemy,
and almost literally 'marks the sparrow's fall.'

If we knew all the mythology of Darumulun, we should probably find it
(like much of the myth of Pundjel or Bunjil) on a very different level
from the theology. There are two currents, the religious and the mythical,
flowing together through religion. The former current, religious, even
among very low savages, is pure from the magical ghost-propitiating habit.
The latter current, mythological, is full of magic, mummery, and
scandalous legend. Sometimes the latter stream quite pollutes the
former, sometimes they flow side by side, perfectly distinguishable, as
in Aztec ethical piety, compared with the bloody Aztec ritualism.
Anthropology has mainly kept her eyes fixed on the impure stream, the
lusts, mummeries, conjurings, and frauds of priesthoods, while relatively,
or altogether, neglecting (as we have shown) what is honest and of good

The worse side of religion is the less sacred, and therefore the more
conspicuous. Both elements are found co-existing, in almost all races, and
nobody, in our total lack of historical information about the beginnings,
can say which, if either, element is the earlier, or which, if either, is
derived from the other. To suppose that propitiation of corpses and then
of ghosts came first is agreeable, and seems logical, to some writers
who are not without a bias against all religion as an unscientific
superstition. But we know so little! The first missionaries in Greenland
supposed that there was not, there, a trace of belief in a Divine Being.
'But when they came to understand their language better, they found quite
the reverse to be true ... and not only so, but they could plainly gather
from a free dialogue they had with some perfectly wild Greenlanders (at
that time avoiding any direct application to their hearts) that their
ancestors must have believed in a Supreme Being, and did render him some
service, which their posterity neglected little by little...'[21] Mr.
Tylor does not refer to this as a trace of Christian Scandinavian
influence on the Eskimo.[22]

That line, of course, may be taken. But an Eskimo said to a missionary,
'Thou must not imagine that no Greenlander thinks about these things'
(theology). He then stated the argument from design. 'Certainly there
must be some Being who made all these things. He must be very good too...
Ah, did I but know him, how I would love and honour him.' As St. Paul
writes: 'That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath
showed it unto them ... being understood by the things which are made ...
but they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was
darkened.'[23] In fact, mythology submerged religion. St. Paul's theory of
the origin of religion is not that of an 'innate idea,' nor of a direct
revelation. People, he says, reached the belief in a God from the Argument
for Design. Science conceives herself to have annihilated teleological
ideas. But they are among the probable origins of religion, and would lead
to the belief in a Creator, whom the Greenlander thought beneficent, and
after whom he yearned. This is a very different initial step in religious
development, if initial it was, from the feeding of a corpse, or a ghost.

From all this evidence it does not appear how non-polytheistic,
non-monarchical, non-Manes-worshipping savages evolved the idea of a
relatively supreme, moral, and benevolent Creator, unborn, undying,
watching men's lives. 'He can go everywhere, and do everything.'[24]

[Footnote 1: Fitzroy, ii. 180. Darwin. _Descent of Man_, p. 67.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid. We seem to have little information about Fuegian
religion either before or after the cruise of the _Beagle_.]

[Footnote 3: _Principles of Sociology_, i. 422.]

[Footnote 4: Fitzroy, ii. 190,191]

[Footnote 5: _Travels in West Africa_, p. 442.]

[Footnote 6: _Early Voyages to Australia_, 102-111 (Hakluyt Society).]

[Footnote 7: _Science and Hebrew Tradition_, p. 846.]

[Footnote 8: _Journal of the Anthrop. Institute_, 1884. See, for less
dignified accounts, op. cit. xxiv. xxv.]

[Footnote 9: _Journal_, xiii. 193.]

[Footnote 10: _Journal_, xiii. 296.]

[Footnote 11: Op. cit. p. 450.]

[Footnote 12: P. 453.]

[Footnote 13: P. 457.]

[Footnote 14: See Brough Smyth, _Aborigines_, i. 426; Taplin, _Native
Races of Australia_. According to Taplin, Nurrumdere was a deified black
fellow, who died on earth. This is not the case of Baiame, but is said,
rather vaguely, to be true of Daramulun. _J.A.I._, xiii. 194, xxv. 297.]

[Footnote 15: From a brief account of the Fire Ceremony, or _Engwurra_ of
certain tribes in Central Australia, it seems that religious ceremonies
connected with Totems are the most notable performances. Also 'certain
mythical ancestors,' of the '_alcheringa_, or dream-times,' were
celebrated; these real or ideal human beings appear to 'sink their
identity in that of the object with which they are associated, and from
which they are supposed to have originated.' There appear also to be
places haunted by 'spirit individuals,' in some way mixed up with Totems,
but nothing is said of sacrifice to these Manes. The brief account is by
Professor Baldwin Spencer and Mr. F.J. Gillen, _Proc. Royal Soc.
Victoria_, July 1897. This Fire Ceremony is not for lads--not a kind of
confirmation in the savage church--but is intended for adults.]

[Footnote 16: _J. Anthrop. Inst_. 1886, p. 310.]

[Footnote 17: _J. Anthrop. Inst_. 1885, p. 313.]

[Footnote 18: _J. Anthrop. Inst_. xiii. p. 459.]

[Footnote 19: _Ecclesiastical Institutions_, p. 674.]

[Footnote 20: _Prim. Cult_. ii. 450.]

[Footnote 21: Cranz, pp. 198, 199.]

[Footnote 22: _Journal Anthrop. Inst_. xiii. 348-356.]

[Footnote 23: Rom. i. 19. Cranz, i. 199.]

[Footnote 24: In Mr. Carr's work, _The Australian Race_, reports of
'godless' natives are given, for instance, in the Mary River country and
in Gippsland. These reports are usually the result of the ignorance or
contempt of white observers, cf. Tylor, i. 419. The reader is referred to
the Introduction for additional information about Australian beliefs, and
for replies to objections.]



Before going on to examine the high gods of other low savages, I must here
again insist on and develop the theory, not easily conceived by us, that
the Supreme Being of savages belongs to another branch of faith than
ghosts, or ghost-gods, or fetishes, or Totems, and need not be--probably
is not--essentially derived from these. We must try to get rid of our
theory that a powerful, moral, eternal Being was, from the first, _ex
officio_, conceived as 'spirit;' and so was necessarily derived from a

First, what was the process of development?

We have examined Mr. Tylor's theory. But, to take a practical case: Here
are the Australians, roaming in small bands, without more formal rulers
than 'headmen' at most; not ancestor worshippers; not polytheists; with
no departmental deities to select and aggrandise; not apt to speculate on
the _Anima Mundi_. How, then, did they bridge the gulf between the ghost
of a soon-forgotten fighting man, and that conception of a Father above,
'all-seeing,' moral, which, under various names, is found all over a huge
continent? I cannot see that this problem has been solved or frankly

The distinction between the Australian deity, at his highest power,
unpropitiated by sacrifice, and the ordinary, waning, easily forgotten,
cheaply propitiated ghost of a tribesman, is essential. It is not easy to
show how, in 'the dark backward' of Australian life, the notion of
Mungan-ngaur grew from the idea of the ghost of a warrior. But there is no
logical necessity for the belief in the evolution of this god out
of that ghost. These two factors in religion--ghost and god--seem to
have perfectly different sources, and it appears extraordinary that
anthropologists have not (as far as I am aware) observed this circumstance

Mr. Spencer, indeed, speaks frequently of living human beings adored as
gods. I do not know that these are found on the lowest levels of savagery,
and Mr. Jevons has pointed out that, before you can hail a man as a god,
you must have the idea of God. The murder of Captain Cook notoriously
resulted from a scientific experiment in theology. 'If he is a god, he
cannot be killed.' So they tried with a dagger, and found that the honest
captain was but a mortal British mariner--no god at all. 'There are
degrees.' Mr. Spencer's men-gods become real gods--after death.[1]

Now the Supreme Being of savage faith, as a rule, never died at all. He
belonged to a world that knew not Death.

One cause of our blindness to the point appears to be this: We have from
childhood been taught that 'God is a Spirit.' We, now, can only conceive
of an eternal being as a 'spirit.' We know that legions of savage gods are
now regarded as spirits. And therefore we have never remarked that there
is no reason why we should take it for granted that the earliest deities
of the earliest men were supposed by them to be 'spirits' at all. These
gods might most judiciously be spoken of, not as 'spirits,' but as
'undefined eternal beings.' To us, such a being is necessarily a spirit,
but he was by no means necessarily so to an early thinker, who may not
yet have reached the conception of a ghost.

A ghost is said, by anthropologists, to have developed into a god. Now,
the very idea of a ghost (apart from a wraith or fetch) implies the
previous _death_ of his proprietor. A ghost is the phantasm of a _dead_
man. But anthropologists continually tell us, with truth, that the idea
of death as a universal ordinance is unknown to the savage. Diseases and
death are things that once did not exist, and that, normally, ought not to
occur, the savage thinks. They are, in his opinion, supernormally caused
by magicians and spirits. Death came into the world by a blunder, an
accident, an error in ritual, a decision of a god who was before Death
was. Scores of myths are told everywhere on this subject.[2]

The savage Supreme Being, with added power, omniscience, and morality, is
the idealisation of the savage, as conceived of by himself, _minus_
fleshly body (as a rule), and _minus_ Death. He is not necessarily a
'spirit,' though that term may now be applied to him. He was not
originally differentiated as 'spirit' or 'not spirit.' He is a Being,
conceived of without the question of 'spirit,' or 'no spirit' being
raised; perhaps he was originally conceived of before that question could
be raised by men. When we call the Supreme Being of savages a 'spirit' we
introduce our own animistic ideas into a conception where it may not have
originally existed. If the God is 'the savage himself raised to the n^th
power' so much the less of a spirit is he. Mr. Matthew Arnold might as
well have said: 'The British Philistine has no knowledge of God. He
believes that the Creator is a magnified non-natural man, living in the
sky.' The Gippsland or Fuegian or Blackfoot Supreme Being is just a
_Being_, anthropomorphic, not a _mrart_, or 'spirit.' The Supreme Being is
a _wesen_, Being, _Vui_; we have hardly a term for an immortal existence
so undefined. If the being is an idealised first ancestor (as among the
Kurnai), he is not, on that account, either man or ghost of man. In the
original conception he is a powerful intelligence who was from the first:
who was already active long before, by a breach of his laws, an error in
the delivery of a message, a breach of ritual, or what not, death entered
the world. He was not affected by the entry of death, he still exists.

Modern minds need to become familiar with this indeterminate idea of the
savage Supreme Being, which, logically, may be prior to the evolution of
the notion of ghost or spirit.

But how does it apply when, as by the Kurnai, the Supreme Being is
reckoned an ancestor?

It can very readily be shown that, when the Supreme Being of a savage
people is thus the idealised First Ancestor, he cart never have been
envisaged by his worshippers as at any time a _ghost_; or, at least,
cannot logically have been so envisaged where the nearly universal
belief occurs that death came into the world by accident, or needlessly.

Adam is the mythical first ancestor of the Hebrews, but he died, [Greek:
uper moron], and was not worshipped. Yama, the first of Aryan men who
died, was worshipped by Vedic Aryans, but _confessedly_ as a ghost-god.
Mr. Tylor gives a list of first ancestors deified. The Ancestor of the
Maudans did not die, consequently is no ghost; _emigravit_, he 'moved
west.' Where the First Ancestor is also the Creator (Dog-rib Indians), he
can hardly be, and is not, regarded as a mortal. Tamoi, of the Guaranis,
was 'the ancient of heaven,' clearly no mortal man. The Maori Maui was the
first who died, but he is not one of the original Maori gods. Haetsh,
among the Kamchadals, precisely answers to Yama. Unkulunkulu will be
described later.[3]

This is the list: Where the First Ancestor is equivalent to the Creator,
and is supreme, he is--from the first--deathless and immortal. When he
dies he is a confessed ghost-god.

Now, ghost-worship and dead ancestor-worship are impossible before the
ancestor is dead and is a ghost. But the essential idea of Mungan-ngaur,
and Baiame, and most of the high gods of Australia, and of other low
races, is that _they never died at all_. They belong to the period before
death came into the world, like Qat among the Melanesians. They arise in
an age that knew not death, and had not reflected on phantasms nor evolved
ghosts. They could have been conceived of, in the nature of the case, by a
race of immortals who never dreamed of such a thing as a ghost. For these
gods, the ghost-theory is not required, and is superfluous, even
contradictory. The early thinkers who developed these beings did not need
to know that men die (though, of course, they did know it in practice),
still less did they need to have conceived by abstract speculation the
hypothesis of ghosts. Baiame, Cagn, Bunjil, in their adorers' belief, were
_there_; death later intruded among men, but did not affect these divine
beings in any way.

The ghost-theory, therefore, by the evidence of anthropology itself, is
not needed for the evolution of the high gods of savages. It is only
needed for the evolution of ghost-propitiation and genuine dead-ancestor
worship. Therefore, the high gods described were not necessarily once
ghosts--were not idealised _mortal_ ancestors. They were, naturally, from
the beginning, from before the coming in of death, immortal Fathers, now
dwelling on high. Between them and apotheosised mortal ancestors there is
a great gulf fixed--the river of death.

The explicitly stated distinction that the high creative gods never were
mortal men, while other gods are spirits of mortal men, is made in every
quarter. 'Ancestors _known_ to be human were _not_ worshipped as
[original] gods, and ancestors worshipped as [original] gods were not
believed to have been human.'[4]

Both kinds may have a generic name, such as _kalou_, or _wakan_, but the
specific distinction is universally made by low savages. On one hand,
original gods; on the other, non-original gods that were once ghosts. Now,
this distinction is often calmly ignored; whereas, when any race has
developed (like late Scandinavians) the Euhemeristic hypothesis ('all gods
were once men'), that hypothesis is accepted as an historical statement of
fact by some writers.

It is part of my theory that the more popular ghost-worship of souls of
people whom men have loved, invaded the possibly older religion of the
Supreme Father. Mighty beings, whether originally conceived of as
'spirits' or not, came, later, under the Animistic theory, to be reckoned
as spirits. They even (but not among the lowest savages) came to be
propitiated by food and sacrifice. The alternative, for a Supreme Being,
when once Animism prevailed, was sacrifice (as to more popular ghost
deities) or neglect. We shall find examples of both alternatives. But
sacrifice does not prove that a God was, in original conception, a ghost,
or even a spirit. 'The common doctrine of the Old Testament is not that
God is spirit, but that the spirit [_ruah_ = 'wind,' 'living breath'] of
Jehovah, going forth from him, works in the world and among men.'[5]

To resume. The high Gods of savagery--moral, all-seeing directors of
things and of men--are not explicitly envisaged as spirits at all by their
adorers. The notion of soul or spirit is here out of place. We can best
describe Pirnmeheal, and Napi and Baiame as 'magnified non-natural men,'
or undefined beings who were from the beginning and are undying. They are,
like the easy Epicurean Gods, _nihil indiga nostri_. Not being ghosts,
they crave no food from men, and receive no sacrifice, as do ghosts, or
gods developed out of ghosts, or gods to whom the ghost-ritual has been
transferred. For this very reason, apparently, they seem to be spoken of
by Mr. Grant Allen as 'gods to talk about, not gods to adore; mythological
conceptions rather than religious beings.'[6] All this is rather hard on
the lowest savages. If they sacrifice to a god, then the god is a hungry
ghost; if they don't, then the god is 'a god to talk about, not to adore,'
Luckily, the facts of the Bora ritual and the instruction given there
prove that Mungan-nganr and other names _are_ gods to adore, by ethical
conformity to their will and by solemn ceremony, not merely gods to talk

Thus, the highest element in the religion of the lowest savages does not
appear to be derived from their theory of ghosts. As far as we can say, in
the inevitable absence of historical evidence, the highest gods of savages
may have been believed in, as Makers and Fathers and Lords of an
indeterminate nature, before the savage had developed the idea of souls
out of dreams and phantasms. It is logically conceivable that savages may
have worshipped deities like Baiame and Darumulun before they had evolved
the notion that Tom, Dick, or Harry has a separable soul, capable of
surviving his bodily decease. Deities of the higher sort, by the very
nature of savage reflections on death and on its non-original casual
character, are prior, or may be prior, or cannot be shown not to be prior,
to the ghost theory--the alleged origin of religion. For their evolution
the ghost theory is not logically demanded; they can do without it. Yet
_they_, and not the spirits, bogles, Mrarts, _Brewin_, and so forth, are
the high gods, the gods who have most analogy--as makers, moral guides,
rewarders, and punishers of conduct (though that duty is also occasionally
assumed by ancestral spirits)--with our civilised conception of the
divine. Our conception of God descends not from ghosts, but from the
Supreme Beings of non-ancestor-worshipping peoples.

As it seems impossible to point out any method by which low, chiefless,
non-polytheistic, non-metaphysical savages (if any such there be) evolved
out of ghosts the eternal beings who made the world, and watch over
morality: as the people themselves unanimously distinguish such beings
from ghost-gods, I take it that such beings never were ghosts. In this
case the Animistic theory seems to me to break down completely. Yet these
high gods of low savages preserve from dimmest ages of the meanest culture
the sketch of a God which our highest religious thought can but fill up to
its ideal. Come from what germ he may, Jehovah or Allah does not come from
a ghost.

It may be retorted that this makes no real difference. If savages did not
invent gods in consequence of a fallacious belief in spirit and soul,
still, in some other equally illogical way they came to indulge the
hypothesis that they had a Judge and Father in heaven. But, if the ghost
theory of the high Gods is wrong, as it is conspicuously superfluous, that
_does_ make some difference. It proves that a widely preached scientific
conclusion may be as spectral as Bathybius. On other more important
points, therefore, we may differ from the newest scientific opinion
without too much diffident apprehensiveness.

[Footnote 1: _Principles of Sociology_, i. 417, 421. 'The medicine men
are treated as gods.... The medicine man becomes a god after death.']

[Footnote 2: I have published a chapter on Myths on the Origin of Death in
_Modern Mythology_.]

[Footnote 3: _Prim. Cult_. ii. 311-316.]

[Footnote 4: Jevons, _Introduction_, p. 197.]

[Footnote 5: Robertson Smith. _The Prophets of Israel_, p. 61.]

[Footnote 6: _Evolution of the Idea of God_, p. 170.]



It is among 'the lowest savages' that the Supreme Beings are most regarded
as eternal, moral (as the morality of the tribe goes, or above its
habitual practice), and _powerful_. I have elsewhere described the Bushman
god Cagn, as he was portrayed to Mr. Orpen by Qing, who 'had never
before seen a white man except fighting.' Mr. Orpen got the facts from
Qing by inducing him to explain the natives' pictures on the walls of
caves. 'Cagn made all things, and we pray to him,' thus: 'O Cagn, O Cagn,
are we not thy children? Do you not see us hunger? Give us food.' As to
ethics, 'At first Cagn was very good, but he got spoilt through fighting
so many things.' 'How came he into the world?' 'Perhaps with those who
brought the Sun: only the initiated know these things.' It appears that
Qing was not yet initiated in the dance (answering to a high rite of the
Australian _Bora_) in which the most esoteric myths were unfolded.[1]

In Mr. Spencer's 'Descriptive Sociology' the religion of the Bushmen is
thus disposed of. 'Pray to an insect of the caterpillar kind for success
in the chase.' That is rather meagre. They make arrow-poison out of
caterpillars,[2] though Dr. Bleek, perhaps correctly, identifies Cagn
with i-kaggen, the insect.

The case of the Andaman Islanders may be especially recommended to
believers in the anthropological science of religion. For long these
natives were the joy of emancipated inquirers as the 'godless Andamanese.'
They only supply Mr. Spencer's 'Ecclesiastical Institutions' with
a few instances of the ghost-belief.[3] Yet when the Andamanese are
scientifically studied _in situ_ by an educated Englishman, Mr. Man, who
knows their language, has lived with them for eleven years, and presided
over our benevolent efforts 'to reclaim them from their savage state,'
the Andamanese turn out to be quite embarrassingly rich in the higher
elements of faith. They have not only a profoundly philosophical
_religion_, but an excessively absurd _mythology_, like the Australian
blacks, the Greeks, and other peoples. If, on the whole, the student of
the Andamanese despairs of the possibility of an ethnological theory of
religion, he is hardly to be blamed.

The people are probably Negritos, and probably 'the original inhabitants,
whose occupation dates from prehistoric times.'[4] They use the bow, they
make pots, and are considerably above the Australian level. They have
second-sighted men, who obtain status 'by relating an extraordinary dream,
the details of which are declared to have been borne out subsequently by
some unforeseen event, as, for instance, a sudden death or accident.' They
have to produce fresh evidential dreams from time to time. They see
phantasms of the dead, and coincidental hallucinations.[5] All this is as
we should expect it to be.

Their religion is probably not due to missionaries, as they always shot
all foreigners, and have no traditions of the presence of aliens on the
islands before our recent arrival.[6] Their God, Puluga, is 'like fire,'
but invisible. He was never born, and is immortal. By him were all things
created, except the powers of evil. He knows even the thoughts of the
heart. He is angered by _yubda_ = sin, or wrong-doing, that is falsehood,
theft, grave assault, murder, adultery, bad carving of meat, and (as a
crime of witchcraft) by burning wax.[7] 'To those in pain or distress he
is pitiful, and sometimes deigns to afford relief.' He is Judge of Souls,
and the dread of future punishment 'to _some_ extent is said to affect
their course of action in the present life.'[8]

This Being could not be evolved out of the ordinary ghost of a
second-sighted man, for I do not find that ancestral ghosts are
worshipped, nor is there a trace of early missionary influence, while
Mr. Man consulted elderly and, in native religion, well-instructed
Andamanese for his facts.

Yet Puluga lives in a large stone house (clearly derived from ours at Port
Blair), eats and drinks, foraging for himself, and is married to a green
shrimp.[9] There is the usual story of a Deluge caused by the moral wrath
of Puluga. The whole theology was scrupulously collected from natives
unacquainted with other races.

The account of Andamanese religion does not tally with the anthropological
hypothesis. Foreign influence seems to be more than usually excluded by
insular conditions and the jealousy of the 'original inhabitants.' The
evidence ought to make us reflect on the extreme obscurity of the whole

Anthropological study of religion has hitherto almost entirely overlooked
the mysteries of various races, except in so far as they confirm the entry
of the young people into the ranks of the adult. Their esoteric moral and
religious teaching is nearly unknown to us, save in a few instances. It is
certain that the mysteries of Greece were survivals of savage ceremonies,
because we know that they included specific savage rites, such as the use
of the _rhombos_ to make a whirring noise, and the custom of ritual
daubing with dirt; and the sacred _ballets d'action_, in which, as Lucian
and Qing say, mystic facts are 'danced out.'[10] But, while Greece
retained these relics of savagery, there was something taught at Eleusis
which filled minds like Plato's and Pindar's with a happy religious awe.
Now, similar 'softening of the heart' was the result of the teaching in
the Australian _Bora_: the Yao mysteries inculcate the victory over self;
and, till we are admitted to the secrets of all other savage mysteries
throughout the world, we cannot tell whether, among mummeries,
frivolities, and even license, high ethical doctrines are not presented
under the sanction of religion. The New Life, and perhaps the future life,
are undeniably indicated in the Australian mysteries by the simulated

I would therefore no longer say, as in 1887, that the Hellenic genius must
have added to 'an old medicine dance' all that the Eleusinian mysteries
possessed of beauty, counsel, and consolation[11]. These elements, as well
as the barbaric factors in the rites, may have been developed out of such
savage doctrine as softens the hearts of Australians and Yaos. That this
kind of doctrine receives religious sanction is certain, where we know the
secret of savage mysteries. It is therefore quite incorrect, and strangely
presumptuous, to deny, with almost all anthropologists, the alliance of
ethics with religion among the most backward races. We must always
remember their secrecy about their inner religion, their frankness about
their mythological tales. These we know: the inner religion we ought to
begin to recognise that we do not know.

The case of the Andamanese has taught us how vague, even now, is our
knowledge, and how obscure is our problem. The example of the Melanesians
enforces these lessons. It is hard to bring the Melanesians within any
theory. Dr. Codrington has made them the subject of a careful study, and
reports that while the European inquirer can communicate pretty freely on
common subjects 'the vocabulary of ordinary life in almost useless when
the region of mysteries and superstitions is approached.'[12] The Banks
Islanders are most free from an Asiatic element of population on one side,
and a Polynesian element on the other.

The Banks Islanders 'believe in two orders of intelligent beings different
from living men.' (1) Ghosts of the dead, (2) 'Beings who were not, and
never had been, human.' This, as we have shown, and will continue to show,
is the usual savage doctrine. On the one hand are separable souls of men,
surviving the death of the body. On the other are beings, creators,
who were before men were, and before death entered the world. It is
impossible, logically, to argue that these beings are only ghosts of real
remote ancestors, or of ideal ancestors. These higher beings are not
safely to be defined as 'spirits,' their essence is vague, and, we repeat,
the idea of their existence might have been evolved _before the ghost
theory was attained by men_. Dr. Codrington says, 'the conception can
hardly be that of a purely spiritual being, yet, by whatever name the
natives call them, they are such as in English must be called spirits.'

That is our point. 'God is a spirit,' these beings are Gods, therefore
'these are spirits.' But to their initial conception our idea of 'spirit'
is lacking. They are beings who existed before death, and still exist.

The beings which never were human, never died, are _Vui_, the ghosts are
_Tamate_. Dr. Codrington uses 'ghosts' for _Tamate_, 'spirits' for _Vui_.
But as to render _Vui_ 'spirits' is to yield the essential point, we shall
call _Vui_ 'beings,' or, simply, _Vui_. A Vui is not a spirit that has
been a ghost; the story may represent him as if a man, 'but the native
will always maintain that he was something different, and deny to him the
fleshly body of a man.'[13]

This distinction, ghost on one side--original being, not a man, not a
ghost of a man, on the other--is radical and nearly universal in savage
religion. Anthropology, neglecting the essential distinction insisted on,
in this case, by Dr. Codrington, confuses both kinds under the style of
'spirits,' and derives both from ghosts of the dead. Dr. Codrington, it
should be said, does not generalise, but confines himself to the savages
of whom he has made a special study. But, from the other examples of the
same distinction which we have offered, and the rest which we shall offer,
we think ourselves justified in regarding the distinction between a
primeval, eternal, being or beings, on one hand, and ghosts or spirits
exalted from ghost's estate, on the other, as common, if not universal.

There are corporeal and incorporeal Vuis, but the body of the corporeal
Vui is '_not_ a human body.'[14] The chief is Qat, 'still at hand to help
and invoked in prayers.' 'Qat, Marawa, look down upon me, smooth the sea
for us two, that I may go safely over the sea!' Qat 'created men and
animals,' though, in a certain district, he is claimed as an _ancestor_
(p. 268). Two strata of belief have here been confused.

The myth of Qat is a jungle of facetiae and frolic, with one or two
serious incidents, such as the beginning of Death and the coming of Night.
His mother was, or became, a stone; stones playing a considerable part in
the superstitions.

The incorporeal Vuis, 'with nothing like a human life, have a much higher
place than Qat and his brothers in the religious system.' They have
neither names, nor shapes, nor legends, they receive sacrifice, and are in
some uncertain way connected with stones; these stones usually bear a
fanciful resemblance to fruits or animals (p. 275). The only sacrifice, in
Banks Islands, is that of shell-money. The mischievous spirits are Tamate,
ghosts of men. There is a belief in _mana_ (magical _rapport_). Dr.
Codrington cannot determine the connection of this belief with that in
spirits. Mana is the uncanny, is X, the unknown. A revived impression of
sense is _nunuai_, as when a tired fisher, half asleep at night, feels the
'draw' of a salmon, and automatically strikes.[15] The common ghost is a
bag of _nunuai_, as living man, in the opinion of some philosophers, is a
bag of 'sensations.' Ghosts are only seen as spiritual lights, which so
commonly attend hallucinations among the civilised. Except in the prayers
to Qat and Marawa, prayer only invokes the dead (p. 285). 'In the western
islands the offerings are made to ghosts, and consumed by fire; in the
eastern (Banks) isles they are made to spirits (beings, _Vui_), and
there is no sacrificial fire.' Now, the worship of ghosts goes, in these
isles, with the higher culture, 'a more considerable advance in the arts
of life;' the worship of non-ghosts, _Vui_, goes with the lower material
culture.[16] This is rather the reverse of what we should expect, in
accordance with the anthropological theory. According, however, to our
theory, Animism and ghost-worship may be of later development, and belong
to a higher level of culture, than worship of a being, or beings, that
never were ghosts. In Leper's Isle, 'ghosts do not appear to have prayers
or sacrifices offered to them,' but cause disease, and work magic.[17]

The belief in the soul, in Melanesia, does _not_ appear to proceed 'from
their dreams or visions in which deceased or absent persons are presented
to them, for they do not appear to believe that the soul goes out from the
dreamer, or presents itself as an object in his dreams,' nor does belief
in other spirits seem to be founded on 'the appearance of life or motion
in inanimate things.'[18]

To myself it rather looks as if all impressions had their _nunuai_, real,
bodiless, persistent, after-images; that the soul is the complex of all of
these _nunuai_; that there is in the universe a kind of magical other,
called _mana_, possessed, in different proportions, by different men,
_Vui_, _tamate_, and material objects, and that the _atai_ or _ataro_ of a
man dead, his ghost, retains its old, and acquires new _mana_.[19] It is an
odd kind of metaphysic to find among very backward and isolated savages.
But the lesson of Melanesia teaches us how very little we really know of
the religion of low races, how complex it is, how hardly it can be forced
into our theories, if we take it as given in our knowledge, allow for our
ignorance, and are not content to select facts which suit our hypothesis,
while ignoring the rest. On a higher level of material culture than the
Melanesians are the Fijians.

Fijian religion, as far as we understand, resembles the others in drawing
an impassable line between ghosts and eternal gods. The word _Kalou_ is
applied to all supernal beings, and mystic or magical things alike. It
seems to answer to _mana_ in New Zealand and Melanesia, to _wakan_ in
North America, and to _fee_ in old French, as when Perrault says, about
Bluebeard's key, 'now the key was _fee_.' All Gods are _Kalou_, but all
things that are _Kalou_ are not Gods. Gods are _Kalou vu_; deified ghosts
are _Kalou yalo_. The former are eternal, without beginning of days or end
of years; the latter are subject to infirmity and even to death.[20]

The Supreme Being, if we can apply the term to him, is Ndengei, or Degei,
'who seems to be an impersonation of the abstract idea of eternal
existence.' This idea is not easily developed out of the conception of a
human soul which has died into a ghost and may die again. His myth
represents him as a serpent, emblem of eternity, or a body of stone with a
serpent's head. His one manifestation is given by eating. So neglected is
he that a song exists about his lack of worshippers and gifts. 'We made
men,' says Ndengei, 'placed them on earth, and yet they share to us only
the under shell.'[21] Here is an extreme case of the self-existent
creative Eternal, mythically lodged in a serpent's body, and reduced to a

It is not easy to see any explanation, if we reject the hypothesis that
this is an old, fallen form of faith, 'with scarcely a temple.' The other
unborn immortals are mythical warriors and adulterers, like the popular
deities of Greece. Yet Ndengei receives prayers through two sons of his,
mediating deities. The priests are possessed, or inspired, by spirits and
gods. One is not quite clear as to whether Ndengei is an inspiring god or
not; but that prayers are made to him is inconsistent with the belief in
his eternal inaction. A priest is represented as speaking for Ndengei,
probably by inspiration. 'My own mind departs from me, and then, when it
is truly gone, my god speaks by me,' is the account of this 'alternating
personality' given by a priest.[22]

After informing us that Ndengei is starved, Mr. Williams next tells about
offerings to him, in earlier days, of hundreds of hogs.[23] He sends rain
on earth. Animals, men, stones, may all be _Kalou_. There is a Hades as
fantastic as that in the Egyptian 'Book of the Dead,' and second sight

The mysteries include the sham raising of the dead, and appear to be
directed at propitiatory ghosts rather than at Ndengei. There are scenes
of license; 'particulars of almost incredible indecency have been
privately forwarded to Dr. Tylor.'[24]

Suppose a religious reformer were to arise in one of the many savage
tribes who, as we shall show, possess, but neglect, an Eternal Creator.
He would do what, in the secular sphere, was done by the Mikado of Japan.
The Mikado was a political Dendid or Ndengei--an awful, withdrawn,
impotent potentate. Power was wielded by the Tycoon. A Mikado of genius
asserted himself; hence arose modern Japan. In the same way, a religious
reformer like Khuen Ahten in Egypt would preach down minor gods, ghosts
and sacred beasts, and proclaim the primal Maker, Ndengei, Dendid, Mtanga.
'The king shall hae his ain again.' Had it not been for the Prophets,
Israel, by the time that Greece and Rome knew Israel, would have been
worshipping a horde of little gods, and even beasts and ghosts, while the
Eternal would have become a mere name--perhaps, like Ndengei and Atahocan
and Unkulunkulu, a jest. The Old Testament is the story of the prolonged
effort to keep Jehovah in His supreme place. To make and to succeed in
that effort was the _differentia_, of Israel. Other peoples, even the
lowest, had, as we prove, the germinal conception of a God--assuredly not
demonstrated to be derived from the ghost theory, logically in no need of
the ghost theory, everywhere explicitly contrasted with the ghost theory.
'But their foolish heart was darkened.'

It is impossible to prove, historically, which of the two main elements in
belief--the idea of an Eternal Being or Beings, or the idea of surviving
ghosts--came first into the minds of men. The idea of primeval Eternal
Beings, as understood by savages, does not depend on, or require, the
ghost theory. But, as we almost always find ghosts and a Supreme Being
together, where we find either, among the lowest savages, we have no
historical ground for asserting that either is prior to the other. Where
we have no evidence to the belief in the Maker, we must not conclude that
no such belief exists. Our knowledge is confused and scanty; often it is
derived from men who do not know the native language, or the native sacred
language, or have not been trusted with what the savage treasures as his
secret. Moreover, if anywhere ghosts are found without gods, it is an
inference from the argument that an idea familiar to very low savage
tribes, like the Australians, and falling more and more into the
background elsewhere, though still extant and traceable, might, in certain
cases, be lost and forgotten altogether.

To take an example of half-forgotten deity. Mr. Im Thurn, a good observer,
has written on 'The Animism of the Indians of British Guiana.' Mr. Im
Thurn justly says: 'The man who above all others has made this study
possible is Mr. Tylor.' But it is not unfair to remark that Mr. Im Thurn
naturally sees most distinctly that which Mr. Tylor has taught him to
see--namely, Animism. He has also been persuaded, by Mr. Dorman, that the
Great Spirit of North American tribes is 'almost certainly nothing more
than a figure of European origin, reflected and transmitted almost beyond
recognition on the mirror of the Indian mind,' That is not my opinion: I
conceive that the Red Indians had their native Eternal, like the
Australians, Fijians, Andamanese, Dinkas, Yao, and so forth, as will be
shown later.

Mr. Im Thurn, however, dilates on the dream origin of the ghost theory,
giving examples from his own knowledge of the difficulty with which Guiana
Indians discern the hallucinations of dreams from the facts of waking
life. Their waking hallucinations are also so vivid as to be taken for
realities.[25] Mr. Im Thurn adopts the hypothesis that, from ghosts, 'a
belief has arisen, but very gradually, in higher spirits, and, eventually,
in a Highest Spirit; and, keeping pace with the growth of these beliefs,
a habit of reverence for and worship of spirits.' On this hypothesis,
the spirit latest evolved, and most worshipful, ought, of course, to be
the 'Highest Spirit.' But the reverse, as usual, is the case. The Guiana
Indians believe in the continued, but not in the everlasting, existence of
a man's ghost.[26] They believe in no spirits which were not once tenants
of material bodies.[27]

The belief in a Supreme Spirit is only attained 'in the highest form of
religion'--Andamanese, for instance--as Mr. Im Thurn uses 'spirit' where
we should say 'being.' 'The Indians of Guiana know no god.'[28]

'But it is true that various words have been found in all, or nearly all,
the languages of Guiana which have been supposed to be names of a Supreme
Being, God, a Great Spirit, in the sense which those phrases bear in the
language of the higher religions.'

Being interpreted, these Guiana names mean--

_The Ancient One,
The Ancient One in Sky-land,
Our Maker,
Our Father,
Our Great Father._

'None of those in any way involves the attributes of a god.'

The Ancient of Days, Our Father in Sky-land, Our Maker, do rather convoy
the sense of God to a European mind. Mr. Im Thurn, however, decides that
the beings thus designated were supposed ancestors who came into Guiana
from some other country, 'sometimes said to have been that entirely
natural country (?) which is separated from Guiana by the ocean of the

Mr. Im Thurn casually observed (having said nothing about morals in
alliance with Animism):

'The fear of unwittingly offending the countless visible and invisible
beings ... kept the Indians very strictly within their own rights and from
offending against the rights of others.'

This remark dropped out at a discussion of Mr. Im Thurn's paper, and
clearly demonstrated that even a very low creed 'makes for

Probably few who have followed the facts given here will agree with Mr. Im
Thurn's theory that 'Our Maker,' 'Our Father,' 'The Ancient One of the
Heaven,' is merely an idealised human ancestor. He falls naturally into
his place with the other high gods of low savages. But we need much more
information on the subject than Mr. Im Thurn was able to give.

His evidence is all the better, because he is a loyal follower of Mr.
Tylor. And Mr. Tylor says: 'Savage Animism is almost devoid of that
ethical element which to the educated modern mind is the very mainspring
of practical religion.'[31] 'Yet it keeps the Indians very strictly
within their own rights and from offending the rights of others.' Our own
religion is rarely so successful.[32]

In the Indians of Guiana we have an alleged case of a people still deep in
the animistic or ghost-worshipping case, who, by the hypothesis, have not
yet evolved the idea of a god at all.

When the familiar names for God, such as Maker, Father, Ancient of Days,
occur in the Indian language, Mr. Im Thurn explains the neglected Being
who bears these titles as a remote deified ancestor. Of course, when a
Being with similar titles occurs where ancestors are not worshipped, as in
Australia and the Andaman Islands, the explanation suggested by Mr. Im
Thurn for the problem of religion in Guiana, will not fit the facts.

It is plain that, _a priori_, another explanation is conceivable. If a
people like the Andamanese, or the Australian tribes whom we have studied,
had such a conception as that of Puluga, or Baiame, or Mungan-ngaur and
then, _later_, developed ancestor-worship with its propitiatory sacrifices
and ceremonies, ancestor-worship, as the newest evolved and infinitely the
most practical form of cult, would gradually thrust the belief in a
Puluga, or Mungan-ngaur, or Cagn into the shade. The ancestral spirit, to
speak quite plainly, can be 'squared' by the people in whom he takes a
special interest for family reasons. The equal Father of all men cannot
be 'squared,' and declines (till corrupted by the bad example of ancestral
ghosts) to make himself useful to one man rather than to another. For
these very intelligible, simple, and practical reasons, if the belief in
a Mungan-ngaur came first in evolution, and the belief in a practicable
bribable family ghost came second, the ghost-cult would inevitably crowd
out the God-cult.[33] The name of the Father and Maker would become a
mere survival, _nominis umbra_, worship and sacrifice going to the
ancestral ghost. That explanation would fit the state of religion which
Mr. Im Thurn has found, rightly or wrongly, in British Guiana.

But, if the idea of a universal Father and Maker came last in evolution,
as a refinement, then, of course, it ought to be the newest, and therefore
the most fashionable and potent of Guianese cults. Precisely the reverse
is said to be the case. Nor can the belief indicated in such names
as Father and Maker be satisfactorily explained as a refinement of
ancestor-worship, because, we repeat, it occurs where ancestors are not

These considerations, however unpleasant to the devotees of Animism, or
the ghost theory, are not, in themselves, illogical, nor contradictory of
the theory of evolution, which, on the other hand, fits them perfectly
well. That god thrives best who is most suited to his environment. Whether
an easy-going, hungry ghost-god with a liking for his family, or a moral
Creator not to be bribed, is better suited to an environment of not
especially scrupulous savages, any man can decide. Whether a set of not
particularly scrupulous savages will readily evolve a moral unbribable
Creator, when they have a serviceable family ghost-god eager to oblige, is
a question as easily resolved.

Beyond all doubt, savages who find themselves under the watchful eye of a
moral deity whom they cannot 'square' will desert him as soon as they have
evolved a practicable ghost-god, useful for family purposes, whom they
_can_ square. No less manifestly, savages, who already possess a throng of
serviceable ghost-gods, will not enthusiastically evolve a moral Being who
despises gifts, and only cares for obedience. 'There is a great deal of
human nature in man,' and, if Mr. Im Thurn's description of the Guianese
be correct, everything we know of human nature, and of evolution, assures
us that the Father, or Maker, or Ancient of Days came first; the
ghost-gods, last. What has here been said about the Indians of Guiana
(namely, that they are now more ghost and spirit worshippers, with only a
name surviving to attest a knowledge of a Father and Maker in Heaven)
applies equally well to the Zulus. The Zulus are the great standing type
of an animistic or ghost-worshipping race without a God. But, had they a
God (on the Australian pattern) whom they have forgotten, or have they not
yet evolved a God out of Animism?

The evidence, collected by Dr. Callaway, is honest, but confused. One
native, among others, put forward the very theory here proposed by us as
an alternative to that of Mr. Im Thurn. 'Unkulunkulu' (the idealised but
despised First Ancestor) 'was not worshipped [by men]. For it is not
worship when people see things, as rain, or food, or corn, and say,
"Yes, these things were made by Unkulunkulu.... Afterwards they [men]
had power to change those things, that they might become the Amatongos"
[might belong to the ancestral spirits]. _They took them away from

Animism supplanted Theism. Nothing could be more explicit. But, though we
have found an authentic Zulu text to suit our provisional theory, the most
eminent philosophical example must not reduce us into supposing that this
text settles the question. Dr. Callaway collected great masses of Zulu
answers to his inquiries, and it is plain that a respondent, like the
native theologian whom we have cited, may have adapted his reply to what
he had learned of Christian doctrine. Having now the Christian notion of a
Divine Creator, and knowing, too, that the unworshipped Unkulunkulu is
said to have 'made things,' while only ancestral spirits, are worshipped,
the native may have inferred that worship (by Christians given to the
Creator) was at some time transferred by the Zulus from Unkulunkulu to the
Amatongo. The truth is that both the anthropological theory (spirits
first, Gods last), and our theory (Supreme Being first, spirits next) can
find warrant in Dr. Callaway's valuable collections. For that reason, the
problem must be solved after a survey of the whole field of savage and
barbaric religion; it cannot be settled by the ambiguous case of the
Zulus alone.

Unkulunkulu is represented as 'the First Man, who broke off in the
beginning.' 'They are ancestor-worshippers,' says Dr. Callaway, 'and
believe that their first ancestor, the First Man, was the Creator.'[35]
But they may, like many other peoples, have had a different original
tradition, and have altered it, just because they are now such fervent
ancestor-worshippers. Unkulunkulu was prior to Death, which came among men
in the usual mythical way.[36] Whether Unkulunkulu still exists, is
rather a moot question: Dr. Callaway thinks that he does not.[37] If not,
he is an exception to the rule in Australia, Andaman, among the Bushmen,
the Fuegians, and savages in general, who are less advanced in culture
than the Zulus. The idea, then, of a Maker of things who has ceased to
exist occurs, if at all, not in a relatively primitive, but in a
relatively late religion. On the analogy of pottery, agriculture, the use
of iron, villages, hereditary kings, and so on, the notion of a dead Maker
is late, not early. It occurs where men have iron, cattle, agriculture,
kings, houses, a disciplined army, _not_ where men have none of these
things. The Zulu godless ancestor-worship, then, by parity of reasoning,
is, like their material culture, not an early but a late development. The
Zulus 'hear of a King which is above'--'the heavenly King.'[38] 'We did
not hear of him first from white men.... But he is not like Unkulunkulu,
who, we say, made all things.'

Here may be dimly descried the ideas of a God, and a subordinate demiurge.
'The King is above, Unkulunkulu is beneath.' The King above punishes sin,
striking the sinner by lightning. Nor do the Zulus know how they have
sinned. 'There remained only that word about the heaven,' 'which,' says
Dr. Callaway, 'implies that there might have been other words which are
now lost.' There is great confusion of thought. Unkulunkulu made the
heaven, where the unknown King reigns, a hard task for a
First Man.[39]

'In process of time we have come to worship the Amadhlozi (spirits) only,
because we know not what to say about Unkulunkulu.'[40] 'It is on that
account, then, that we seek out for ourselves the Amadhlozi (spirits),
that we may not always be thinking about Unkulunkulu.'

All this attests a faint lingering shadow of a belief too ethereal, too
remote, for a practical conquering race, which prefers intelligible
serviceable ghosts, with a special regard for their own families.

Ukoto, a very old Zulu, said: 'When we were children it was said "The Lord
is in heaven." ... They used to point to the Lord on high; we did not hear
his name.' Unkulunkulu was understood, by this patriarch, to refer to
immediate ancestors, whose mimes and genealogies he gave.[41] 'We heard it
said that the Creator of the world was the Lord who is above; people used
always, when I was growing up, to point towards heaven.'

A very old woman was most reluctant to speak of Unkulunkulu; at last she
said, 'Ah, it is he in fact who is the Creator, who is in heaven, of whom
the ancients spoke.' Then the old woman began to babble humorously of how
the white men made all things. Again, Unkulunkulu is said to have been
created by Utilexo. Utilexo was invisible, Unkulunkulu was visible, and so
got credit not really his due.[42] When the heaven is said to be the
Chief's (the chief being a living Zulu) 'they do not believe what they
say,' the phrase is a mere hyperbolical compliment.[43]

On this examination of the evidence, it certainly seems as logical to
conjecture that the Zulus had once such an idea of a Supreme Being as
lower races entertain, and then nearly lost it; as to say that Zulus,
though a monarchical race, have not yet developed a King-God out of the
throng of spirits (Amatongo). The Zulus, the Norsemen of the South, so to
speak, are a highly practical military race. A Deity at all abstract was
not to their liking. Serviceable family spirits, who continually provided
an excuse for a dinner of roast beef, were to their liking. The less
developed races do not kill their flocks commonly for food. A sacrifice is
needed as a pretext. To the gods of Andamanese, Bushmen, Australians, no
sacrifice is offered. To the Supreme Being of most African peoples no
sacrifice is offered. There is no festivity in the worship of these
Supreme Beings, no feasting, at all events. They are not to be 'got at' by
gifts or sacrifices. The Amatongo are to be 'got at,' are bribable, supply
an excuse for a good dinner, and thus the practical Amatongo are honoured,
while, in the present generation of Zulus, Unkulunkulu is a joke, and the
Lord in Heaven is the shadow of a name. Clearly this does not point to the
recent but to the remote development of the higher ideas, now superseded
by spirit-worship.

We shall next see how this view, the opposite of the anthropological
theory, works when applied to other races, especially to other African

[Footnote 1: When I wrote _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_ (ii. 11-13) I
regarded Cagn as 'only a successful and idealised medicine man.' But I now
think that I confused in my mind the religious and the mythological
aspects of Cagn. One of unknown origin, existing before the sun, a Maker
of all things, prayed to, but not in receipt of sacrifice, is no medicine
man, except in his myth.]

[Footnote 2: The omissions in Mr. Spencer's system may possibly be
explained by the circumstance that, as he tells us, he collected his
facts 'by proxy.' While we find Waitz much interested in and amazed by the
benevolent Supreme Being of many African tribes, that personage is only
alluded to as 'Alleged Benevolent Supreme Being' in Mr. Spencer's
_Descriptive Sociology_, and is usually left out of sight altogether in
his _Principles of Sociology_ and _Ecclesiastical Institutions_. Yet we
have precisely the same kind of evidence of observers for this 'alleged'
benevolent Supreme Being as we have for the _canaille_ of ghosts and
fetishes. If he is a deity of a rather lofty moral conception, of course
he need not be propitiated by human sacrifices or cold chickens. _That_
kind of material evidence to the faith in him must be absent by the
nature of the case; but the coincident testimony of travellers to belief
in a Supreme Being cannot be dismissed as 'alleged.']

[Footnote 3: Pp. 676, 677.]

[Footnote 4: Man, _J.A.I_. xii. 70.]

[Footnote 5: Man, _J.A.I_. xii. 96-98.]

[Footnote 6: xii. 156, 157.]

[Footnote 7: xii. 112.]

[Footnote 8: xii. 158.]

[Footnote 9: xii. 158.]

[Footnote 10: _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_, i. 281-288.]

[Footnote 11: Lobeck, _Aglaophamus_, 133.]

[Footnote 12: _J.A.I_. x. 263.]

[Footnote 13: _J.A.I_. 267.]

[Footnote 14: _J.A.I_. x. 267.]

[Footnote 15: P. 281. This is a _nunuai_ with which I am familiar. Flying
fish, in Banks Island, take the _role_ of salmon. The natives think it
real, but without form or substance.]

[Footnote 16: Codrington, _Melanesia_, p. 122.]

[Footnote 17: _J.A.I_. x. 294.]

[Footnote 18: Op. cit. x. 313.]

[Footnote 19: _J.A.I_. x. 300.]

[Footnote 20: Williams's _Fiji_, p. 218. See Mr. Thomson's remarks cited

[Footnote 21: _Fiji_, p. 217.]

[Footnote 22: Ibid. p. 228.]

[Footnote 23: Ibid. p. 230.]

[Footnote 24: _J.A.I_. xiv. 30.]

[Footnote 25: _J.A.I_. xi. 361-366.]

[Footnote 26: Ibid. xi. 374.]

[Footnote 27: Ibid. xi. 376.]

[Footnote 28: Ibid. xi. 376]

[Footnote 29: _J.A.I_. xi. 378.]

[Footnote 30: Ibid. 382.]

[Footnote 31: _Prim. Cult_. ii. 360.]

[Footnote 32: Conceivably, however, the Guiana spirits who have so much
moral influence, exert it by magical charms. 'The belief in the power of
charms for good or evil produces not only honesty, but a great amount of
gentle dealing,' says Livingstone, of the Africans. However they work, the
spirits work for righteousness.]

[Footnote 33: Obviously there could be no Family God before there was the
institution of the Family.]

[Footnote 34: Callaway, _Rel. of Amazulu_, p. 17.]

[Footnote 35: Callaway, p. 1.]

[Footnote 36: Op. cit. p. 8.]

[Footnote 37: Op. cit. p. 7.]

[Footnote 38: Op. cit. p. 19.]

[Footnote 39: Callaway, pp. 20, 21.]

[Footnote 40: Pp. 26, 27.]

[Footnote 41: Pp. 49, 50.]

[Footnote 42: P. 67.]

[Footnote 43: P. 122.]



If many of the lowest savages known to us entertain ideas of a Supreme
Being such as we find among Fuegians, Australians, Bushmen, and
Andamanese, are there examples, besides the Zulus, of tribes higher in
material culture who seem to have had such notions, but to have partly
forgotten or neglected them? Miss Kingsley, a lively, observant, and
unprejudiced, though rambling writer, gives this very account of the Bantu
races. Oblivion, or neglect, will show itself in leaving the Supreme Being
alone, as he needs no propitiation, while devoting sacrifice and ritual to
fetishes and ghosts. That this should be done is perfectly natural if the
Supreme Being (who wants no sacrifice) were the first evolved in thought,
while venal fetishes and spirits came in as a result of the ghost theory.
But if, as a result of the ghost theory, the Supreme Being came last in
evolution, he ought to be the most fashionable object of worship, the
latest developed, the most powerful, and most to be propitiated. He is the

To take an example: the Dinkas of the Upper Nile ('godless,' says Sir
Samuel Baker) 'pay a very theoretical kind of homage to the all-powerful
Being, dwelling in heaven, whence he sees all things. He is called
"Dendid" (great rain, that is, universal benediction?).' He is omnipotent,
but, being all beneficence, can do no evil; so, not being feared, he is
not addressed in prayer. The evil spirit, on the other hand, receives
sacrifices. The Dinkas have a strange old chant:

'At the beginning, when Dendid made all things,
He created the Sun,
And the Sun is born, and dies, and comes again!
He created the Stars,
And the Stars are born, and die, and come again!
He created Man,
And Man is born, and dies, and returns no more!'

It is like the lament of Moschus.[1]

Russegger compares the Dinkas, and all the neighbouring peoples who hold
the same beliefs, to modern Deists.[2] They are remote from Atheism and
from cult! Suggestions about an ancient Egyptian influence are made, but
popular Egyptian religion was not monotheistic, and priestly thought could
scarcely influence the ancestors of the Dinkas. M. Lejean says these
peoples are so practical and utilitarian that missionary religion takes no
hold on them. Mr. Spencer does not give the ideas of the Dinkas, but it is
not easy to see how the too beneficent Dendid could be evolved out of
ghost-propitiation, 'the origin of all religions.' Rather the Dinkas, a
practical people, seem to have simply forgotten to be grateful to
their Maker; or have decided, more to the credit of the clearness of their
heads than the warmth of their hearts, that gratitude he does not want.
Like the French philosopher they cultivate _l'independance du coeur_,
being in this matter strikingly unlike the Pawnees.

Let us now take a case in which ancestor-worship, and no other form of
religion (beyond mere superstitions), has been declared to be the practice
of an African people. Mr. Spencer gives the example of natives of the
south-eastern district of Central Africa described by Mr. Macdonald in
'Africana.'[3] The dead man becomes a ghost-god, receives prayer and
sacrifice, is called a Mulungu (= great ancestor or = sky?), is preferred
above older spirits, now forgotten; such old spirits may, however, have a
mountain top for home, a great chief being better remembered; the
mountain god is prayed to for rain; higher gods were probably similar
local gods in an older habitat of the Yao.[4]

Such is in the main Mr. Spencer's _resume_ of Mr. Duff Macdonald's report.
He omits whatever Mr. Macdonald says about a Being among the Yaos,
analogous to the Dendid of the Dinkas, or the Darumulun of Australia, or
the Huron Ahone. Yet analysis detects, in Mr. Macdonald's report,
copious traces of such a Being, though Mr. Macdonald himself believes in
ancestor-worship as the Source of the local religion. Thus, Mulungu,
or Mlungu, used as a proper name, 'is said to be the great spirit,
_msimu_, of all men, a spirit formed by adding all the departed spirits
together.[5] This is a singular stretch of savage philosophy, and
indicates (says Mr. Macdonald) 'a grasping after a Being who is the
totality of all individual existence.... If it fell from the lips of
civilised men instead of savages, it would be regarded as philosophy.
Expressions of this kind among the natives are partly traditional, and
partly dictated by the big thoughts of the moment.' Philosophy it is, but
a philosophy dependent on the ghost theory.

I go on to show that the Wayao have, though Mr. Spencer omits him, a Being
who precisely answers to Darumulun, if stripped (perhaps) of his ethical
aspect. On this point we are left in uncertainty, just because Mr.
Macdonald could not ascertain the secrets of his mysteries, which, in
Australia, have been revealed to a few Europeans.

Where Mulungu is used as a proper name, it 'certainly points to a personal
Being, by the Wayao sometimes said to be the same as Mtanga. At other
times he is a Being that possesses many powerful servants, but is himself
kept a good deal beyond the scene of earthly affairs, like the gods of

This is, of course, precisely the feature in African theology which
interests us. The Supreme Being, in spite of the potency which his
supposed place as latest evolved out of the ghost-world should naturally
give him, is neglected, either as half forgotten, or for philosophical
reasons. For these reasons Epicurus and Lucretius make their gods
_otiosi_, unconcerned, and the Wayao, with their universal collective
spirit, are no mean philosophers.

'This Mulungu' or Mtanga, 'in the world beyond the grave, is represented
as assigning to spirits their proper places,' whether for ethical reasons
or not we are not informed.[6] Santos (1586) says 'they acknowledge a God
who, both in this world and the next, measures retribution for the good or
evil done in this.'

'In the native hypothesis about creation "the people of Mulungu" play a
very important part.' These ministers of his who do his pleasure are,
therefore, as is Mulungu himself, regarded as prior to the existing world.
Therefore they cannot, in Wayao opinion, be ghosts of the dead at all; nor
can we properly call them 'spirits.' They are _beings_, original,
creative, but undefined. The word Mulungu, however, is now applied to
spirits of individuals, but whether it means 'sky' (Salt) or whether it
means 'ancestor' (Bleek), it cannot he made to prove that Mulungu himself
was originally envisaged as 'spirit.' For, manifestly, suppose that the
idea of powerful beings, undefined, came first in evolution, and was
followed by the ghost idea, that idea might then be applied to explaining
the pre-existent creative powers.

Mtanga is by 'some' localised as the god of Mangochi, an Olympus left
behind by the Yao in their wanderings. Here, some hold, his voice is still
audible. 'Others say that Mtanga never was a man ... he was concerned in
the first introduction of men into the world. He gets credit for ...
making mountains and rivers. He is intimately associated with a year of
plenty. He is called Mchimwene juene, 'a very chief.' He has a kind of
evil opposite, _Chitowe_, but this being, the Satan of the creed, 'is a
child or subject of Mtanga,' an evil angel, in fact.[7]

The thunder god, Mpambe, in Yao, Njasi (lightning) is also a minister of
the Supreme Being. 'He is sent by Mtanga with rain.' Europeans are
cleverer than natives, because we 'stayed longer with the people of
God (Mulungu).'

I do not gather that, though associated with good crops, Mtanga or
Mulungu receives any sacrifice or propitiation. 'The chief addresses
his own god;'[8] the chief 'will not trouble himself about his
great-great-grand-father; he will present his offering to his own
immediate predecessor, saying, 'O father, I do not know all your
relatives; you know them all: invite them to feast with you.'[9]

'All the offerings are supposed to point to some want of the spirit,'
Mtanga, on the other hand, is _nihil indiga nostri_.

A village god is given beer to drink, as Indra got Soma. A dead chief is
propitiated by human sacrifices. I find no trace of any gift to Mtanga.
His mysteries are really unknown to Mr. Macdonald: they were laughed at
by a travelled and 'emancipated' Yao.[10]

'These rites are supposed to be inviolably concealed by the initiated, who
often say that they would die if they revealed them.'[11]

How can we pretend to understand a religion if we do not know its secret?
That secret, in Australia, yields the certainty of the ethical character
of the Supreme Being. Mr. Macdonald says about the initiator (a grotesque

'He delivers lectures, and is said to give much good advice ... the
lectures condemn selfishness, and a selfish person is called _mwisichana_,
that is, "uninitiated."'

There could not be better evidence of the presence of the ethical element
in the religious mysteries. Among the Yao, as among the Australian Kurnai,
the central secret lesson of religion is the lesson of unselfishness.

It is not stated that Mtanga instituted or presides over the mysteries.
Judging from the analogy of Eleusis, the Bora, the Red Indian initiations,
and so on, we may expect this to be the belief; but Mr. Macdonald knows
very little about the matter.

The legendary tales say 'all things in this world were made by "God."'
'At first there were not people, but "God" and beasts.' 'God' here,

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