The Making of Religion by Andrew Lang

Produced by Robert Connal, William A. Pifer-Foote and PG Distributed Proofreaders. This file was produced from images generously made available by gallica (Bibliotheque nationale de France) at THE MAKING OF RELIGION BY ANDREW LANG M.A., LL.D. ST ANDREWS HONORARY FELLOW OF MERTON COLLEGE OXFORD SOMETIME GIFFORD LECTURER IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS SECOND
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  • 1898
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Produced by Robert Connal, William A. Pifer-Foote and PG Distributed Proofreaders. This file was produced from images generously made available by gallica (Bibliotheque nationale de France) at








I hope you will permit me to lay at the feet of the University of St. Andrews, in acknowledgment of her life-long kindnesses to her old pupil, these chapters on the early History of Religion. They may be taken as representing the Gifford Lectures delivered by me, though in fact they contain very little that was spoken from Lord Gifford’s chair. I wish they were more worthy of an Alma Mater which fostered in the past the leaders of forlorn hopes that were destined to triumph; and the friends of lost causes who fought bravely against Fate–Patrick Hamilton, Cargill, and Argyll, Beaton and Montrose, and Dundee.

Believe me

Very sincerely yours,


* * * * *


By the nature of things this book falls under two divisions. The first eight chapters criticise the current anthropological theory of the origins of the belief in _spirits._ Chapters ix.-xvii., again, criticise the current anthropological theory as to how, the notion of _spirit_ once attained, man arrived at the idea of a Supreme Being. These two branches of the topic are treated in most modern works concerned with the Origins of Religion, such as Mr. Tyler’s “Primitive Culture,” Mr. Herbert Spencer’s “Principles of Sociology,” Mr. Jevons’s “Introduction to the History of Religion,” the late Mr. Grant Allen’s “Evolution of the Idea of God,” and many others. Yet I have been censured for combining, in this work, the two branches of my subject; and the second part has been regarded as but faintly connected with the first.

The reason for this criticism seems to be, that while one small set of students is interested in, and familiar with the themes examined in the first part (namely the psychological characteristics of certain mental states from which, in part, the doctrine of spirits is said to have arisen), that set of students neither knows nor cares anything about the matter handled in the second part. This group of students is busied with “Psychical Research,” and the obscure human faculties implied in alleged cases of hallucination, telepathy, “double personality,” human automatism, clairvoyance, and so on. Meanwhile anthropological readers are equally indifferent as to that branch of psychology which examines the conditions of hysteria, hypnotic trance, “double personality,” and the like. Anthropologists have not hitherto applied to the savage mental conditions, out of which, in part, the doctrine of “spirits” arose, the recent researches of French, German, and English psychologists of the new school. As to whether these researches into abnormal psychological conditions do, or do not, indicate the existence of a transcendental region of human faculty, anthropologists appear to be unconcerned. The only English exception known to me is Mr. Tylor, and his great work, “Primitive Culture,” was written thirty years ago, before the modern psychological studies of Professor William James, Dr. Romaine Newbold, M. Richet, Dr. Janet, Professor Sidgwick, Mr. Myers, Mr. Gurney, Dr. Parish, and many others had commenced.

Anthropologists have gone on discussing the trances, and visions, and so-called “demoniacal possession” of savages, as if no new researches into similar facts in the psychology of civilised mankind existed; or, if they existed, threw any glimmer of light on the abnormal psychology of savages. I have, on the other hand, thought it desirable to sketch out a study of savage psychology in the light of recent psychological research. Thanks to this daring novelty, the book has been virtually taken as two books; anthropologists have criticised the second part, and one or two Psychical Researchers have criticised the first part; each school leaving one part severely alone. Such are the natural results of a too restricted specialism.

Even to Psychical Researchers the earlier division is of scant interest, because witnesses to _successful_ abnormal or supernormal faculty in savages cannot be brought into court and cross-examined. But I do not give anecdotes of such savage successes as evidence to _facts;_ they are only illustrations, and evidence to _beliefs and methods_ (as of crystal gazing and automatic utterances of “secondary personality”), which, among the savages, correspond to the supposed facts examined by Psychical Research among the civilised. I only point out, as Bastian had already pointed out, the existence of a field that deserves closer study by anthropologists who can observe savages in their homes. We need persons trained in the psychological laboratories of Europe and America, as members of anthropological expeditions. It may be noted that, in his “Letters from the South Seas,” Mr. Louis Stevenson makes some curious observations, especially on a singular form of hypnotism applied to himself with fortunate results. The method, used in native medicine, was novel; and the results were entirely inexplicable to Mr. Stevenson, who had not been amenable to European hypnotic practice. But he was not a trained expert.

Anthropology must remain incomplete while it neglects this field, whether among wild or civilised men. In the course of time this will come to be acknowledged. It will be seen that we cannot really account for the origin of the belief in spirits while we neglect the scientific study of those psychical conditions, as of hallucination and the hypnotic trance, in which that belief must probably have had some, at least, of its origins.

As to the second part of the book, I have argued that the first dim surmises as to a Supreme Being need not have arisen (as on the current anthropological theory) in the notion of spirits at all. (See chapter xi.) Here I have been said to draw a mere “verbal distinction” but no distinction can be more essential. If such a Supreme Being as many savages acknowledge is _not_ envisaged by them as a “spirit,” then the theories and processes by which he is derived from a ghost of a dead man are invalid, and remote from the point. As to the origin of a belief in a kind of germinal Supreme Being (say the Australian Baiame), I do not, in this book, offer any opinion. I again and again decline to offer an opinion. Critics, none the less, have said that I attribute the belief to revelation! I shall therefore here indicate what I think probable in so obscure a field.

As soon as man had the idea of “making” things, he might conjecture as to a Maker of things which he himself had not made, and could not make. He would regard this unknown Maker as a “magnified non-natural man.” These speculations appear to me to need less reflection than the long and complicated processes of thought by which Mr. Tylor believes, and probably believes with justice, the theory of “spirits” to have been evolved. (See chapter iii.) This conception of a magnified non-natural man, who is a Maker, being given; his Power would be recognised, and fancy would clothe one who had made such useful things with certain other moral attributes, as of Fatherhood, goodness, and regard for the ethics of his children; these ethics having been developed naturally in the evolution of social life. In all this there is nothing “mystical,” nor anything, as far as I can see, beyond the limited mental powers of any beings that deserve to be called human.

But I hasten to add that another theory may be entertained. Since this book was written there appeared “The Native Tribes of Central Australia,” by Professor Spencer and Mr. Gillen, a most valuable study.[1] The authors, closely scrutinising the esoteric rites of the Arunta and other tribes in Central Australia, found none of the moral precepts and attributes which (according to Mr. Howitt, to whom their work is dedicated), prevail in the mysteries of the natives of New South Wales and Victoria. (See chapter x.) What they found was a belief in ‘the great spirit, _Twanyirika_,’ who is believed ‘by uninitiated boys and women’ (but, apparently, not by adults) to preside over the cruel rites of tribal initiation.[2] No more is said, no myths about ‘the great spirit’ are given. He is dismissed in a brief note. Now if these ten lines contain _all_ the native lore of Twanyirika, he is a mere bugbear, not believed in (apparently) by adults, but invented by them to terrorise the women and boys. Next, granting that the information of Messrs. Spencer and Gillen is exhaustive, and granting that (as Mr. J.G. Frazer holds, in his essays in the ‘Fortnightly Review,’ April and May, 1899) the Arunta are the most primitive of mortals, it will seem to follow that the _moral_ attributes of Baiame and other gods of other Australian regions are later accretions round the form of an original and confessed bugbear, as among the primitive Arunta, ‘a bogle of the nursery,’ in the phrase repudiated by Maitland of Lethington. Though not otherwise conspicuously more civilised than the Arunta (except, perhaps, in marriage relations), Mr. Howitt’s South Eastern natives will have improved the Arunta confessed ‘bogle’ into a beneficent and moral Father and Maker. Religion will have its origin in a tribal joke, and will have become not ‘_diablement_,’ but ‘_divinement_,’ ‘_changee en route_.’ Readers of Messrs. Spencer and Gillen will see that the Arunta philosophy, primitive or not, is of a high ingenuity, and so artfully composed that it contains no room either for a Supreme Being or for the doctrine of the survival of the soul, with a future of rewards and punishments; opinions declared to be extant among other Australian tribes. There is no creator, and every soul, after death, is reincarnated in a new member of the tribe. On the other hand (granting that the brief note on Twanyirika is exhaustive), the Arunta, in their isolation, may have degenerated in religion, and may have dropped, in the case of Twanyirika, the moral attributes of Baiame. It may be noticed that, in South Eastern Australia, the Being who presides, like Twanyirika, over initiations is _not_ the supreme being, but a son or deputy of his, such as the Kurnai Tundun. We do not know whether the Arunta have, or have had and lost, or never possessed, a being superior to Twanyirika.

With regard, to all such moral, and, in certain versions, creative Beings as Baiame, criticism has taken various lines. There is the high a priori line that savage minds are incapable of originating the notion of a moral Maker. I have already said that the notion, in an early form, seems to be well within the range of any minds deserving to be called human. Next, the facts are disputed. I can only refer readers to the authorities cited. They speak for tribes in many quarters of the world, and the witnesses are laymen as well as missionaries. I am accused, again, of using a misleading rhetoric, and of thereby covertly introducing Christian or philosophical ideas into my account of “savages guiltless of Christian teaching.” As to the latter point, I am also accused of mistaking for native opinions the results of “Christian teaching.” One or other charge must fall to the ground. As to my rhetoric, in the use of such words as ‘Creator,’ ‘Eternal,’ and the like, I shall later qualify and explain it. For a long discussion between myself and Mr. Sidney Hartland, involving minute detail, I may refer the reader to _Folk-Lore_, the last number of 1898 and the first of 1899, and to the Introduction to the new edition of my ‘Myth, Ritual, and Religion’ (1899).

Where relatively high moral attributes are assigned to a Being, I have called the result ‘Religion;’ where the same Being acts like Zeus in Greek fable, plays silly or obscene tricks, is lustful and false, I have spoken of ‘Myth.'[3] These distinctions of Myth and Religion may be, and indeed are, called arbitrary. The whole complex set of statements about the Being, good or bad, sublime or silly, are equally Myths, it may be urged. Very well; but one set, the loftier set, is fitter to survive, and does survive, in what we still commonly call Religion; while the other set, the puerile set of statements, is fairly near to extinction, and is usually called Mythology. One set has been the root of a goodly tree: the other set is being lopped off, like the parasitic mistletoe.

I am arguing that the two classes of ideas arise from two separate human moods; moods as different and distinct as lust and love. I am arguing that, as far as our information goes, the nobler set of ideas is as ancient as the lower. Personally (though we cannot have direct evidence) I find it easy to believe that the loftier notions are the earlier. If man began with the conception of a powerful and beneficent Maker or Father, then I can see how the humorous savage fancy ran away with the idea of Power, and attributed to a potent being just such tricks as a waggish and libidinous savage would like to play if he could. Moreover, I have actually traced (in ‘Myth, Ritual, and Religion’) some plausible processes of mythical accretion. The early mind was not only religious, in its way, but scientific, in its way. It embraced the idea of Evolution as well as the idea of Creation. To one mood a Maker seemed to exist. But the institution of Totemism (whatever its origin) suggested the idea of Evolution; for men, it was held, developed out of their Totems-animals and plants. But then, on the other hand, Zeus, or Baiame, or Mungun-ngaur, was regarded as their Father. How were these contradictions to be reconciled? Easily, thus: Zeus _was_ the Father, but, in each case, was the Father by an amour in which he wore the form of the Totem-snake, swan, bull, ant, dog, or the like. At once a degraded set of secondary erotic myths cluster around Zeus.

Again, it is notoriously the nature of man to attribute every institution to a primal inventor or legislator. Men then, find themselves performing certain rites, often of a buffooning or scandalous character; and, in origin, mainly magical, intended for the increase of game, edible plants, or, later, for the benefit of the crops. _Why_ do they perform these rites? they ask: and, looking about, as usual, for a primal initiator, they attribute what they do to a primal being, the Corn Spirit, Demeter, or to Zeus, or to Baiame, or Manabozho, or Punjel. This is man’s usual way of going back to origins. Instantly, then, a new set of parasitic myths crystallises round a Being who, perhaps, was originally moral. The savage mind, in short, has not maintained itself on the high level, any more than the facetious mediaeval myths maintained themselves, say, on the original level of the conception of the character of St. Peter, the keeper of the keys of Heaven.

All this appears perfectly natural and human, and in this, and in other ways, what we call low Myth may have invaded the higher realms of Religion: a lower invaded a higher element. But reverse the hypothesis. Conceive that Zeus, or Baiame, was _originally_, not a Father and guardian, but a lewd and tricky ghost of a medicine-man, a dancer of indecent dances, a wooer of other men’s wives, a shape-shifter, a burlesque droll, a more jocular bugbear, like Twanyirika. By what means did he come to be accredited later with his loftiest attributes, and with regard for the tribal ethics, which, in practice, he daily broke and despised? Students who argue for the possible priority of the lowest, or, as I call them, mythical attributes of the Being, must advance an hypothesis of the concretion of the nobler elements around the original wanton and mischievous ghost.

Then let us suppose that the Arunta Twanyirika, a confessed bugbear, discredited by adults, and only invented to keep women and children in order, was the original germ of the moral and fatherly Baiame, of South Eastern Australian tribes. How, in that case, did the adults of the tribe fall into their own trap, come to believe seriously in their invented bugbear, and credit him with the superintendence of such tribal ethics as generosity and unselfishness? What were the processes of the conversion of Twanyirika? I do not deny that this theory may be correct, but I wish to see an hypothesis of the process of elevation.

I fail to frame such an hypothesis. Grant that the adults merely chuckle over Twanyirika, whose ‘voice’ they themselves produce; by whirling the wooden tundun, or bull-roarer. Grant that, on initiation, the boys learn that ‘the great spirit’ is a mere bogle, invented to mystify the women, and keep them away from the initiatory rites. How, then, did men come to believe in _him_ as a terrible, all-seeing, all-knowing, creative, and potent moral being? For this, undeniably, is the belief of many Australian tribes, where his ‘voice’ (or rather that of his subordinate) is produced by whirling the tundun. That these higher beliefs are of European origin, Mr. Howitt denies. How were they evolved out of the notion of a confessed artificial bogle? I am unable to frame a theory.

From my point of view, namely, that the higher and simple ideas may well be the earlier, I have, at least, offered a theory of the processes by which the lower attributes crystallised around a conception supposed (_argumenti gratia_) to be originally high. Other processes of degradation would come in, as (on my theory) the creed and practice of Animism, or worship of human ghosts, often of low character, swamped and invaded the prior belief in a fairly moral and beneficent, but not originally spiritual, Being. My theory, at least, _is_ a theory, and, rightly or wrongly, accounts for the phenomenon, the combination of the highest divine and the lowest animal qualities in the same Being. But I have yet to learn how, if the lowest myths are the earliest, the highest attributes came in time to be conferred on the hero of the lowest myths. Why, or how, did a silly buffoon, or a confessed ‘bogle’ arrive at being regarded as a patron of such morality as had been evolved? An hypothesis of the processes involved must be indicated. It is not enough to reply, in general, that the rudimentary human mind is illogical and confused. That is granted; but there must have been a method in its madness. What that method was (from my point of view) I have shown, and it must be as easy for opponents to set forth what, from their point of view, the method was.

We are here concerned with what, since the time of the earliest Greek philosophers, has been the _crux_ of mythology: why are infamous myths told about ‘the Father of gods and men’? We can easily explain the nature of the myths. They are the natural flowers of savage fancy and humour. But wherefore do they crystallise round Zeus? I have, at least, shown some probable processes in the evolution.

Where criticism has not disputed the facts of the moral attributes, now attached to, say, an Australian Being, it has accounted for them by a supposed process of borrowing from missionaries and other Europeans. In this book I deal with that hypothesis as urged by Sir A.B. Ellis, in West Africa (chapter xiii.). I need not have taken the trouble, as this distinguished writer had already, in a work which I overlooked, formally withdrawn, as regards Africa, his theory of ‘loan-gods.’ Miss Kingsley, too, is no believer in the borrowing hypothesis for West Africa, in regard, that is, to the highest divine conception. I was, when I wrote, unaware that, especially as concerns America and Australia, Mr. Tylor had recently advocated the theory of borrowing (‘Journal of Anthrop. Institute,’ vol. xxi.). To Mr. Tylor’s arguments, when I read them, I replied in the ‘Nineteenth Century,’ January 1899: ‘Are Savage Gods Borrowed from Missionaries?’ I do not here repeat my arguments, but await the publication of Mr. Tylor’s ‘Gifford Lectures,’ in which his hypothesis may be reinforced, and may win my adhesion.

It may here be said, however, that if the Australian higher religious ideas are of recent and missionary origin, they would necessarily be known to the native women, from whom, in fact, they are absolutely concealed by the men, under penalty of death. Again, if the Son, or Sons, of Australian chief Beings resemble part of the Christian dogma, they much more closely resemble the Apollo and Hermes of Greece.[4] But nobody will say that the Australians borrowed them from Greek mythology!

In chapter xiv., owing to a bibliographical error of my own, I have done injustice to Mr. Tylor, by supposing him to have overlooked Strachey’s account of the Virginian god Ahone. He did not overlook Ahone, but mistrusted Strachey. In an excursus on Ahone, in the new edition of ‘Myth, Ritual, and Religion,’ I have tried my best to elucidate the bibliography and other aspects of Strachey’s account, which I cannot regard as baseless. Mr. Tylor’s opinion is, doubtless, different, and may prove more persuasive. As to Australia, Mr. Howitt, our best authority, continues to disbelieve in the theory of borrowing.

I have to withdraw in chapters x. xi. the statement that ‘Darumulun never died at all.’ Mr. Hartland has corrected me, and pointed out that, among the Wiraijuri, a myth represents him as having been destroyed, for his offences, by Baiame. In that tribe, however, Darumulun is not the highest, but a subordinate Being. Mr. Hartland has also collected a few myths in which Australian Supreme Beings _do_ (contrary to my statement) ‘set the example of sinning.’ Nothing can surprise me less, and I only wonder that, in so savage a race, the examples, hitherto collected, are so rare, and so easily to be accounted for on the theory of processes of crystallisation of myths already suggested.

As to a remark in Appendix B, Mr. Podmore takes a distinction. I quote his remark, ‘the phenomena described are quite inexplicable by ordinary mechanical means,’ and I contrast this, as illogical, with his opinion that a girl ‘may have been directly responsible for all that took place.’ Mr. Podmore replies that what was ‘described’ is not necessarily identical with what _occurred_. Strictly speaking, he is right; but the evidence was copious, was given by many witnesses, and (as offered by me) was in part _contemporary_ (being derived from the local newspapers), so that here Mr. Podmore’s theory of illusions of memory on a large scale, developed in the five weeks which elapsed before he examined the spectators, is out of court. The evidence was of contemporary published record.

The handling of fire by Home is accounted for by Mr. Podmore, in the same chapter, as the result of Home’s use of a ‘non-conducting substance.’ Asked, ‘what substance?’ he answered, ‘asbestos.’ Sir William Crookes, again repeating his account of the performance which he witnessed, says, ‘Home took up a lump of red-hot charcoal about twice the size of an egg into his hand, on which certainly no asbestos was visible. He blew into his hands, and the flames could be seen coming out between his fingers, and he carried the charcoal round the room.'[5] Sir W. Crookes stood close beside Home. The light was that of the fire and of two candles. Probably Sir William could see a piece of asbestos, if it was covering Home’s hands, which he was watching.

What I had to say, by way of withdrawal, qualification, explanation, or otherwise, I inserted (in order to seize the earliest opportunity) in the Introduction to the recent edition of my ‘Myth, Ritual, and Religion’ (1899). The reader will perhaps make his own kind deductions from my rhetoric when I talk, for example, about a Creator in the creed of low savages. They have no business, anthropologists declare, to entertain so large an idea. But in ‘The Journal of the Anthropological Institute,’ N.S. II., Nos. 1, 2, p. 85, Dr. Bennett gives an account of the religion of the cannibal Fangs of the Congo, first described by Du Chaillu. ‘These anthropophagi have some idea of a God, a superior being, their _Tata_ (“Father”), _a bo mam merere_ (“he made all things”), Anyambi is their _Tata_ (Father), and ranks above all other Fang gods, because _a’ne yap_ (literally, “he lives in heaven”).’ This is inconsiderate in the Fangs. A set of native cannibals have no business with a creative Father who is in heaven. I say ‘creative’ because ‘he made all things,’ and (as the bowler said about a ‘Yorker’) ‘what else can you call him?’ In all such cases, where ‘creator’ and ‘creative’ are used by me, readers will allow for the imperfections of the English language. As anthropologists say, the savages simply cannot have the corresponding ideas; and I must throw the blame on people who, knowing the savages and their language, assure us that they _have_. This Fang Father or _Tata_ ‘is considered indifferent to the wants and sufferings of men, women, and children.’ Offerings and prayers are therefore made, not to him, but to the ghosts of parents, who are more accessible. This additional information precisely illustrates my general theory, that the chief Being was not evolved out of ghosts, but came to be neglected as ghost-worship arose. I am not aware that Dr. Bennett is a missionary. Anthropologists distrust missionaries, and most of my evidence is from laymen. If the anthropological study of religion is to advance, the high and usually indolent chief Beings of savage religions must be carefully examined, not consigned to a casual page or paragraph. I have found them most potent, and most moral, where ghost-worship has not been evolved; least potent, or at all events most indifferent, where ghost-worship is most in vogue. The inferences (granting the facts) are fatal to the current anthropological theory.

The phrases ‘Creator,’ ‘creative,’ as applied to Anyambi, or Baiame, have been described, by critics, as rhetorical, covertly introducing conceptions of which savages are incapable. I have already shown that I only follow my authorities, and their translations of phrases in various savage tongues. But the phrase ‘eternal,’ applied to Anyambi or Baiame, may be misleading. I do not wish to assert that, if you talked to a savage about ‘eternity,’ he would understand what you intend. I merely mean what Mariner says that the Tongans mean as to the god Ta-li-y Tooboo. ‘Of his origin they had no idea, rather supposing him to be eternal.’ The savage theologians assert no beginning for such beings (as a rule), and no end, except where Unkulunkulu is by some Zulus thought to be dead, and where the Wiraijuris declare that their Darumulun (_not_ supreme) was ‘destroyed’ by Baiame. I do not wish to credit savages with thoughts more abstract than they possess. But that their thought can be abstract is proved, even in the case of the absolutely ‘primitive Arunta,’ by their myth of the _Ungambikula_, ‘a word which means “out of nothing,” or “self-existing,”‘ say Messrs. Spencer and Gillen.[6] Once more, I find that I have spoken of some savage Beings as ‘omnipresent’ and ‘omnipotent.’ But I have pointed out that this is only a modern metaphysical rendering of the actual words attributed to the savage: ‘He can go everywhere, and do everything.’ As to the phrase, also used, that Baiame, for example, ‘makes for righteousness,’ I mean that he sanctions the morality of his people; for instance, sanctions veracity and unselfishness, as Mr. Howitt distinctly avers. These are examples of ‘righteousness’ in conduct. I do not mean that these virtues were impressed on savages in some supernatural way, as a critic has daringly averred that I do. The strong reaction of some early men against the cosmical process by which ‘the weakest goes to the wall,’ is, indeed, a curious moral phenomenon, and deserves the attention of moralists. But I never dreamed of supposing that this reaction (which extends beyond the limit of the tribe or group) had a ‘supernatural’ origin! It has been argued that ‘tribal morality’ is only a set of regulations based on the convenience of the elders of the tribe: is, in fact, as the Platonic Thrasymachus says, ‘the interest of the strongest.’ That does not appear to me to be demonstrated; but this is no place for a discussion of the origin of morals. ‘The interest of the strongest,’ and of the nomadic group, would be to knock elderly invalids on the head. But Dampier says, of the Australians, in 1688, ‘Be it little, or be it much they get, every one has his part, as well the young and tender, and the old and feeble, who are not able to go abroad, as the strong and lusty.’ The origin of this fair and generous dealing may be obscure, but it is precisely the kind of dealing on which, according to Mr. Howitt, the religion of the Kurnai insists (chapter x.). Thus the Being concerned does ‘make for righteousness.’

With these explanations I trust that my rhetorical use of such phrases as ‘eternal,’ ‘creative,’ ‘omniscient,’ ‘omnipotent,’ ‘omnipresent,’ and ‘moral,’ may not be found to mislead, or covertly to import modern or Christian ideas into my account of the religious conceptions of savages.

As to the evidence throughout, a learned historian has informed me that ‘no anthropological evidence is of any value.’ If so, there can be no anthropology (in the realm of institutions). But the evidence that I adduce is from such sources as anthropologists, at least, accept, and employ in the construction of theories from which, in some points, I venture to dissent.


[Footnote 1: Macmillans, 1899.]

[Footnote 2: Op. cit. p. 246, note.]

[Footnote 3: See the new edition of _Myth, Ritual, and Religion_, especially the new Introduction.]

[Footnote 4: See Introductions to my _Homeric Hymns_. Allen. 1899.]

[Footnote 5: _Journal S.P.R._, December 1890, p. 147.]

[Footnote 6: _Native Tribes of Central Australia_, p. 388.]


‘The only begetter’ of this work is Monsieur Lefebure, author of ‘Les Yeux d’Horus,’ and other studies in Egyptology. He suggested the writing of the book, but is in no way responsible for the opinions expressed.

The author cannot omit the opportunity of thanking Mr. Frederic Myers for his kindness in reading the proof sheets of the earlier chapters and suggesting some corrections of statement. Mr. Myers, however, is probably not in agreement with the author on certain points; for example, in the chapter on ‘Possession.’ As the second part of the book differs considerably from the opinions which have recommended themselves to most anthropological writers on early Religion, the author most say here, as he says later, that no harm can come of trying how facts look from a new point of view, and that he certainly did not expect them to fall into the shape which he now presents for criticism.

ST. ANDREWS: _April 3, 1898._







* * * * *




The modern Science of the History of Religion has attained conclusions which already possess an air of being firmly established. These conclusions may be briefly stated thus: Man derived the conception of ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’ from his reflections on the phenomena of sleep, dreams, death, shadow, and from the experiences of trance and hallucination. Worshipping first the departed souls of his kindred, man later extended the doctrine of spiritual beings in many directions. Ghosts, or other spiritual existences fashioned on the same lines, prospered till they became gods. Finally, as the result of a variety of processes, one of these gods became supreme, and, at last, was regarded as the one only God. Meanwhile man retained his belief in the existence of his own soul, surviving after the death of the body, and so reached the conception of immortality. Thus the ideas of God and of the soul are the result of early fallacious reasonings about misunderstood experiences.

It may seem almost wanton to suggest the desirableness of revising a system at once so simple, so logical, and apparently so well bottomed on facts. But there can never be any real harm in studying masses of evidence from fresh points of view. At worst, the failure of adverse criticism must help to establish the doctrines assailed. Now, as we shall snow, there are two points of view from which the evidence as to religion in its early stages has not been steadily contemplated. Therefore we intend to ask, first, what, if anything, can be ascertained as to the nature of the ‘visions’ and hallucinations which, according to Mr. Tylor in his celebrated work ‘Primitive Culture,’ lent their aid to the formation of the idea of ‘spirit,’ Secondly, we shall collect and compare the accounts which we possess of the High Gods and creative beings worshipped or believed in, by the most backward races. We shall then ask whether these relatively Supreme Beings, so conceived of by men in very rudimentary social conditions, can be, as anthropology declares, mere developments from the belief in ghosts of the dead.

We shall end by venturing to suggest that the savage theory of the soul may be based, at least in part, on experiences which cannot, at present, be made to fit into any purely materialistic system of the universe. We shall also bring evidence tending to prove that the idea of God, in its earliest known shape, need not logically be derived from the idea of spirit, however that idea itself may have been attained or evolved. The conception of God, then, need not be evolved out of reflections on dreams and ‘ghosts.’

If these two positions can be defended with any success, it is obvious that the whole theory of the Science of Religion will need to be reconsidered. But it is no less evident that our two positions do not depend on each other. The first may be regarded as fantastic, or improbable, or may be ‘masked’ and left on one side. But the strength of the second position, derived from evidence of a different character, will not, therefore, be in any way impaired. Our first position can only be argued for by dint of evidence highly unpopular in character, and, as a general rule, condemned by modern science. The evidence is obtained by what is, at all events, a legitimate anthropological proceeding. We may follow Mr. Tylor’s example, and collect savage _beliefs_ about visions, hallucinations, ‘clairvoyance,’ and the acquisition of knowledge apparently not attainable through the normal channels of sense. We may then compare these savage beliefs with attested records of similar _experiences_ among living and educated civilised men. Even if we attain to no conclusion, or a negative conclusion, as to the actuality and supernormal character of the alleged experiences, still to compare data of savage and civilised psychology, or even of savage and civilised illusions and fables, is decidedly part, though a neglected part, of the function of anthropological science. The results, whether they do or do not strengthen our first position, must be curious and instructive, if only as a chapter in the history of human error. That chapter, too, is concerned with no mean topic, but with what we may call the X region of our nature. Out of that region, out of miracle, prophecy, vision, have certainly come forth the great religions, Christianity and Islam; and the great religious innovators and leaders, our Lord Himself, St. Francis, John Knox, Jeanne d’Arc, down to the founder of the new faith of the Sioux and Arapahoe. It cannot, then, be unscientific to compare the barbaric with the civilised beliefs and experiences about a region so dimly understood, and so fertile in potent influences. Here the topic will be examined rather by the method of anthropology than of psychology. We may conceivably have something to learn (as has been the case before) from the rough observations and hasty inferences of the most backward races.

We may illustrate this by an anecdote:

‘The Northern Indians call the _Aurora Borealis_ “Edthin,” that is “Deer.” Their ideas in this respect are founded on a principle one would not imagine. Experience has shown them that when a hairy deer-skin is briskly stroked with the hand on a dark night, it will emit many sparks of electrical fire.’

So says Hearne in his ‘Journey,’ published in 1795 (p. 346).

This observation of the Red Men is a kind of parable representing a part of the purport of the following treatise. The Indians, making a hasty inference from a trivial phenomenon, arrived unawares at a probably correct conclusion, long unknown to civilised science. They connected the Aurora Borealis with electricity, supposing that multitudes of deer in the sky rubbed the sparks out of each other! Meanwhile, even in the last century, a puzzled populace spoke of the phenomenon as ‘Lord Derwentwater’s Lights.’ The cosmic pomp and splendour shone to welcome the loyal Derwentwater into heaven, when he had given his life for his exiled king.

Now, my purpose in the earlier portion of this essay is to suggest that certain phenomena of human nature, apparently as trivial as the sparks rubbed out of a deer’s hide in a dark night, may indicate, and may be allied to a force or forces, which, like the Aurora Borealis, may shine from one end of the heavens to the other, strangely illumining the darkness of our destiny. Such phenomena science has ignored, as it so long ignored the sparks from the stroked deer-skin, and the attractive power of rubbed amber. These trivial things were not known to be allied to the lightning, or to indicate a force which man could tame and use. But just as the Indians, by a rapid careless inference, attributed the Aurora Borealis to electric influences, so (as anthropology assures us) savages Everywhere have inferred the existence of soul or spirit, intelligence that

‘Does not know the bond of Time,
Nor wear the manacles of Space,’

in part from certain apparently trivial phenomena of human faculty. These phenomena, as Mr. Tylor says, ‘the great intellectual movement of the last two centuries has simply thrown aside as worthless.'[1] I refer to alleged experiences, merely odd, sporadic, and, for commercial purposes, useless, such as the transference of thought from one mind to another by no known channel of sense, the occurrence of hallucinations which, _prima facie_, correspond coincidentally with unknown events at a distance, all that is called ‘second sight,’ or ‘clairvoyance,’ and other things even more obscure. Reasoning on these real or alleged phenomena, and on other quite normal and accepted facts of dream, shadow, sleep, trance, and death, savages have inferred the existence of spirit or soul, exactly as the Indians arrived at the notion of electricity (not so called by them, of course) as the cause of the Aurora Borealis. But, just as the Indians thought that the cosmic lights were caused by the rubbing together of crowded deer in the heavens (a theory quite childishly absurd), so the savage has expressed, in rude fantastic ways, his conclusion as to the existence of spirit. He believes in wandering separable souls of men, surviving death, and he has peopled with his dreams the whole inanimate universe.

My suggestion is that, in spite of his fantasies, the savage had possibly drawn from his premises an inference not wholly, or not demonstrably erroneous. As the sparks of the deer-skin indicated electricity, so the strange lights in the night of human nature may indicate faculties which science, till of late and in a few instances, has laughed at, ignored, ‘thrown aside as worthless.’

It should be observed that I am not speaking of ‘spiritualism,’ a word of the worst associations, inextricably entangled with fraud, bad logic, and the blindest credulity. Some of the phenomena alluded to have, however, been claimed as their own province by ‘spiritists,’ and need to be rescued from them. Mr. Tylor writes:

‘The issue raised by the comparison of savage, barbaric, and civilised spiritualism is this: Do the Red Indian medicine-man, the Tatar necromancer, the Highland ghost-seer, and the Boston medium, share the possession of belief and knowledge of the highest truth and import, which, nevertheless, the great intellectual movement of the last two centuries has simply thrown aside as worthless?’

_Distinguo!_ That does not seem to me to be the issue. In my opinion the issue is: ‘Have the Red Indian, the Tatar, the Highland seer, and the Boston medium (the least reputable of the menagerie) observed, and reasoned wildly from, and counterfeited, and darkened with imposture, certain genuine by-products of human faculty, which do not _prima facie_ deserve to be thrown aside?’

That, I venture to think, is the real issue. That science may toss aside as worthless some valuable observations of savages is now universally admitted by people who know the facts. Among these observations is the whole topic of Hypnotism, with the use of suggestion for healing purposes, and the phenomena, no longer denied, of ‘alternating personalities.’ For the truth of this statement we may appeal to one of the greatest of Continental anthropologists, Adolf Bastian.[2] The missionaries, like Livingstone, usually supposed that the savage seer’s declared ignorance– after his so-called fit of inspiration–of what occurred in that state, was an imposture. But nobody now doubts the similar oblivion of what has passed that sometimes follows the analogous hypnotic sleep. Of a remarkable cure, which the school of the Salpetriere or Nancy would ascribe, with probable justice, to ‘suggestion,’ a savage example will be given later.

Savage hypnotism and ‘suggestion,’ among the Sioux and Arapahoe, has been thought worthy of a whole volume in the Reports of the Ethnological Bureau of the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, U.S., 1892-98). Republican Governments publish scientific matter ‘regardless of expense,’ and the essential points might have been put more shortly. They illustrate the fact that only certain persons can hypnotise others, and throw light on some peculiarities of _rapport._[3] In brief, savages anticipated us in the modern science of experimental psychology, as is frankly acknowledged by the Society for Experimental Psychology of Berlin. ‘That many mystical phenomena are much more common and prominent among savages than among ourselves is familiar to everyone acquainted with the subject. The _ethnological_ side of oar inquiry demands penetrative study.'[4]

That study I am about to try to sketch. My object is to examine some ‘superstitious practices’ and beliefs of savages by aid of the comparative method. I shall compare, as I have already said, the ethnological evidence for savage usages and beliefs analogous to thought-transference, coincidental hallucinations, alternating personality, and so forth, with the best attested modern examples, experimental or spontaneous. This raises the question of our evidence, which is all-important. We proceed to defend it. The savage accounts are on the level of much anthropological evidence; they may, that is, be dismissed by adversaries as ‘travellers’ tales.’ But the best testimony for the truth of the reports as to actual belief in the facts is the undesigned coincidence of evidence from all ages and quarters.[5] When the stories brought by travellers, ancient and modern, learned and unlearned, pious or sceptical, agree in the main, we have all the certainty that anthropology can offer. Again, when we find practically the same strange neglected sparks, not only rumoured of in European popular superstition, but attested in many hundreds of depositions made at first hand by respectable modern witnesses, educated and responsible, we cannot honestly or safely dismiss the coincidence of report as indicating a mere ‘survival’ of savage superstitious belief, and nothing more.

We can no longer do so, it is agreed, in the case of hypnotic phenomena. I hope to make it seem possible that we should not do so in the matter of the hallucinations provoked by gazing in a smooth deep, usually styled ‘crystal-gating.’ Ethnologically, this practice is at least as old as classical times, and is of practically world-wide distribution. I shall prove its existence in Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Polynesia, and among the Incas, not to speak of the middle and recent European ages. The universal idea is that such visions may be ‘clairvoyant.’ To take a Polynesian case, ‘resembling the Hawaiian _wai harru_.’ When anyone has been robbed, the priest, after praying, has a hole dug in the floor of the house, and filled with water. Then be gazes into the water, ‘over which the god is supposed to place the spirit of the thief…. The image of the thief was, according to their account, reflected in the water, and being perceived by the priest, he named the individual, or the parties.'[6] Here the statement about the ‘spirit’ is a mere savage philosophical explanation. But the fact that hallucinatory pictures can really be seen by a fair percentage of educated Europeans, in water, glass balls, and so forth, is now confirmed by frequent experiment, and accepted by opponents, ‘non-mystical writers,’ like Dr. Parish of Munich.[7] I shall bring evidence to suggest that the visions may correctly reflect, as it were, persons and places absolutely unknown to the gazer, and that they may even reveal details unknown to every one present. Such results among savages, or among the superstitious, would be, and are, explained by the theory of ‘spirits.’ Modern science has still to find an explanation consistent with recognised laws of nature, but ‘spirits’ we shall not invoke.

In the same way I mean to examine all or most of the ‘so-called mystical phenomena of savage life.’ I then compare them with the better vouched for modern examples. To return to the question of evidence, I confess that I do not see how the adverse anthropologist, psychologist, or popular agnostic is to evade the following dilemma: To the anthropologist we say, ‘The evidence we adduce is your own evidence, that of books of travel in all lands and countries. If _you_ may argue from it, so may we. Some of it is evidence to unusual facts, more of it is evidence to singular beliefs, which we think not necessarily without foundation. As raising a presumption in favour of that opinion, we cite examples in which savage observations of abnormal and once rejected facts, are now admitted by science to have a large residuum of truth, we argue that what is admitted in some cases may come to be admitted in more. No _a priori_ line can here be drawn.’

To the psychologist who objects that our modern instances are mere anecdotes, we reply by asking, ‘Dear sir, what are _your_ modern instances? What do you know of “Mrs. A.,” whom you still persistently cite as an example of morbid recurrent hallucinations? Name the German servant girl who, in a fever, talked several learned languages, which she had heard her former master, a scholar, declaim! Where did she live? Who vouches for her, who heard her, who understood her? There is, you know, no evidence at all; the anecdote is told by Coleridge: the phenomena are said by him to have been observed “in a Roman Catholic town in Germany, a year or two before my arrival at Goettingen…. Many eminent physiologists and psychologists visited the town.” Why do you not name a few out of the distinguished crowd?'[8] This anecdote, a rumour of a rumour of a Protestant explanation of a Catholic marvel, was told by Coleridge at least twenty years after the possible date. The psychologists copy it,[9] one after the other, as a flock of sheep jump where their leader has jumped. An example by way of anecdote may be permitted.

According to the current anthropological theory, the idea of soul or spirit was suggested to early men by their experiences in dreams. They seemed, in sleep, to visit remote places; therefore, they argued, something within them was capable of leaving the body and wandering about.

This something was the soul or spirit. Now it is obvious that this opinion of early men would be confirmed if they ever chanced to acquire, in dreams, knowledge of places which they had never visited, and of facts as to which, in their waking state, they could have no information. This experience, indeed, would suggest problems even To Mr. Herbert Spencer, if it occurred to him.

Conversing on this topic with a friend of acknowledged philosophical eminence, I illustrated my meaning by a story of a dream. It was reported to me by the dreamer, with whom I am well acquainted, was of very recent occurrence, and was corroborated by the evidence of another person, to whom the dream was narrated, before its fulfilment was discovered. I am not at liberty to publish the details, for good reasons, but the essence of the matter was this: A. and B. (the dreamer) had common interests. A. had taken certain steps about which B. had only a surmise, and a vague one, that steps had probably been taken. A. then died, and B. in an extremely vivid dream (a thing unfamiliar to him) seemed to read a mass of unknown facts, culminating in two definite results, capable of being stated in figures. These results, by the very nature of the case, could not be known to A., so that, before he was placed out of B.’s reach by death, he could not have stated them to him, and, afterwards, had assuredly no means of doing so.

The dream, two days after its occurrence, and after it had been told to C., proved to be literally correct. Now I am not asking the reader’s belief for this anecdote (for that could only be yielded in virtue of knowledge of the veracity of B. and C.), but I invite his attention to the psychological explanation. My friend suggested that A. had told B. all about the affair, that B. had not listened (though his interests were vitally concerned), and that the crowd of curious details, naturally unfamiliar to B., had reposed in his subconscious memory, and had been revived in the dream.

Now B.’s dream was a dream of reading a mass of minute details, including names of places entirely unknown to him. It may be admitted, in accordance with the psychological theory, that B. might have received all this information from A., but, by dint of inattention–‘the malady of not marking’–might never have been _consciously_ aware of what he heard. Then B.’s subconscious memory of what he did not _consciously_ know might break upon him in his dream. Instances of similar mental phenomena are not uncommon. But the general result of the combined details was one which could not possibly be known to A. before his death; nor to B. could it be known at all. Yet B.’s dream represented this general result with perfect accuracy, which cannot be accounted for by the revival of subconscious memory in sleep. Neither asleep nor awake can a man remember what it is impossible for him to have known. The dream contained no _prediction_ for the results were now fixed; but (granting the good faith of the narrator) the dream did contain information not normally accessible.

However, by way of psychological explanation of the dream, my friend cited Coleridge’s legend, as to the German girl and her unconscious knowledge of Certain learned languages. ‘And what is the evidence for the truth of Coleridge’s legend?’ Of course, there is none, or none known to all the psychologists who quote it from Coleridge. Neither, if true, was the legend to the point. However, psychology will accept such unauthenticated narratives, and yet will scoff at first baud, duly corroborated testimony from living and honourable people, about recent events.

Only a great force of prejudice can explain this acceptance, by psychologists, of one kind of marvellous tale on no evidence, and this rejection of another class of marvellous tale, when supported by first hand, signed and corroborated evidence, of living witnesses. I see only one escape for psychologists from this dilemma. Their marvellous tales are _possible_, though unvouched for, because they have always heard them and repeated them in lectures, and read and repeated them in books. _Our_ marvellous tales are impossible, because the psychologists know that they are impossible, which means that they have not been familiar with them, from youth upwards, in lectures and manuals. But man has no right to have ‘clear ideas of the possible and impossible,’ like Faraday, _a priori_, except in the exact sciences. There are other instances of weak evidence which satisfies psychologists.

Hamilton has an anecdote, borrowed from Monboddo, who got it from Mr. Hans Stanley, who, ‘about twenty-six years ago,’ heard it from the subject of the story, Madame de Laval. ‘I have the memorandum somewhere in my papers,’ says Mr. Stanley, vaguely. Then we have two American anecdotes by Dr. Flint and Mr. Rush; and such is Sir William Hamilton’s equipment of odd facts for discussing the unconscious or subconscious. The least credible and worst attested of these narratives still appears in popular works on psychology. Moreover, all psychology, except experimental psychology, is based on anecdotes which people tell about their own subjective experiences. Mr. Galton, whose original researches are well known, even offered rewards in money for such narratives about visualised rows of coloured figures, and so on.

Clearly the psychologist, then, has no _prima facie_ right to object to our anecdotes of experiences, which be regards as purely subjective. As evidence, we only accept them at first hand, and, when possible, the witnesses have been cross-examined personally. Our evidence then, where it consists of travellers’ tales, is on a level with that which satisfies the anthropologist. Where it consists of modern statements of personal experience, our evidence is often infinitely better than much which is accepted by the nonexperimental psychologist. As for the agnostic writer on the Non-Religion of the Future, M. Guyau actually illustrates the Resurrection of our Lord by an American myth about a criminal, of whom a hallucinatory phantasm appeared to each of his gaol companions, separately and successively, on a day after his execution! For this prodigious fable no hint of reference to authority is given.[10] Yet the evidence appears to satisfy M. Guyau, and is used by him to reinforce his argument.

The anthropologist and psychologist, then, must either admit that their evidence is no better than ours, if as good, or must say that they only believe evidence as to ‘possible’ facts. They thus constitute themselves judges of what is possible, and practically regard themselves as omniscient. Science has had to accept so many things once scoffed at as ‘impossible,’ that this attitude of hers, as we shall show in chapter ii., ceases to command respect.

My suggestion is that the trivial, rejected, or unheeded phenomena Vouched for by the evidence here defended may, not inconceivably, be of considerable importance. But, stating the case at the lowest, if we are only concerned with illusions and fables, it cannot but be curious to note their persistent uniformity in savage and civilised life.

To make the first of our two main positions clear, and in part to justify ourselves in asking any attention for such matters, we now offer an historical sketch of the relations between Science and the so-called ‘Miraculous’ in the past.

[Footnote 1: _Primitive Culture_, i. 156. London, 1891.]

[Footnote 2: _Ueber psychische Beobachiungen bei Naiurvuelkern_. Leipzig, Gunther, 1890.]

[Footnote 3: See especially pp. 922-926. The book is interesting is other ways, and, indeed, touching, as it describes the founding of a new Red Indian religion, on a basis of Hypnotism and Christianity.]

[Footnote 4: Programme of the Society, p. iv.]

[Footnote 5: Tylor, _Primitive Culture_, i, 9, 10.]

[Footnote 6: Ellis, _Polynesian Researches_, ii. p. 240.]

[Footnote 7: _Hallucinations and Illusions_, English edition, pp. 69-70, 297.]

[Footnote 8: Sir William Hamilton’s _Lectures_, i. 345.]

[Footnote 9: Maudsley, Kerner, Carpentor, Du Prel, Zangwill.]

[Footnote 10: Coleridge’s mythical maid (p. 10) is set down by Mr. Samuel Laing to an experiment of Braid’s! No references are given.–Laing: _Problems of the Future._]



_Historical Sketch_

Research in the X region is not a new thing under the sun. When Saul disguised himself before his conference with the Witch of Endor, he made an elementary attempt at a scientific test of the supernormal. Croesus, the king, went much further, when he tested the clairvoyance of the oracles of Greece, by sending an embassy to ask what he was doing at a given hour on a given day, and by then doing something very _bizarre_. We do not know how the Delphic oracle found out the right answer, but various easy methods of fraud at once occur to the mind. However, the procedure of Croesus, if he took certain precautions, was relatively scientific. Relatively scientific also was the inquiry of Porphyry, with whose position our own is not unlikely to be compared. Unable, or reluctant, to accept Christianity, Porphyry ‘sought after a sign’ of an element of supernormal truth in Paganism. But he began at the wrong end, namely at Pagan spiritualistic _seances_, with the usual accompaniments of darkness And fraud. His perplexed letter to Anebo, with the reply attributed to Iamblichus, reveal Porphyry wandering puzzled among mediums, floating lights, odd noises, queer dubious ‘physical phenomena.’ He did not begin with accurate experiments as to the existence of rare, and apparently supernormal human faculties, and he seems to have attained no conclusion except that ‘spirits’ are ‘deceitful.'[1]

Something more akin to modern research began about the time of the Reformation, and lasted till about 1680. The fury for burning witches led men of sense, learning, and humanity to ask whether there was any reality in witchcraft, and, generally, in the marvels of popular belief. The inquiries of Thyraeus, Lavaterus, Bodinus, Wierus, Le Loyer, Reginald Scot, and many others, tended on the whole to the negative side as regards the wilder fables about witches, but left the problems of ghosts and haunted houses pretty much where they were before. It may be observed that Lavaterus (circ. 1580) already put forth a form of the hypothesis of telepathy (that ‘ghosts’ are hallucinations produced by the direct action of one mind, or brain, upon another), while Thyraeus doubted whether the noises heard in ‘haunted houses’ were not mere hallucinations of the sense of hearing. But all these early writers, like Cardan, were very careless of first-hand evidence, and, indeed, preferred ghosts vouched for by classical authority, Pliny, Plutarch, or Suetonius. With the Rev. Joseph Glanvil, F.R.S. (circ. 1666), a more careful examination of evidence came into use. Among the marvels of Glanvil’s and other tracts usually published together in his ‘Sadducismus Triumphatus’ will be found letters which show that he and his friends, like Henry More and Boyle, laboured to collect first-hand evidence for second sight, haunted houses, ghosts, and wraiths. The confessed object was to procure a ‘Whip for the Droll,’ a reply to the laughing scepticism of the Restoration. The result was to bring on Glanvil a throng of bores–he was ‘worse haunted than Mr. Mompesson’s house,’ he says-and Mr. Pepys found his arguments ‘not very convincing.’ Mr. Pepys, however, was alarmed by ‘our young gib-cat,’ which he mistook for a ‘spright.’ With Henry More, Baxter, and Glanvil practically died, for the time, the attempt to investigate these topics scientifically, though an impression of doubt was left on the mind of Addison. Witchcraft ceased to win belief, and was abolished, as a crime, in 1736. Some of the Scottish clergy, and John Wesley, clung fondly to the old faith, but Wodrow, and Cotton Mather (about 1710-1730) were singularly careless and unlucky in producing anything like evidence for their narratives. Ghost stories continued to be told, but not to be investigated.

Then one of the most acute of philosophers decided that investigation ought never to be attempted. This scientific attitude towards X phenomena, that of refusing to examine them, and denying them without examination, was fixed by David Hume in his celebrated essay on ‘Miracles.’ Hume derided the observation and study of what he called ‘Miracles,’ in the field of experience, and he looked for an _a priori_ argument which would for ever settle the question without examination of facts. In an age of experimental philosophy, which derided _a priori_ methods, this was Hume’s great contribution to knowledge. His famous argument, the joy of many an honest breast, is a tissue of fallacies which might be given for exposure to beginners in logic, as an elementary exercise. In announcing his discovery, Hume amusingly displays the self-complacency and the want of humour with which we Scots are commonly charged by our critics:

‘I flatter myself that I have discovered an argument which, if just, will, with the wise and learned, be an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusions, and consequently will he useful as long as the world endures.’

He does not expect, however, to convince the multitude. Till the end of the world, ‘accounts of miracles and prodigies, I suppose, will be found in all histories, sacred and profane.’ Without saying here what he means by a miracle, Hume argues that ‘experience is our only guide in reasoning.’ He then defines a miracle as ‘a violation of the laws of nature.’ By a ‘law of nature’ he means a uniformity, not of all experience, but of each experience as he will deign to admit; while he excludes, without examination, all evidence for experience of the absence of such uniformity. That kind of experience cannot be considered. ‘There must be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation.’ If there be any experience in favour of the event, that experience does not count. A miracle is counter to universal experience, no event is counter to universal experience, therefore no event is a miracle. If you produce evidence to what Hume calls a miracle (we shall see examples) he replies that the evidence is not valid, unless its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact. Now no error of human evidence can be more miraculous than a ‘miracle.’ Therefore there can be no valid evidence for ‘miracles.’ Fortunately, Hume now gives an example of what he means by ‘miracles.’ He says:–

‘For, first, there is _not to be found_, in _all history_, any miracle attested by a _sufficient number_ of men, of such unquestioned _good sense, education_, and _learning_, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves; of such undoubted _integrity_, as to place them beyond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of mankind, as to have a great deal to lose in case of their being detected in any falsehood; and at the same time attesting facts performed in such a _public manner_, and in so _celebrated a part of the world_, as to render the detection unavoidable; all which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men.'[2]

Hume added a note at the end of his book, in which he contradicted every assertion which he had made in the passage just cited; indeed, be contradicted himself before he had written six pages.

There surely never was a greater number of miracles ascribed to one person than those which were lately said to have been wrought in France upon the tomb of Abbe Paris, the famous Jansenist, with whose sanctity the people were so long deluded. The curing of the sick, giving hearing to the deaf, and sight to the blind, were everywhere talked of as the usual effects of that holy sepulchre. But what is more extraordinary, many of the miracles were _immediately proved upon the spot, before judges of unquestioned integrity_, attested by _witnesses of credit and distinction_, in _a learned age_, and on the most _eminent theatre_ that is _now in the world_. Nor is this all. A relation of them was published and dispersed everywhere; nor were the Jesuits, though a learned body, supported by the civil magistrate, and determined enemies to those opinions, in whose favour the miracles were said to have been wrought, ever able _distinctly to refute or detect them_. Where shall we find such a number of circumstances, agreeing to the corroboration of one fact? And what have we to oppose to such a cloud of witnesses, but the absolute _impossibility, or miraculous nature_ of the events which they relate? And this, surely, in the eyes of all reasonable people, will alone be regarded as a sufficient refutation.’

Thus Hume, first denies the existence of such evidence, given in such circumstances as he demands, and then he produces an example of that very kind of evidence. Having done this, he abandons (as Mr. Wallace observes) his original assertion that the evidence does not exist, and takes refuge in alleging ‘the absolute impossibility’ of the events which the evidence supports. Thus Hume poses as a perfect judge of the possible, in a kind of omniscience. He takes his stand on the uniformity of all experience that is not hostile to his idea of the possible, and dismisses all testimony to other experience, even when it reaches his standard of evidence. He is remote indeed from Virchow’s position ‘that what we call the laws of nature must vary according to our frequent new experiences.'[3] In his note, Hume buttresses and confirms his evidence for the Jansenist miracles. They have even a martyr, M. Montgeron, who wrote an account of the events, and, says Hume lightly, ‘is now said to be somewhere in a dungeon on account of his book. ‘Many of the miracles of the Abbe Paris were proved immediately by witnesses before the Bishop’s court at Paris, under the eye of Cardinal Noailles…. ‘His successor was an enemy to the Jansenists, yet twenty-two _cures_ of Paris … pressed him to examine these miracles … _But he wisely forbore_.’ Hume adds his testimony to the character of these _cures_. Thus it is wisdom, according to Hume, to dismiss the most public and well-attested ‘miracles’ without examination. This is experimental science of an odd kind.

The phenomena were cases of healing, many of them surprising, of cataleptic rigidity, and of insensibility to pain, among visitors to the tomb of the Abbe Paris (1731). Had the cases been judicially examined (all medical evidence was in their favour), and had they been proved false, the cause of Hume would have profited enormously. A strong presumption would have been raised against the miracles of Christianity. But Hume applauds the wisdom of not giving his own theory this chance of a triumph. The cataleptic seizures were of the sort now familiar to science. These have, therefore, emerged from the miraculous. In fact, the phenomena which occurred at the tomb of the Abbe Paris have emerged almost too far, and now seem in danger of being too readily and too easily accepted. In 1887 MM. Binet and Fere, of the school of the Salpetriere, published in English a popular manual styled ‘Animal Magnetism.’ These authors write with great caution about such alleged phenomena as the reading, by the hypnotised patient, of the thoughts in the mind of the hypnotiser. But as to the phenomena at the tomb of the Abbe Paris, they say that ‘suggestion explains them.'[4] That is, in the opinion of MM. Binet and Fere the so-called ‘miracles’ really occurred, and were worked by ‘the imagination,’ by ‘self-suggestion.’

The most famous case–that of Mlle. Coirin–has been carefully examined by Dr. Charcot.[5]

Mlle. Coirin had a dangerous fall from her horse, in September 1716, in her thirty-first year. The medical details may be looked for in Dr. Charcot’s essay or in Montgeron.[6] ‘Her disease was diagnosed as cancer of the left breast,’ the nipple ‘fell off bodily.’ Amputation of the breast was proposed, but Madame Coirin, believing the disease to be radically incurable, refused her consent. Paralysis of the left side set in (1718), the left leg shrivelling up. On August 9, 1731, Mlle. Coirin ‘tried the off chance’ of a miracle, put on a shift that had touched the tomb of Paris, and used some earth from the grave. On August 11, Mlle. Coirin could turn herself in bed; on the 12th the horrible wound ‘was staunched, and began to close up and heal.’ The paralysed side recovered life and its natural proportions. By September 3, Mlle. Coirin could go out for a drive.

All her malady, says Dr. Charcot, paralysis, ‘cancer,’ and all, was ‘hysterical;’ ‘hysterical oedema,’ for which he quotes many French authorities and one American. ‘Under the physical [psychical?] influence brought to bear by the application of the shift … the oedema, which was due to vaso-motor trouble, disappeared almost instantaneously. The breast regained its normal size.’

Dr. Charcot generously adds that shrines, like Lourdes, have cured patients in whom he could not ‘inspire the operation of the faith cure.’ He certainly cannot explain everything which claims to be of supernatural origin in the faith cure. We have to learn the lesson of patience. I am among the first to recognise that Shakespeare’s words hold good to-day:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

If Dr. Charcot had believed in what the French call _suggestion mentale_– suggestion by thought-transference (which I think he did not)–he could have explained the healing of the Centurion’s servant, ‘Say the word, Lord, and my servant shall be healed,’ by suggestion & distance (telepathy), and by premising that the servant’s palsy was ‘hysterical.’ But what do we mean by ‘hysterical’? Nobody knows. The ‘mind,’ somehow, causes gangrenes, if not cancers, paralysis, shrinking of tissues; the mind, somehow, cures them. And what is the ‘mind’? As my object is to give savage parallels to modern instances bettor vouched for. I quote a singular Red Indian cure by ‘suggestion.’ Hearne, travelling in Canada, in 1770, met a native who had ‘dead palsy,’ affecting the whole of one side. He was dragged on a sledge, ‘reduced to a mere skeleton,’ and so was placed in the magic lodge. The first step in his cure was the public swallowing by a conjurer of a board of wood, ‘about the size of a barrel-stave,’ twice as wide across as his mouth. Hearne stood beside the man, ‘naked as he was born,’ ‘and, notwithstanding I was all attention, I could not detect the deceit.’ Of course, Hearne believes that this was mere legerdemain, and (p. 216) mentions a most suspicious circumstance. The account is amusing, and deserves the attention of Mr. Neville Maskelyne. The same conjurer had previously swallowed a cradle! Now bayonet swallowing, which he also did, is possible, though Hearne denies it (p. 217).

The real object of these preliminary feats, however performed, is, probably, to inspire _faith_, which Dr. Charcot might have done by swallowing a cradle. The Indians explain that the barrel staves apparently swallowed are merely dematerialised by ‘spirits,’ leaving only the forked end sticking out of the conjurer’s mouth. In fact, Hearne caught the conjurer in the act of making a separate forked end.

Faith being thus inspired, the conjurer, for three entire days, blew, sang, and danced round ‘the poor paralytic, fasting. ‘And it is truly wonderful, though the strictest truth, that when the poor man was taken from the conjuring house … he was able to move all the fingers and toes of the side that had been so long dead…. At the end of six weeks he went a-hunting for his family’ (p. 219). Hearne kept up his acquaintance, and adds, what is very curious, that he developed almost a secondary personality. ‘Before that dreadful paralytic stroke, he had been distinguished for his good nature and benevolent disposition, was entirely free from every appearance of avarice,… but after this event he was the most fractious, quarrelsome, discontented, and covetous wretch alive’ (p. 220).

Dr. Charcot, if he had been acquainted with this case, would probably have said that it ‘is of the nature of those which Professor Russell Reynolds has classified under the head of “paralysis dependent on idea.'”[7] Unluckily, Hearne does not tell us how his hunter, an untutored Indian, became ‘paralysed by idea.’

Dr. Charcot adds: ‘In every case, science is a foe to systematic negation, which the morrow may cause to melt away in the light of its new triumphs.’ The present ‘new triumph’ is a mere coincidence with the dicta of our Lord, ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole…. I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.’ There are cures, as there are maladies, caused ‘by idea.’ So, in fact, we had always understood. But the point is that science, wherever it agrees with David Hume, is not a foe, but a friend to ‘systematic negation.’

A parallel case of a ‘miracle,’ the stigmata of St. Francis, was, of course, regarded by science as a fable or a fraud. But, now that blisters and other lesions can be produced by suggestion, the fable has become a probable fact, and, therefore, not a miracle at all.[8] Mr. James remarks: ‘As so often happens, a fact is denied till a welcome interpretation comes with it. Then it is admitted readily enough, and evidence quite insufficient to back a claim, so long as the Church had an interest in making it, proves to be quite sufficient for modern scientific enlightenment the moment it appears that a reputed saint can thereby be claimed as a case of “hystero-epilepsy.”‘[9]

But the Church continues to have an interest in the matter. As the class of facts which Hume declined to examine begins to be gradually admitted by science, the thing becomes clear. The evidence which could safely convey these now admittedly possible facts, say from the time of Christ, is so far proved to be not necessarily mythical–proved to be not incapable of carrying statements probably correct, which once seemed absolutely false. If so, where, precisely, ends its power of carrying facts? Thus considered, the kinds of marvellous events recorded in the Gospels, for example, are no longer to be dismissed on _a priori_ grounds as ‘mythical.’ We cannot now discard evidence as necessarily false because it clashes with our present ideas of the possible, when we have to acknowledge that the very same evidence may safely convey to us facts which clashed with our fathers’ notions of what is possible, but which are now accepted. Our notions of the possible cease to be a criterion of truth or falsehood, and our contempt for the Gospels as myths must slowly die, as ‘miracle’ after ‘miracle’ is brought within the realm of acknowledged law. With each such admission the hypothesis that the Gospel evidence is mythical must grow weaker, and weaker must grow the negative certainty of popular science.

The occurrences which took place at and near the tomb of Paris were attested, as Hume truly avers, by a great body of excellent evidence. But the wisdom which declined to make a judicial examination has deprived us of the best kind of record. Analogous if not exactly similar events now confessedly take place, and are no longer looked upon as miraculous. But as long as they were held to be miraculous, not to examine the evidence, said Hume, was the policy of ‘all reasonable people.’ The result was to deprive Science of the best sort of record of facts which she welcomes as soon us she thinks she can explain them.[10] Examples of the folly of _a priori_ negation are common. The British Association refused to hear the essay which Braid, the inventor of the word ‘hypnotism,’ had written upon the subject. Braid, Elliotson, and other English inquirers of the mid-century, were subjected to such persecutions as official science could inflict. We read of M. Deslon, a disciple of Mesmer, about 1783, that he was ‘condemned by the Faculty of Medicine, without any examination of the facts.’ The Inquisition proceeded more fairly than these scientific obscurantists.

Another curious example may be cited. M. Guyau, in his work ‘The Non-Religion of the Future,’ argues that Religion is doomed. ‘Poetic genius has withdrawn its services,’ witness Tennyson and Browning! ‘Among orthodox Protestant nations miracles do not happen.'[11] But ‘marvellous facts’ _do_ happen.[12] These ‘marvellous facts,’ accepted by M. Guyau, are what Hume called ‘miracles,’ and advised the ‘wise and learned’ to laugh at, without examination. They were not facts, and could not be, he said. Now to M. Guyau’s mind they _are_ facts, and therefore are not miracles. He includes ‘mental suggestion taking place even at a distance.’ A man ‘can transmit an almost compulsive command, it appears nowadays, by a simple tension of his will.’ If this be so, if ‘will’ can affect matter from a distance, obviously the relations of will and matter are not what popular science tells us that they are. Again, if this truth is now established, and won from that region which Hume and popular science forbid as to investigate, who knows what other facts may be redeemed from that limbo, or how far they may affect our views of possibilities? The admission of mental action, operative _a distance_, is, of course, personal only to M. Guyau, among friends of the new negative tradition.

We return to Hume. He next argues that the pleasures of wonder make all accounts of ‘miracles’ worthless. He has just given an example of the equivalent pleasures of dogmatic disbelief. Then Religion is a disturbing force; but so, manifestly, is irreligion. ‘The wise and learned are content to deride the absurdity, without informing themselves of the particular facts.’ The wise and learned are applauded for their scientific attitude. Again, miracles destroy each other, for all religions have their miracles, but all religions cannot be true. This argument is no longer of force with people who look on ‘miracles’ as = ‘X phenomena,’ not as divine evidences to the truth of this or that creed. ‘The gazing populace receives, without examination, whatever soothes superstition,’ and Hume’s whole purpose is to make the wise and learned imitate the gazing populace y rejecting alleged facts ‘without examination.’ The populace investigated more than did the wise and learned.

Hume has an alternative definition of a miracle–‘a miracle is a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.’ We reply that what Hume calls a ‘miracle’ may result from the operation of some as yet unascertained law of nature (say self-suggestion), and that our business, at present, is to examine such events, not to account for them.

It may fairly be said that Hume is arguing against men who wished to make so-called ‘miracles’ a test of the truth of Jansenism, for example, and that he could not be expected to answer, by anticipation, ideas not current in his day. But he remains guilty of denouncing the investigation of apparent facts. No attitude can be less scientific than his, or more common among many men of science.

According to the humorous wont of things in this world, the whole question of the marvellous had no sooner been settled for ever by David Hume than it was reopened by Emanuel Swedenborg. Now, Kant was familiar with certain of the works of Hume, whether he had read his ‘Essay on Miracles’ or not. Far from declining to examine the portentous ‘visions’ of Swedenborg, Kant interested himself deeply in the topic. As early as 1758 he wrote his first remarks on the seer, containing some reports of stories or legends about Swedenborg’s ‘clairvoyance.’ In the true spirit of psychical research, Kant wrote a letter to Swedenborg, asking for information at first hand. The seer got the letter, but he never answered it. Kant, however, prints one or two examples of Swedenborg’s successes. Madame Harteville, widow of the Dutch envoy in Stockholm, was dunned by a silversmith for a debt of her late husband’s. She believed that it had been paid, but could not find the receipt. She therefore asked Swedenborg to use his renowned gifts. He promised to see what he could do, and, three days later, arrived at the lady’s house while she was giving a tea, or rather a coffee, party. To the assembled society Swedenborg remarked, ‘in a cold-blooded way, that he had seen her man, and spoken to him.’ The late M. Harteville declared to Swedenborg that he had paid the bill, seven months before his decease: the receipt was in a cupboard upstairs. Madame Harteville replied that the cupboard had been thoroughly searched to no purpose. Swedenborg answered that, as he learned from the ghost, there was a secret drawer behind the side-plank within the cupboard. The drawer contained diplomatic correspondence, and the missing receipt. The whole company then went upstairs, found the secret drawer, and the receipt among the other papers. Kant adds Swedenborg’s clairvoyant vision, from Gothenburg, of a great fire at Stockholm (dated September 1756). Kant pined to see Swedenborg himself, and waited eagerly for his book, ‘Arcana Coelestia.’ At last he obtained this work, at the ransom, ruinous to Kant at that time, of 7L. But he was disappointed with what he read, and in ‘Traeume eines Geistersehers,’ made a somewhat sarcastic attempt at a metaphysical theory of apparitions.

‘Velut aegri somnia vanae
Finguntur species’

is his motto.

Kant’s real position about all these matters is, I venture to say, almost identical with that of Sir Walter Scott. A Scot himself, by descent, Kant may have heard tales of second-sight and bogles. Like Scott, he dearly loved a ghost-story; like Scott he was canny enough to laugh, publicly, at them and at himself for his interest in them. Yet both would take trouble to inquire. As Kant vainly wrote to Swedenborg and others–as he vainly spent 7L. on ‘Arcana Coelestia,’ so Sir Walter was anxious to go to Egypt to examine the facts of ink-gazing clairvoyance. Kant confesses that each individual ghost-story found him sceptical, whereas the cumulative mass made a considerable impression.[13]

The first seventy pages of the ‘Tribune’ are devoted to a perfectly serious discussion of the metaphysics of ‘Spirits.’ On page 73 he pleasantly remarks, ‘Now we shall understand that all said hitherto is superfluous,’ and he will not reproach the reader who regards seers _not_ as citizens of two worlds (Plotinus), but as candidates for Bedlam.

Kant’s irony is peculiarly Scottish. He does not himself know how far he is in earnest, and, to save his self-respect and character for canniness, he ‘jocks wi’ deeficulty.’ He amuses himself with trying how far he can carry speculations on metaphysics (not yet reformed by himself) into the realm of the ghostly. He makes admissions about his own tendency to think that he has an immaterial soul, and that these points are, or may be, or some day will be, scientifically solved. These admissions are eagerly welcomed by Du Prel in his ‘Philosophy of Mysticism;’ but they are only part of Kant’s joke, and how far they are serious, Kant himself does not know. If spiritualists knew their own business, they would translate and publish Kant’s first seventy pages of ‘Traeume.’ Something like telepathy, action of spirit, even discarnate, on spirit, is alluded to, but the idea is as old as Lavaterus at least (p. 52). Kant has a good deal to say, like Scott in his ‘Demonology,’ on the physics of Hallucination, but it is antiquated matter. He thinks the whole topic of spiritual being only important as bearing on hopes of a future life. As speculation, all is ‘in the air,’ and as in such matters the learned and unlearned are on a level of ignorance, science will not discuss them. He then repeats the Swedenborg stories, and thinks it would be useful to posterity if some one would investigate them while witnesses are alive and memories are fresh.

In fact, Kant asks for psychical research.

As for Swedenborg’s so costly book, Kant laughs at it. There is in it no evidence, only assertion. Kant ends, having pleased nobody, he says, and as ignorant as when he began, by citing _cultivons notre jardin_.

Kant returned to the theme in ‘Anthropologische Didaktik.’ He discusses the unconscious, or sub-conscious, which, till Sir William Hamilton lectured, seems to have been an absolutely unknown topic to British psychologists. ‘So ist das Feld dunkler Vorstellungen das groesste in Menschen.’ He has a chapter on ‘The Divining Faculty’ (pp. 89-93). He will not hear of presentiments, and, unlike Hegel, he scouts the Highland second-sight. The ‘possessed’ of anthropology are epileptic patients. Mystics (Swedenborg) are victims of _Schwaermerei_.

This reference to Swedenborg is remarked upon by Schubert in his preface to the essay of Kant. He points out that ‘it is interesting to compare the circumspection, the almost uncertainty of Kant when he had to deliver a judgment on the phenomena described by himself and as to which he had made inquiry [i.e. in his letter _re_ Swedenborg to Mlle. de Knobloch], and the very decided opinions he expressed forty years later on Swedenborg and his companions’ [in the work cited, sections 35-37. The opinion in paragraph 35 is a general one as to mystics. There is no other mention of Swedenborg].

On the whole Kant is interested, but despairing. He wants facts, and no facts are given to him but the book of the Prophet Emanuel. But, as it happened, a new, or a revived, order of facts was just about to solicit scientific attention. Kant had (1766) heard rumours of healing by magnetism, and of the alleged effect of the magnet on the human frame. The subject was in the air, and had already won the attention of Mesmer, about whom Kant had information. It were superfluous to tell again the familiar story of Mesmer’s performances at Paris. While Mesmer’s theory of ‘magnetism’ was denounced by contemporary science, the discovery of the hypnotic sleep was made by his pupil, Puysegur. This gentleman was persuaded that instances of ‘thought-transference’ (not through known channels of sense) occurred between the patient and the magnetiser, and he also believed that he had witnessed cases of ‘clairvoyance,’ ‘lucidity,’ _vue a distance_, in which the patient apparently beheld places and events remote in space. These things would now be explained by ‘unconscious suggestion’ in the more sceptical schools of psychological science. The Revolution interrupted scientific study in France to a great degree, but ‘somnambulism’ (the hypnotic sleep) and ‘magnetism’ were eagerly examined in Germany. Modern manuals, for some reason, are apt to overlook these German researches and speculations. (Compare Mr. Vincent’s ‘Elements of Hypnotism,’ p. 34.) The Schellings were interested; Ritter thought he had detected a new force, ‘Siderism.’ Mr. Wallace, in his preface to Hegel’s ‘Philosophie des Geistes,’ speaks as if Ritter had made experiments in telepathy. He may have done so, but his ‘Siderismus’ (Tuebingen, 1808) is a Report undertaken for the Academy of Munich, on the doings of an Italian water-finder, or ‘dowser.’ Ritter gives details of seventy-four experiments in ‘dowsing’ for water, metals, or coal. He believes in the faculty, but not in ‘psychic’ explanations, or the Devil. He talks about ‘electricity’ (pp. 170, 190). He describes his precautions to avoid vulgar fraud, but he took no precautions against unconscious thought-transference. He reckoned the faculty ‘temperamental’ and useful.

Amoretti, at Milan, examined hundreds of cases of the so-called Divining Rod, and Jung Stilling became an early spiritualist and’ full-welling fountain head’ of ghost stories.

Probably the most important philosophical result of the early German researches into the hypnotic slumber is to be found in the writings of Hegel. Owing to his peculiar use of a terminology, or scientific language, All his own, it is extremely difficult to make Hegel’s meaning even moderately clear. Perhaps we may partly elucidate it by a similitude of Mr. Frederic Myers. Suppose we compare the ordinary everyday consciousness of each of us to a _spectrum_, whose ends towards each extremity fade out of our view.

Beyond the range of sight there may be imagined a lower or physiological end: for our ordinary consciousness, of course, is unaware of many physiological processes which are eternally going on within us. Digestion, so long as it is healthy, is an obvious example. But hypnotic experiment makes it certain that a patient, in the _hypnotic_ condition, can consciously, or at least purposefully, affect physiological processes to which the _ordinary_ consciousness is blind–for example, by raising a blister, when it is suggested that a blister must be raised. Again (granting the facts hypothetically and merely for the sake of argument), at the _upper_ end of the spectrum, beyond the view of ordinary everyday consciousness, knowledge may be acquired of things which are out of the view of the consciousness of every day. For example (for the sake of argument let us admit it), unknown and remote people and places may be seen and described by clairvoyance, or _vue a distance_.

Now Hegel accepted as genuine the facts which we here adduce merely for the sake of argument, and by way of illustrations. But he did not regard the clairvoyant consciousness (or whatever we call it) which, _ex hypothesi_, is untrammelled by space, or even by time, as occupying what we style the _upper_ end of the psychical spectrum. On the contrary, he placed it at the _lower_ end. Hegel’s upper end ‘loses itself in light;’ the lower end, _qui voit tant de choses_, as La Fontaine’s shepherd says, is _not_ ‘a sublime mental phase, and capable of conveying general truths.’ Time and space do not thwart the consciousness at Hegel’s _lower_ end, which springs from ‘the great soul of nature.’ But that lower end, though it may see for Jeanne d’Arc at Valcouleurs a battle at Rouvray, a hundred leagues away, does not communicate any lofty philosophic truths.[14] The phenomena of clairvoyance, in Hegel’s opinion, merely indicate that the ‘material’ is really ‘ideal,’ which, perhaps, is as much as we can ask from them. ‘The somnambulist and clairvoyant see without eyes, and carry their visions directly into regions where the waiting consciousness of orderly intelligence cannot enter’ (Wallace). Hegel admits, however, that ‘in ordinary self-possessed conscious life’ there are traces of the ‘magic tie,’ ‘especially between female friends of delicate nerves,’ to whom he adds husband and wife, and members of the same family. He gives (without date or source) a case of a girl in Germany who saw her brother lying dead in a hospital at Valladolid. Her brother was at the time in the hospital, but it was another man in the nest bed who was dead. ‘It is thus impossible to make out whether what the clairvoyants really see preponderates over what they deceive themselves in.’

As long as the facts which Hegel accepted are not officially welcomed by science, it may seem superfluous to dispute as to whether they are attained by the lower or the higher stratum of our consciousness. But perhaps the question here at issue may be elucidated by some remarks of Dr. Max Dessoir. Psychology, he says, has proved that in every conception and idea an image or group of images must be present. These mental images are the recrudescence or recurrence of perceptions. We see a tree, or a man, or a dog, and whenever we have before our minds the conception or idea of any of these things the original perception of them returns, though of course more faintly. But in Dr. Dessoir’s opinion these revived mental images would reach the height of actual hallucinations (so that the man, dog, or tree would seem visibly present) if other memories and new sensations did not compete with them and check their development.

Suppose, to use Mlle. Ferrand’s metaphor, a human body, living, but with all its channels of sensation hitherto unopened. Open the sense of sight to receive a flash of green colour, and close it again. Apparently, whenever the mind informing this body had the conception of green (and it could have no other) it would also have an hallucination of green, thus

‘Annihilating all that’s made,
To a green thought in a green shade.’

Now, in sleep or hypnotic trance the competition of new sensations and other memories is removed or diminished, and therefore the idea of a man, dog, or tree once suggested to the hypnotised patient, does become an actual hallucination. The hypnotised patient sees the absent object which he is told to see, the sleeper sees things not really present.

Our primitive state, before the enormous competition of other memories and new sensations set in, would thus be a state of hallucination. Our normal present condition, in which hallucination is checked by competing memories and new sensations, is a suppression of our original, primitive, natural tendencies. Hallucination represents ‘the main trunk of our psychical existence.'[15] In Dr. Dessoir’s theory this condition of hallucination is man’s original and most primitive condition, but it is not a _higher_, rather a lower state of spiritual activity than the everyday practical unhallucinated consciousness.

This is also the opinion of Hegel, who supposes our primitive mental condition to be capable of descrying objects remote in space and time. Mr. Myers, as we saw, is of the opposite opinion, as to the relative dignity And relative reality of the present everyday self, and the old original fundamental Self. Dr. Dessoir refrains from pronouncing a decided opinion as to whether the original, primitive, hallucinated self within us does ‘preside over powers and actions at a distance,’ such as clairvoyance; but he believes in hypnotisation at a distance. His theory, like Hegel’s, is that of ‘atavism,’ or ‘throwing back’ to some very remote ancestral condition. This will prove of interest later.

Hegel, at all events, believed in the fact of clairvoyance (though deeming it of little practical use); he accepted telepathy (‘the magic tie’); he accepted interchange of sensations between the hypnotiser and the hypnotised; he believed in the divining rod, and, unlike Kant, even in ‘Scottish second-sight.’ ‘The intuitive soul oversteps the conditions of time and space; it beholds things remote, things long past, and things to come.'[16]

The pendulum of thought has swung back a long way from the point whither it was urged by David Hume. Hegel remarks: ‘The facts, it might seem, first of all call for verification. But such verification would be superfluous to those on whose account it was called for, since they facilitate the inquiry for themselves by declaring the narratives, infinitely numerous though they be, and accredited by the education and character of the witnesses, to be mere deception and imposture. Their _a priori_ conceptions are so rooted that no testimony can avail against them, and they have even denied what they have seen with their own eyes,’ and reported under their own hands, like Sir David Brewster. Hegel, it will be observed, takes the facts as given, and works them into his general theory of the Sensitive Soul (_fuehlende Seele_). He does not try to establish the facts; but to establish, or at least to examine them, is the first business of Psychical Research. Theorising comes later.

The years which have passed between the date of Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Mind’ and our own time have witnessed the long dispute over the existence, the nature, and the causes of the hypnotic condition, and over the reality and limitations of the phenomena. Thus the Academy of Medicine in Paris appointed a Committee to examine the subject in 1825. The Report on ‘Animal Magnetism,’ as it was then styled, was presented in 1831. The Academy lacked the courage to publish it, for the Report was favourable even to certain of the still disputed phenomena. At that time, in accordance with a survival of the theory of Mesmer, the agent in hypnotic cases was believed to be a kind of efflux of a cosmic fluid from the ‘magnetiser’ to the patient. There was ‘a magnetic connection.’

Though no distinction between mesmerism and hypnotism is taken in popular language, ‘mesmerism’ is a word implying this theory of ‘magnetic’ or other unknown personal influence. ‘Hypnotism,’ as will presently be seen, implies no such theory. The Academy’s Report (1831) attested the development, under ‘magnetism,’ of ‘new faculties,’ such as clairvoyance and intuition, also the production of ‘great changes in the physical economy,’ such as insensibility, and sudden increase of strength. The Report declared it to be ‘demonstrated’ that sleep could be produced ‘without suggestion,’ as we say now, though the term was not then in use. ‘Sleep has been produced in circumstances in which the persons could not see or were ignorant of the means employed to produce it.’

The Academy did its best to suppress this Report, which attests the phenomena that Hegel accepted, phenomena still disputed. Six years later (1837), a Committee reported against the pretensions of a certain Berna, a ‘magnetiser.’ No person acted on both Committees, and this Report was accepted. Later, a number of people tried to read a letter in a box, and failed. ‘This,’ says Mr. Vincent, ‘settled the question with regard to clairvoyance;’ though it might be more logical to say that it settled the pretensions of the competitors on that occasion. The Academy now decided that, because certain persons did not satisfy the expectations raised by their preliminary advertisements, therefore the question of magnetism was definitely closed.

We have often to regret that scientific eminence is not always accompanied by scientific logic. Where science neglects a subject, charlatans and dupes take it up. In England ‘animal magnetism’ had been abandoned to this class of enthusiasts, till Thackeray’s friend, Dr. Elliotson, devoted himself to the topic. He was persecuted as doctors know how to persecute; but in 1841, Braid, of Manchester, discovered that the so-called ‘magnetic sleep’ could be produced without any ‘magnetism,’ He made his patients stare fixedly at an object, and encouraged them to expect to go to sleep. He called his method ‘Hypnotism,’ a term which begs no question. Seeming to cease to be mysterious, hypnotism became all but respectable, and was being used in surgical operations, till it was superseded by chloroform. In England, the study has been, and remains, rather _suspect_, while on The Continent hypnotism is used both for healing purposes and in the inquiries of experimental psychology. Wide differences of opinion still exist, as to the nature of the hypnotic sleep, as to its physiological concomitants, and as to the limits of the faculties exorcised in or out of the slumber. It is not even absolutely certain that the exercise of the stranger faculties–for instance, that the production of anaesthesia and rigidity–are the results merely of ‘suggestion’ and expectancy. A hypnotised patient is told that the middle finger of his left hand will become rigid and incapable of sensation. This occurs, and is explained by ‘suggestion,’ though _how_ ‘suggestion’ produces the astonishing effect is another problem. The late Mr. Gurney, however, made a number of experiments in which no suggestion was pronounced, nor did the patients know which of their fingers was to become rigid and incapable of pain. The patient’s hands were thrust through a screen; on the other side of which the hypnotist made passes above the finger which was to become rigid. The lookers–on selected the finger, and the insensibility was tested by a strong electric current. The effect was also produced _without_ passes, the operator merely pointing at the selected finger, and ‘willing’ the result. If he did not ‘will’ it, nothing occurred, nor did anything occur if he willed without pointing. The proximity of the operator’s hand produced no effect if he did not ‘will,’ nor was his ‘willing’ successful if he did not bring his hand near that of the patient. Other people’s hands, similarly situated, produced no effect.

Experiments in transferring taste, as of salt, sugar, cayenne pepper, from operator to subject, were also successful. Drs. Janet and Gibert also produced sleep in a woman at a distance, by ‘willing’ it, at hours which were selected by a system of drawing lots.[17] These facts, of course, rather point to an element of truth in the old mesmeric hypothesis of some specific influence in the operator. They cannot very well be explained by suggestion and expectancy. But these facts and facts of clairvoyance and thought-transference will be rejected as superstitious delusions by people who have not met them in their own experience. This need not prevent us from examining them, because _all_ the facts, including those now universally accepted by Continental and scarcely impeached by British science, have been noisily rejected again and again on Hume’s principles.

The rarer facts, as Mr. Gurney remarks, ‘still go through the hollow form of taking place.’ Here is an example of the mode in which these phenomena are treated by popular science. Mr. Vincent says that ‘clairvoyance and phrenology were Elliotson’s constant stock in trade.’ (Phrenology was also Braid’s stock in trade.) ‘It is a matter of congratulation to have been so soon delivered from what Dr. Lloyd Tuckey has well called “a mass of superincumbent rubbish.”‘[18] Clairvoyance is part of a mass of rubbish, on page 57. On page 67, Mr. Vincent says: ‘There are many interesting questions, such as telepathy, thought-reading, clairvoyance, upon which it would be perhaps rash to give any decided opinion…. All these strange psychical conditions present problems of great interest,’ and are only omitted because ‘they have not a sufficient bearing on the normal states of hypnosis….’ Thus what was ‘rubbish’ in one page ‘presents problems of great interest’ ten pages later, and, after offering a decided opinion that clairvoyance is rubbish, Mr. Vincent thinks it rash to give any decided opinion. It is rather rash to give a decided opinion, and then to say that it is rash to do so.[19]

This brief sketch shows that science is confronted by certain facts, which, in his time, Hume dismissed as incredible miracles, beneath the contempt of the wise and learned. We also see that the stranger and rarer phenomena which Hegel accepted as facts, and interwove with his general philosophy, are still matters of dispute. Admitted by some men of science, they are doubted by others; by others, again, are denied, while most of the journalists and authors of cheap primers, who inspire popular tradition, regard the phenomena as frauds or fables of superstition. But it is plain that these phenomena, like the more ordinary facts of hypnotism, _may_ finally be admitted by science. The scientific world laughed, not so long ago, at Ogham inscriptions, meteorites, and at palaeolithic weapons as impostures, or freaks of nature. Now nobody has any doubt on these matters, and clairvoyance, thought-transference, and telepathy may, not inconceivably, be as fortunate in the long run as meteorites, or as the more usual phenomena of hypnotism.

It is only Lord Kelvin who now maintains, or lately maintained, that in hypnotism there is nothing at all but fraud and malobservation. In years to come it may be that only some similar belated voice will cry that in thought-transference there is nothing but malobservation and fraud. At present the serious attention and careful experiment needed for the establishment of the facts are more common among French than among English men of science. When published, these experiments, if they contain any affirmative instances, are denounced as ‘superstitious,’ or criticized after what we must charitably deem to be a very hasty glance, by the guides of popular opinion. Examples of this method will be later quoted. Meanwhile the disputes as to these alleged facts are noticed here, because of their supposed relation to the Origin of Religion.

[Footnote 1: See Mr. Myers’s paper on the ‘Ancient Oracles,’ in _Classical Essays_, and the author’s ‘Ancient Spiritualism,’ in _Cock Lane and Common Sense_.]

[Footnote 2: The italics here are those of Mr. Alfred Russell Wallace, in his _Miracles and Modern Science_. Mr. Huxley, in his exposure of Hume’s fallacies (in his Life of Hume), did not examine the Jansenist ‘miracles’ which Hume was criticising.]

[Footnote 3: Moll, _Hypnotism_, p. 357.]

[Footnote 4: _Animal Magnetism_, p. 355.]

[Footnote 5: A translation of his work was published in the _New Review_, January 1693.]

[Footnote 6: _La Verite des Miracles_, Cologne, 1747, Septiemo Demonstration.]

[Footnote 7: See Dr. Russell Reynolds’s paper in _British Medical Journal_, November 1869.]

[Footnote 8: James, _Principles of Psychology_, ii. 612. Charcot, op. cit.]

[Footnote 9: I do not need to be told that Dr. Maudsley denied the fact in 1886. I am prepared with the evidence, if it is asked for by some savant who happens not to know it.]

[Footnote 10: I am not responsible, of course, for the scientific validity of Dr. Charcot’s theory of healing ‘by idea.’ My point merely is that certain experts of no slight experience or mean reputation do now admit, as important certainties within their personal knowledge, exactly the phenomena which Hume asks the wise and learned to laugh at, indeed, but never to investigate.]

[Footnote 11: Pp. 353-356.]

[Footnote 12: P. 93.]

[Footnote 13: _Traeume_, p. 76.]

[Footnote 14: Hegel accepts the clairvoyance of the Pucelle.]

[Footnote 15: See Dr. Dessoir, in _Das Doppel Ich,_ as quoted by Mr. Myers, _Proceedings_, vol. vi. 213.]

[Footnote 16: _Philosophie des Geistes, Werke,_ vol. vii. 179. Berlin. 1845. The examples and much of the philosophising are in the _Zusaetze_, not translated in Mr. Wallace’s version, Oxford, 1894.]

[Footnote 17: _Proceedings_, S.P.R., vol. ii. pp. 201-207, 390-392.]

[Footnote 18: _Elements of Hypnotism_, p. 67.]

[Footnote 19: Possibly Mr. Vincent only means that Elliotson’s experiments, ‘little more than sober footing’ (p. 57), with the sisters Okey, were rubbish. But whether the sisters Okey were or were not honest is a question on which we cannot enter here.]



Among the various forms of science which are reaching and affecting the new popular tradition, we have reckoned Anthropology. Pleasantly enough, Anthropology has herself but recently emerged from that limbo of The unrecognised in which Psychical Research is pining. The British Association used to reject anthropological papers as ‘vain dreams based on travellers’ tales.’ No doubt the British Association would reject a paper on clairvoyance as a vain dream based on old wives’ fables, or on hysterical imposture. Undeniably the study of such themes is hampered by fable and fraud, just as anthropology has to be ceaselessly on its guard against ‘travellers’ tales,’ against European misunderstandings of savage ideas, and against civilised notions and scientific theories unconsciously read into barbaric customs, rites, traditions, and usages. Man, _ondoyant et divers_, is the subject alike of anthropology and of psychical research. Man (especially savage man) cannot be secluded from disturbing influences, and watched, like the materials of a chemical experiment in a laboratory. Nor can man be caught in a ‘primitive’ state: his intellectual beginnings lie very far behind the stage of culture in which we find the lowest known races. Consequently the matter on which anthropology works is fluctuating; the evidence on which it rests needs the most sceptical criticism, and many of its conclusions, in the necessary absence of historical testimony as to times far behind the lowest known savages, must be hypothetical.

For these sound reasons official science long looked askance on Anthropology. Her followers were not regarded as genuine scholars, and, perhaps as a result of this contempt, they were often ‘broken men,’ intellectual outlaws, people of one wild idea. To the scientific mind, anthropologists or ethnologists were a horde who darkly muttered of serpent worship, phallus worship, Arkite doctrines, and the Ten Lost Tribes that kept turning up in the most unexpected places. Anthropologists were said to gloat over dirty rites of dirty savages, and to seek reason where there was none. The exiled, the outcast, the pariah of Science, is, indeed, apt to find himself in odd company. Round the camp-fire of Psychical Research too, in the unofficial, unstaked waste of Science, hover odd, menacing figures of Esoteric Buddhists, _Satanistes_, Occultists, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, and Astrologers, as the Arkites and Lost Tribesmen haunted the cradle of anthropology.

But there was found at last to be reason in the thing, and method in the madness. Evolution was in it. The acceptance, after long ridicule, of palaeolithic weapons as relics of human culture, probably helped to bring Anthropology within the sacred circle of permitted knowledge. Her topic was full of illustrations of the doctrine of Mr. Darwin. Modern writers on the theme had been anticipated by the less systematic students of the eighteenth century–Goguet, de Brosses, Millar, Fontenelle, Lafitau, Boulanger, or even Hume and Voltaire. As pioneers these writers answer to the early mesmerists and magnetists, Puysegur, Amoretti, Ritter, Elliotson, Mayo, Gregory, in the history of Psychical Research. They were on the same track, in each case, as Lubbock, Tylor, Spencer, Bastian, and Frazer, or as Gurney, Richet, Myers, Janet, Dessoir, and Von Schrenck-Notzing. But the earlier students were less careful of method and evidence.

Evidence! that was the stumbling block of anthropology. We still hear, in the later works of Mr. Max Mueller, the echo of the old complaints. Anything you please, Mr. Max Mueller says, you may find among your useful savages, and (in regard to some anthropologists) his criticism is just. You have but to skim a few books of travel, pencil in hand, and pick out what suits your case. Suppose, as regards our present theme, your theory is that savages possess broken lights of the belief in a Supreme Being. You can find evidence for that. Or suppose you want to show that they have no religious ideas at all; you can find evidence for that also. Your testimony is often derived from observers ignorant of the language of the people whom they talk about, or who are themselves prejudiced by one or other theory or bias. How can you pretend to raise a science on such foundations, especially as the savage informants wish to please or to mystify inquirers, or they answer at random, or deliberately conceal their most sacred institutions, or have never paid any attention to the subject?

To all these perfectly natural objections Mr. Tylor has replied.[1] Evidence must be collected, sifted, tested, as in any other branch of inquiry. A writer, ‘of course, is bound to use his best judgment as to the trustworthiness of all authors he quotes, and, if possible, to obtain several accounts to certify each point in each locality.’ Mr. Tylor then adduces ‘the test of recurrence,’ of undesigned coincidence in testimony, as Millar had already argued in the last century.[2] If a mediaeval Mahommedan in Tartary, a Jesuit in Brazil, a Wesleyan in Fiji, one may add a police magistrate in Australia, a Presbyterian in Central Africa, a trapper in Canada, agree in describing some analogous rite or myth in these diverse lands and ages, we cannot set down the coincidence to chance or fraud. ‘Now, the most important facts of ethnography are vouched for in this way.’

We may add that even when the ideas of savages are obscure, we can Often detect them by analysis of the institutions in which they are expressed.[3]

Thus anthropological, like psychical or any other evidence, must be submitted to conscientious processes of testing and sifting. Contradictory instances must be hunted for sedulously. Nothing can be less scientific than to snatch up any traveller’s tale which makes for our theory, and to ignore evidence, perhaps earlier, or later, or better observed, which makes against it. Yet this, unfortunately, in certain instances (which will be adduced) has been the occasional error of Mr. Huxley and Mr. Spencer.[4] Mr. Spencer opens his ‘Ecclesiastical Institutions’ by the remark that ‘the implication [from the reported absence of the ideas of belief in persons born deaf and dumb] is that the religious ideas of civilised men are not innate’ (who says they are?), and this implication Mr. Spencer supports by ‘proofs that among various savages religious ideas do not exist.’ ‘Sir John Lubbock has given many of these.’ But it would be well to advise the reader to consult Roskoff’s confutation of Sir John Lubbock, and Mr. Tylor’s masterly statement.[5] Mr. Spencer cited Sir Samuel Baker for savages without even ‘a ray of superstition’ or a trace of worship. Mr. Tylor, twelve years before Mr. Spencer wrote, had demolished Sir Samuel Baker’s assertion,[6] as regards many tribes, and so shaken it as regards the Latukas, quoted by Mr. Spencer. The godless Dinkas have ‘a good deity and heaven-dwelling creator,’ carefully recorded years before Sir Samuel’s ‘rash denial.’ We show later that Mr. Spencer, relying on a single isolated sentence in Brough Smyth, omits all his essential information about the Australian Supreme Being; while Mr. Huxley–overlooking the copious and conclusive evidence as to their ethical religion–charges the Australians with having merely a non-moral belief in casual spirits. We have also to show that Mr. Huxley, under the dominance of his theory, and inadvertently, quotes a good authority as saying the precise reverse of what he really does say.

If the facts not fitting their theories are little observed by authorities so popular as Mr. Huxley and Mr. Spencer; if _instantiae contradictoriae_ are ignored by them, or left vague; if these things are done in the green tree, we may easily imagine what shall be done in the dry. But we need not war with hasty _vulgarisateurs_ and headlong theorists.

Enough has been said to show the position of anthropology as regards evidence, and to prove that, if he confines his observations to certain anthropologists, the censures of Mr. Max Mueller are justified. It is mainly for this reason that the arguments presently to follow are strung on the thread of Mr. Tylor’s truly learned and accurate book, ‘Primitive Culture.’

Though but recently crept forth, _vix aut ne vix quidem_, from the chill shade of scientific disdain, Anthropology adopts the airs of her elder sisters among the sciences, and is as severe as they to the Cinderella of the family, Psychical Research. She must murmur of her fairies among the cinders of the hearth, while they go forth to the ball, and dance with provincial mayors at the festivities of the British Association. This is ungenerous, and unfortunate, as the records of anthropology are rich in unexamined materials of psychical research. I am unacquainted with any work devoted by an anthropologist of renown to the hypnotic and kindred practices of the lower races, except Herr Bastian’s very meagre tract, ‘Ueber psychische Beobachtungen bei Naturvoelkern.'[7] We possess, none the less, a mass of scattered information on this topic, the savage side of psychical phenomena, in works of travel, and in Mr. Tylor’s monumental ‘Primitive Culture.’ Mr. Tylor, however, as we shall see, regards it as a matter of indifference, or, at least, as a matter beyond the scope of his essay, to decide whether the parallel supernormal phenomena believed in by savages, and said to recur in civilisation, are facts of actual experience, or not.

Now, this question is not otiose. Mr. Tylor, like other anthropologists, Mr. Huxley, Mr. Herbert Spencer, and their followers and popularisers, constructs on anthropological grounds, a theory of the Origin of Religion.

That origin anthropology explains as the result of early and fallacious reasonings on a number of biological and psychological phenomena, both normal and (as is alleged by savages) supernormal. These reasonings led to the belief in souls and spirits. Now, first, anthropology has taken for granted that the Supreme Deities of savages are envisaged by them as ‘spirits.’ This, paradoxical as the statement may appear, is just what does not seem to be proved, as we shall show. Next, if the supernormal phenomena (clairvoyance, thought-transference, phantasms of the dead, phantasms of the dying, and others) be real matters of experience, the inferences drawn from them by early savage philosophy may be, in some degree, erroneous. But the inferences drawn by materialists who reject the supernormal phenomena will also, perhaps, be, let us say, incomplete. Religion will have been, in part, developed out of facts, perhaps Inconsistent with materialism in its present dogmatic form. To put it less trenchantly, and perhaps more accurately, the alleged facts ‘are not merely dramatically strange, they are not merely extraordinary and striking, but they are “odd” in the sense that they will not easily fit in with the views which physicists and men of science generally give us of the universe in which we live’ (Mr. A.J. Balfour, President’s Address, ‘Proceedings,’ S.P.R. vol. x. p. 8, 1894).

As this is the case, it might seem to be the business of Anthropology, the Science of Man, to examine, among other things, the evidence for the actual existence of those alleged unusual and supernormal phenomena, belief in which is given as one of the origins of religion.

To make this examination, in the ethnographic field, is almost a new labour. As we shall see, anthropologists have not hitherto investigated such things as the ‘Fire-walk’ of savages, uninjured in the flames, like

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