I have recorded another still more interesting act in the comedy of the kitchen door, which act raises the question whether animals are capable of emotions of a religious nature. Romanes claims to have proved that some animals exercise all the human emotions, "with the exception of those which refer to religion, moral sense, and perception of the sublime." On the other hand, Mr. John Fiske makes a category for Toots. In discussing the "primeval ghost-world," he quotes from Nature as follows: "A Skye terrier accustomed to sit on his haunches when wanting favors from his master would also sit up before the mantelpiece before his rubber ball. This illustrates Auguste Comte's remark that dogs, apes, and elephants may have a few fetichistic notions."
It is a habit of Toots, when alone and occasion requires, to perform his sitting and hand-waving supplications to inanimate things as if they were capable of volition. He has been discovered thus paying his addresses to a rubber doll, beseeching it to descend from the mantelpiece for his benefit. But as to rubber playthings, there is reason to believe that he conceives them to possess real life on account of the resumption of their form by elastic reaction after they are pressed. The same address, however, is made by him to a door he can not open, or to a glass of water he can not reach or ought not to have without asking, when no human friend is present to serve him.
So also when he failed to force open the kitchen door that was fastened, there followed his last effort a silence that led me to conclude it was the little fellow's moment of prayer. Accordingly, at the right instant, I thrust open the door, when I found that he had been sitting up before the unyielding object and waving his suppliant hands with a genuine earnestness that would shame the hollow formality of many a human worshiper.
The question naturally arises, Does Toots believe in ghosts? And, if so, have we not found in him the evidence of an incipient fetichism, an inspiration of rude religious emotion and a glimmering perception of the sublime?
- Mental Evolution of Man.
- Myths and Myth Makers.