ANIMISM 529 ANIMISM says "the present probability is that in the infancy of the race there was at least no objective expression of rchgioiis feeling", and that "there must have been a time in the progress of organic forms from some lower to that highest mammal, man, when ho did not have a religious consciousness; for it is doubt- ful if even the slightest traces of it can be discerned in the inferior animals". The French school of anthropology is distinguished by its outspoken alhrisiii;ui(l iii:itiTi:disrii. Darwm, Spencer, and l.iilil)oi'k hiilil (hat ])riinilive man had no idea of fiod. Linguistic analysis, as Haynes clearly proves, shows this to be false. The theory of animism has exerted great iiilhu'iice on the study of religions during the last twenty years. This is shown in the animistic trend of Prof. Maspero's study of the ICgyptian re- ligion; in the contention of the late Prof. W. Robert- son Smith that the religion and social institutions of llie Semites are fiiumlcd on Totemisin; in the em- C basis laid on the animism of the ancient Israelites y Dr. Stade; in the worship of the dead and of an- cestors among the Vedic Indians and the Persians; in the study of soul-worship among the (ireeks, by E. Rhode. That this influence was not for good is the opinion of Prof. Brinton. who says that the acceptance of animism as a sulHcient explanation of early cults has led to the neglect, in English- speaking lands, of their profouniler analysis antl scientific study. Tylor published the third edition of " Primitive Culture" in 1891, confident of having proved the evolution theory as to the origin of our civilization from a savage condition, the savage belief in souls and spirits as the germs of religion, and the conti- nuity of this belief in its progressive forms of de- velopment up to Monotheism. Yet the hope was short-lived. More scientific research and severer criticism have deprived this theory of its former wide influence. (1) The assumption that the lowest savages of to-day give approximately a faithful picture of primitive times is not true. Savages have a past anu a long one, even though not recorded. "Nothing in the natural history of man", writes the Duke of .Vrgj'll, "can be more certain tlian that morally and intellectually and physically he can and often does sink from a higher to a lower level". Max Miiller assures us that "if there is one thing which a comparative study of religions places in the clearest light, it is the inevitable decay to which every religion is exposed. . . . Whenever we can trace back a religion to its first beginnings, we find it free from many blemishes that affected it in its later states". Even Tylor admits that animism is everywhere found with the worship of a great Got!, brinton holds that the resemblance of the savage mind to that of the child is superficial and likens the savage to the uncultivated and ignorant adult among ourselves. (2) It is opposed by the Pliilological and Myth- ological schools. Thus Max Muller explains much in animism by superstition, a poetical conception of nature, and especially by personification. He says that inanimate objects were conceived as active powers and as such were describeil as agents by a necessity of language, without, however, predicating life or soul of tncm; for human language knows at first no agents except human agents. Hence an- imism was a stage of thought reached slowly, and not by sudden impulses. " What is classed as ani- mism in ancient .rj'an mythology", he writes, "is often no more than a poetical conception of na- ture which enables the poet to address .sun. moon, rivers and trees as if they coidd hear and understand his words. " The same truth finds abundant illustra- tion in the P.salms. "Sometimes, however," ho adds, " what is called animism is a superstition which, after having recognized agents in sun, moon, rivers and trees, postulates on the strength of anal- ogy the existence of agents or spirits dwelling in other parts of nature also, haunting our houses, bringing misfortunes upon us, though sometimes conferring blessings. These ghosts are often mixed up with the ghosts of the departed and form a large chapter in the hi.story of ancient superstition." The ghost, or ancestor, theory received a fatal blow from Lang's ".Making of a Religion", where it is shown that the belief of the most primitive savages is in a High (iod, Supreme God, and Moral God. Lang thus confutes Tylor's contentions: (a) that man could not have possibly started with a belief in a Supreme Being; (b) that religion and morahty must have .separate origins. Even in China, where ances- tor-worship prevails, we find it distinct from the worship of gods, and there is no trace of an ancestor having ever become a god. Again, soul-worship and ancestor-worship are not identical, and witn many tribes much attention is paid to conciliating the souls of the dead where ancestor-worship is un- known. Brinton holds the former to be older and more general. The aim is to get rid of the soul, to put it to rest, or send it on its journey to a better land, lest it trouble the survivors. Karl .MulknholT maintains that folk-lore has no independent vahie and as a .source of mythology is of only secondary importance. (3) .Vnimism is not the sole and chief source of religion. De la Saussaye says that the belief of the early Teutons consisted only to a small extent of animistic ideas concerning souls and .spirits. Prof. F. B. Gummere teaches that in Teutonic mythology animism has not succeeded in annexing nature- mythology. F. B. Jevons holds that the religious idea is no part of animism pure and simple, and to make the personal agents of animism into super- natural agents or diWne powers there must be added some idea which is not contained in animism, and that idea is a specifically religious idea, one which is apprehended directly or intuitively by the relig- ious consciousness. E. -Mogk. whose inclinations lean to Tylor, is yet constrained by a scientific mind to recognize nature-worship and the great gods as origi- nal; and he warns the student of Teutonic mythol- ogy that he must not allow him.self to be seduced into disregarding the fact that the worship of the God of Heaven is one of the most original elements of the Teutonic belief. De la Saussaye and Pfleiderer hold that the supposition according to which every conception of an object — e. g. tree, sun, moon, clouds, thunder, earth, heaven — as a living being has an animistic character is undemonstrable and improb- able. They show from Teutonic mythology that the power and beneficent influence of these objects of nature and their symbolic conception belong to another sphere of ideas and sentiments than that of animism. (4) Prof. W. Robertson Smith and Prof. Frazer conclusively prove that the animistic religion of fear was neither universal nor primitive. According to Prof. Frazer, the primitive reason of sacrifice was communion with (iod. Even worship of the dead cannot be entirely explained animistically as the cult of souls, . imistic conceptions may enter into the worship of ancestors ancf heroes; but other ideas arc so e.ssential that they caimot be regarded merely ius modifications of soul-worship. (5) It is not primitive nor specific. Prof. Brinton says. "There is no special form of religious thought which expresses it- self;us what has been called by Dr. Tylor . imism, i. e. the belief that inanimate objects are animated and pos.se.ss souls or spirits. " This opinion, which in one guise or another is common to all religions and many philo.sophies. " is merely a secondary phenomenon of the religious .sentiment, not a trait cliaracteristic of primitive faiths ". De la Saussaye holds that animism
Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/595
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