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been able to entirely obliterate the idea of God.”” He goes on to show that among all the tribes of Sumatra, the images which are incorrectly called idols are either pictures to scare away evil spirits by their ugliness, or soul-carriers, that is to say, pictures into which soul-stuff has been introduced by some kind of manipulation; they therefore either introduce soul-stuff into the house (soul-stuff = life power, life-fluid, hence a material conception) and with it a blessing, or by an increase of soul-stuff they ensure protection against diseases and spirits. The first group might perhaps best be called amulets, or when they are worshiped and given food, fetishes; and the second group talismans. In Skeat's “Malay Magic” ” it is shown that just as in the language of the Malays one can pick out Arabic words from the main body of native vocabulary, so in their popular religious customs Mohammedan ideas overlie a mass of original pagan notions. “The Malays of the Peninsula are Sunni Muhammadans of the school of Shafi'i, and nothing, theoretically speaking, could be more correct and orthodox (from the point of view of Islam) than the belief which they profess. “But the beliefs which they actually hold are another matter altogether, and it must be admitted that the Mohammedan veneer which covers their ancient superstitions is very often of the thinnest description. The inconsistency in which this involves them is not, however, as a rule realized by themselves. Beginning their invocations with the orthodox preface: “In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate,’ and ending them with an appeal to the Creed: ‘There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Apostle of God,” they are conscious of no impropriety in addressing the intervening matter to a string of Hindu Divinities, Demons, 8 “The Progress and Arrest of Islam in Sumatra,” Gottfried Simon,
Ghosts and Nature Spirits, with a few Angels and Prophets thrown in, as the occasion may seem to require.” The very wide extent of Animism is often not realized. This belief is the living, working creed of over half the human race. All South, Central and West African tribes are Animists, except where Animism has been dispossessed by Christianity. The Mohammedanism of Africa is largely mingled with it. It is the faith of Madagascar. North and South American Indians knew no other creed when Columbus landed, and the uncivilized remnant still profess it. The islanders of the Pacific and the aborigines of Australia are Animists. In Borneo and the Malay Archipelago it is strong, although a good deal affected by Hinduism. Even in China and Japan its adherents are numbered by millions. In Burma it has been stated that the nominal Buddhism of the country is in reality only a thin veneer over the real religion, which is Animism. In India, while the Census Reports record only eight and a half million as Animists, yet there are probably more than ten times that number whose Hinduism displays little else, and even the Mohammedans in many places are affected by it. There is no agreement among scholars regarding the origin of Animism. According to a writer in the Encyclopædia Britannica, “Animism may have arisen out of or simultaneously with animatism as a primitive explanation of many different phenomena; if animatism was originally applied to non-human or inanimate objects, animism may from the outset have been in vogue as a theory of the nature of men. Lists of phenomena from the contemplation of which the savage was led to believe in Animism have been given by Dr. Tylor, Herbert Spencer, Mr. Andrew Lang and others; an animated controversy arose between these writers as to the priority of their respective lists. Among these phenomena are: trance and unconsciousness, sickness, death, clairvoyance,
dreams, apparitions of the dead, wraiths, hallucinations, echoes, shadows and reflections.” According to this theory evolution accounts for the growth of religious ideas. But all are not in accord with this theory; it is opposed to the Scriptures. “A dispassionate study of heathen religions,” says Warneck, “confirms the view of Paul that heathenism is a fall from a better knowledge of God. In earlier days humanity had a greater treasure of spiritual goods. But the knowledge of God's eternal power and divinity was neglected. The Almighty was no longer feared or worshiped; dependence upon Him was renounced; and this downward course was continued till nothing but a dim presentiment of Him was left. The creature stepped into the place of the Creator, and the vital power, the soul-stuff and the spirits of the dead came to be worshiped.”” This view is not exploded by science, for the Encyclopædia Britannica concludes its discussion on the subject by saying: “Even, therefore, if we can say that at the present day the gods are entirely spiritual, it is clearly possible to maintain that they have been spiritualized part passu with the increasing importance of the animistic view of nature and of the greater prominence of eschatological beliefs. The animistic origin of religion is therefore not proven.” Aside from the question of origin we return to its content. It is in its teaching regarding man’s soul and the supreme importance of the immaterial that Animism affords a point of contact with such words of Christ as “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.” It is the loss of the soul, the spirit, the invisible lifeprinciple that the Animist fears: but this fear brings him into a life-long bondage to superstitions. Among the Basutos in Africa it is held that a man walking by the brink of a river may lose his life if his shadow falls on the water, for a crocodile may seize it and draw him in; in Tasmania, North and South America is found the conception that the soul is somehow identical with the shadow of a man. For some of the Red Indians the Roman custom of receiving the breath of a dying man was no mere pious duty but a means of ensuring that his soul was transferred to a new body. Other familiar conceptions identify the soul with the liver or the heart, with the reflected figure seen in the pupil of the eye and with the blood. Although the soul is often distinguished from the vital principle, there are many cases in which a state of unconsciousness is explained as due to the absence of the soul; in South Australia wilyamarraba (without soul) is the word used for insensible. So too the autohypnotic trance of the magician or shaman is regarded as due to his visit to distant regions or the nether world, of which he brings back an account. “In many parts of the world it is held that the human body is the seat of more than one soul; in the island of Nias four are distinguished, the shadow and the intelligence, which die with the body, a tutelary spirit, termed begoe, and a second which is carried on the head.” “Just as among western nations the ghost of a dead person is held to haunt the churchyard or the place of death, although more orthodox ideas may be held by the same person as to the nature of a future life, so the savage, more consistently, assigns different abodes to the multiple souls with which he credits man. Of the four souls of a Dakota Indian one is held to stay with the corpse, another in the village, a third goes into the air, while the fourth goes to the land of souls, where its lot may depend on its rank in this life, its sex, mode of death or sepulture, on the due observance of funeral ritual, or many other points. From the belief in the survival of the dead arose the practice of offering food, lighting fires, etc., at the grave, at first, maybe, as an act of friendship or filial piety, later as an act of worship. The simple offering of food or shedding of blood at the grave develops into an elaborate system of sacrifice; even where ancestor-worship is not found, the desire to provide the dead with comforts in the future life may lead to the sacrifice of wives, slaves, animals, etc., to the breaking or burning of objects at the grave or to the provision of the ferryman’s toll, a coin put in the mouth of the corpse to pay the traveling expenses of the soul. But all is not finished with the passage of the soul to the land of the dead; the soul may return to avenge its death by helping to discover the murderer, or to wreak vengeance for itself; there is a widespread belief that those who die a violent death become malignant spirits and endanger the lives of those who come near the haunted spot; the woman who dies in child-birth becomes a pontianak, and threatens the life of human beings; and man resorts to magical or religious means of repelling his spiritual dangers.” ” It is clear from the beliefs of the non-Mohammedans of Malaysia that all things, organic and inorganic were once credited with the possession of souls. This primitive Animism survives most distinctly in the well-known Moslem Malay ceremonies connected with the rice-soul at seed-time or harvest, but it is also traceable in a large number of other practices. We are told that whenever a peasant injures anything he must propitiate its personality, its living essence, its soul, its tutelary spirit — call it what we will. If the hunter slays a deer he must excuse himself; it is not the man but the gun or the knife or the leaden bullet that must answer for the deed. Should a man wish to mine or to set up a house, he must begin by propitiating the spirits of the turned-up soil; should he desire to fish, he will address the spirits of the sea and even the fish themselves; should he contemplate planting,
10 “The Living Christ and Dying Heathenism,” p. 103. Compare also Ellinwood's “Oriental Religions and Christianity,” p. 225.