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Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, [1911], at

§ 11.

Returning to our immediate problem, the evolution of religious ideas, we note that, all error being but incomplete or illicit induction, "irrational" and relatively "rational" ideas are alike products of the general mental process. The recoil from adventurous magic to precatory ritual is no more a renunciation of reason than the contrary progression; and all changes in religion are but better or worse applications of judgment under varying conditions of psychic suggestion and economic pressure. It is indeed true—and be the truth clearly envisaged—that with the conscious resort to critical reason there begins potentially a process which may end in the negation of all the primary religious conceptions and propositions, even in their most purified philosophical form. When that end is reached, we may well say that philosophy and religion are differentiated, even as science is differentiated at once from magical and from precatory

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religion, at the point at which it either repudiates or abandons their premisses, and consciously proceeds on tested induction. But even this reaction is never instantaneously complete: witness the sociology of many physicists, and the meteorology of some sociologising historians; and, on the other hand, there is an aspect or function of religion in respect of which it is structurally continuous with systems of doctrine which either abandon or repudiate its premisses.

From the first, it belonged to his nature that man should connect his ethic with his cosmology, since the one like the other grew out of his instincts and perceptions and his effort to harmonise them. Precisely as he animised Nature, so did he moralise it: that is, he conceived of it in terms of what moral ideas he had. Thus it was that he could alternately resort to propitiation and to magic, and alternately feel fear and gratitude. Granting that his religious conceptions first crystallised on the lines of his fears, it was inevitable that they should in time crystallise also in terms of his satisfactions: the one involved the other, and made it not only possible but probable that he should at times thank the very power he feared. Fear would involve propitiation, and propitiation was the door to gratitude. And thus it was that his Gods were in the long run ethically like unto himself, neither wholly beneficent nor wholly maleficent.

Such an evolution would seem inevitable, even if we do not posit as part of the process his direct deification of his own image in that of his ancestors. But that ancestor-worship is a main factor in the growth of religion is proved both à priori and à posteriori. Once the ancestor was recognised as subsisting spirit-wise, he was only in degree, not in kind, distinguishable from the Gods; and there is evidence that in some cases he was conceived as the God par excellence.

See the evidence (of which Dr. Jevons makes no account) collected by Spencer, Principles of Sociology, vol. i, chaps. xx and xxv; and op. F. W. Christian, The Caroline Islands, 1899, p. 75; Rev. D. Macdonald, Oceania, 1889, p. 161; Basil Thomson, The Fijians, 1908, pp. 5, 57, 111; Glyn Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes, 1906, pp. 67, 89, 98 sq., 104-9, etc.; C. Partridge, Cross River Natives, 1905, pp. 283-4; W. Crooke, Religion and Folklore of Northern India, ed. 1895, vol. i, ch. iv; Sir H. Johnston, The Uganda Protectorate, 1902, ii, 553, 555, 587, 588, 589, 631, 752. "The essence of true negro-religion," says the writer last-named, "is ancestor-worship" (Liberia, 1906, ii, 1062). It is true that some observers (cp. Mary Kingsley, West African Studies, 2nd ed. 1901, pp. 111-114; Sir A. B. Ellis, The Ewe-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast,

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[paragraph continues] 1890, p. 24 sq.) deny that certain West Africans "worship their ancestors"; but this, as Miss Kingsley admits, is a matter of culture-stage or variation. African religion is notably impermanent by reason of the peculiar stresses of life-conditions; and no one can trace far the history even of the highest Gods of the indigenes. Cp. Partridge, as cited, pp. 271-3. The higher Gods of a given moment may be ancestors whose ancestorhood has been lost sight of.

Dr. Frazer, Golden Bough, i, 72, note, cites the testimony of Dr. Fison in Australia: "The more I learn about savage tribes, the more I am convinced that among them the ancestors grow into gods." The same witness, again, tells of a great Fijian chief who "really believed himself to be a god—i.e., a reincarnation of an ancestor who had grown into a god" (Id. i, 141, note). The Godhood of chiefs is a familiar phenomenon. "The Gods being no more than deceased chiefs, the arikis [chiefs] were regarded as living ones" (Taylor, Te Ika a Maui: or, New Zealand and its Inhabitants, p. 173). Cp. Hazlewood's testimony (Frazer, last cit.); also Mariner, Tonga Islands, ed. 1827, ii, 99-100; W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, i, 111 sq.; T. Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, ed. 1870, pp. 19, 197; Comm. V. L. Cameron, Across Africa, 1885, p. 336; and Frazer, Lectures on the History of the Early Kingship, 1905, p. 132 sq.

Among the early Aryan Hindus, the first man who died became Yama, the God of the Shades; 1 and on another view he and his wife were the first human pair, 2 though sprung from deities of the atmosphere. 3 But here, still, we are dealing with late developments: it is still an open question how the first Gods originated. And it is impossible to determine exactly the primary psychic processes. The limitary theorem that all God-worship originated in ancestor-worship has evoked the counter-theorem that God-worship must in origin have preceded ancestor-worship; and Dr. Jevons so reasons. But again his predilection recoils on one of his own theses, for the ancestor is obviously likely to have been early regarded as the friendly spirit; 4 and we are thus led back to Dr. Jevons’s repudiated premiss that the religion of fear had preceded that of gratitude. 5

His final view of ancestor-worship is that it was assimilated to that of the Gods, but can never have preceded it. It may be true, he grants, that certain ancestors are somehow raised to the ranks of Gods, but it cannot be proved that they were originally ghosts. Then follows this singular theorem:—

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What then of these gods?......If they are believed to be the ancestors of their worshippers, then they are not believed to have been human; the worshipper's pride is that his ancestor was a god and no mere mortal......If, on the other hand, a god is not believed to be the ancestor of any of his worshippers, then to assert that he was really a "deified ancestor" is to make a statement for which there is no evidence; it is an inference from an assumption—namely, that the only spirits which the savage originally knew were ghosts. That assumption, however, is not true; the savage believes the forces and phenomena of nature to be personalities like himself, he does not believe that they are ghosts or worked by ghosts......The fact is that ancestors known to be human were not worshipped as gods, and that ancestors worshipped as gods were not believed to have been human1

We might add, using Dr. Jevons’s own words concerning the theory he rejects, "Which is simplicity itself." But though in a sense simple, it is unhappily not consistent. For if the savage believed the forces of nature to be "personalities like himself"; if, as Dr. Jevons insists, the magic-monger believed himself on a par with the supernatural in his power to control nature; and if, as Dr. Jevons has previously argued, 2 it was precisely out of the notion of such personalities or "spirits" that he framed his idea of "supernatural" forces or Gods, then either there is in the terms of the case no contradiction whatever between his counting his ancestors "human" and counting them Gods, or there is no meaning whatever in the phrase "personalities like himself." Dr. Jevons really cannot have it both ways, even for the purpose of confuting the theory of Spencer. All the while he is but modifying Spencer's special theory that all God-ideas began in the idea of quasi-human "spirits," merely refusing to accept "ghosts" as the first form of spirit-idea.

Of course, if Dr. Jevons means that by definition the savage must be held to regard a God-ancestor as "not merely human"—that the savage cannot conceptually mean exactly the same thing by "God" and "man," else there would be no double significance in the terms—he may claim our assent; for in that case he is asserting a mere truism. But by his own showing the question is whether or not in the opinion of the savage the man could become a God; and so far is this from being doubtful that we have many instances of savages regarding some of their contemporaries, and priests regarding themselves, as Gods; 3 to say nothing of the fact that for the early Hebrews the title "Gods" was certainly applicable to judges or chiefs. 4 In Sumatra, the human species, "called

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the Gods of the middle world, are conceived as a true copy of the God-world. In heaven the same life goes on as on earth. Only gradually are Gods and men distinguished. The Gods stand over men very much as a powerful chief over the crowd. Therefore were such princes named Gods (Debata) and the Gods in turn 'Grandfather,' with which title eminent men are greeted." 1 For the people of Mangaia in the Hervey Islands the three Gods Rangi, Mokoiro, and Akatuira, grandsons of the great God Rongo, 2 were the first inhabitants of the islands, and the ancestors of all the tribes. 3 And the idea is common. In the same island, Vatea, father of Rongo, is the "father of Gods and men." 4 The people of Efate in the New Hebrides, down till the time of their conversion, habitually applied to all their Gods the name of "Spirits of the dead"; 5 and their "first man" is practically identified with Maui, the Creator. 6 So, among the Bushmen, ’Kaang or Cagn is at once Supreme God, "the Man" or Master of all things, and the "first being," with Coti his wife; 7 and among the Australian Aborigines "the conception of a supreme being oscillated between a hero and a deity." 8 Concerning the ancestor spirits in general, a very studious missionary declares that they are "regarded as clothed with all the divine powers in existence." 9 Nay, the Japanese at this moment regard themselves as universally descended from Gods; and every dead relation becomes a God relatively to the particular household. 10 Thus Dr. Jevons is contradicted by the evidence as well as by his own earlier argument.

As before, he has fallen into contradiction by reason of having an illicit doctrinal end to gain—this time, the discrediting of the

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ghost theory of religion. In order to destroy that, he has in effect committed himself to the proposition that the primitive savage clearly discriminated between ghosts and spirits. Now there is neither à priori nor à posteriori ground for this view; since all the evidence goes to show that the dead ancestor was originally believed to eat and drink, hunt and ride, like the living; and the same things were certainly believed of the Gods. It is one of Dr. Jevons’s own reproaches against the creed of the Egyptians that it regarded the ka or soul in the next world as eating and drinking exactly like the living man. There is really no pretext for believing that the early man ever thought the "spirits" were "not ghosts" or vice versa: it is Dr. Jevons who is here making an unproved assumption. This use of the word "ghost" as representing to early man exactly what it means to us is not only unwarrantable in itself; it is a misrepresentation of the so-called "ghost theory"; for that has regard, among other things, to visions in dreams of the dead as living. If the early savage did see a subjective "apparition" he would doubtless hold it for a "person"; but as regards dreams, peoples comparatively civilised have constantly taken the vision for an objective reality. Of such cases there are several in the Bible.

On the other hand, we have Dr. Jevons’s express assurance first 1 that the totem animal becomes the totem ancestor, who is universally conceived to have been animal, not human, yet quasi-human, yet is made a God; 2 next, that "in virtue of the kinship between the god and his worshippers, the killing of a fellow-clansman comes to be regarded in a totem-clan as the same thing as killing the totem-god"; 3 and, further, that when totemism is no longer a living force, the mere altar-stone comes to be identified with the God, who is "conceived as the ancestor of the race." 4 If, then, a whole community can be conceived as descending from one deified animal or from a stone, it surely might be conceived as descending from one man. As to his possible deification, we have Dr. Jevons’s own admission that "eventually......the dead were......on a level with the gods." 5 That is to say, he credits men with

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superiority to such anthropomorphism at a time when they animised everything, and when, later, they could believe in divine animal ancestors or stone ancestors; and he dates ancestor-worship proper as a still later practice arising in a state of comparatively advanced civilisation, 1 on the ground that "the family is a comparatively late institution in the history of society."

Now, however, arises a fresh contradiction. The family, surely, was a tolerably old institution among the Romans at the beginning of their written history; but Dr. Jevons had previously committed himself to the proposition that the Romans, down to the time of their assimilation of Greek cults and deities, had not even attained to the stage of polytheism, being at that of simple "animism." 2 That is, they had no Gods, though they had long been wont to sacrifice to the manes of their ancestors. The mere statement of that thesis, in turn, involves new contradictions. In denying that the deities of the early Romans were properly describable as Gods until they had adopted Greek Gods or identified their own with some of these, he speaks of the "genuine" and "great" Italian Gods, "Janus, Jupiter, Mars, Diana, Venus, Hercules, etc." Then he proceeds to show that the great and genuine Janus was indistinguishable in origin and function from the "inferior, animistic powers to whom the title of spirit is the highest that can be assigned." The general run of those spirits, he contends (following Ihne, Schwegler, and others), "were rather numina or forces than beings"; 3 and he represents the early Italians as not conceiving them in human form. Yet he admits that Janus was figured as a human head with two faces. The whole theorem is indefensible. To say that an ancient Italian peasant thought of the forces of Nature as abstractions before he had attained to the conception of personal Gods, when all the while he thought of Mars and Diana, Jupiter and Juno, as males and females, is to affirm a countersense. The sole defence offered is the impossible set of definitions by which Chantepie de la Saussaye undertakes to draw a line between Gods proper and Nature powers. 4 By that definition Gods are not evolved till they have been sculptured—a countersense which at this stage of hierology we might have been spared. The superposition of so many Greek myths upon those of the Romans 5 gives

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considerable range for mystification; but no process of that kind can save the theorem that the Gods were not anthropomorphised by imagination before they were objectively imaged.

The thesis, finally, that the Romans before the period of Greek influence were "mere" polydaimonists, and that at the same time they thought even of their daimons as impersonal forces, destroys itself, even apart from Dr. Jevons’s admission that all the while they had "great Gods." An "inferior" spirit is cognisable as such only by contrast with a superior; and the contention that Janus was evolved from a simple "spirit of doorways," and remained such, is merely one more rebuttal of Dr. Jevons’s own division of species. If the spirit of doorways was anthropomorphised, it is idle to contend that the other spirits were not. In the very act of maintaining this untenable thesis Dr. Jevons recognises in the attitude of the Romans towards their manes, "the good," a "worship of deceased ancestors and of spirits which, like Genita Mana, are best explained as spirits of the departed"; 1 and he decides, further, that the Lares Præstites were conceived under the form of dogs. 2 In the face of all this his further account of the Italian Gods as "fetishes" reduces the theory to chaos. We are now asked to combine the three conceptions: (1) that ancestor-worship is late; (2) that the Romans had not even reached polytheism long after they had practised ancestor-worship; (3) that they did not anthropomorphise their "spirits," while they did their ancestors and their "great Gods" (whom, all the while, they had not attained to conceiving as such). And, as if this were not confusion enough, Dr. Jevons pronounces that, at this pre-polytheistic stage, "in Rome, as in China, Assyria, and Babylonia, the cult was nothing but organised magic" 3—that organised magic which elsewhere he puts as a late degeneration, even as he does here by associating it with the stage of full polytheism in Assyria and Babylonia.

And still we have to note the crowning temerity of the assertion that an imported polytheism was "forced by the State on a people not yet prepared for anything higher than animism and ancestor-worship" 4—that very ancestor-worship which in his larger treatise he describes as a late evolution, possible only after Gods have been worshipped. The conception of a State forcing "polytheism" on a people incapable of it—that is, forcing a belief in Gods on a people who had never thought of Gods, and still less of "God"—is really

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fatal to the theorist's differentiation between belief in Gods and belief in spirits. Of this dialectical ruin we can but brush the débris aside.


41:1 Muir, Original Sanskrit Texts, v, 292.

41:2 Id. p. 288.

41:3 Id. p. 301.

41:4 Cp. J. G. Müller, Amerikanische Urreligionen, p. 72; and Leonard, as cited.

41:5 It should be acknowledged that there may be cases of retrogression. Thus the ’Kaang or Cagn of the Bushmen "at first was very good and nice, but got spoilt through fighting so many things" (Stow and Theal, Native Races of South Africa, 1905, p. 134).

42:1 P. 197.

42:2 P. 23.

42:3 See refs. on previous page and cp. Spencer's Sociology, ch. xxv, Il 195-197.

42:4 Cp. Var. Bib. at Ex. xxi, 6; xxii, 8, etc.

43:1 Warneck, Die Religion der Batak, 1909, pp. 4-5.

43:2 Compare this with the development of the Sumatran divine family, in which the earlier "Grandfather" Creator God acquires, under Hindu influence, three divine sons. These, in one myth, are men, made by him. Warneck, p. 28.

43:3 Gill, Myths and Songs of the South Pacific, 1876, p. 16.

43:4 Id. pp. 3, 17. Mr. Gill's account of the Mangaian notions of the "first things" is interesting: "The heathen intellect has no conception of a Supreme Being creating a universe out of nothing......Whenever the gods make anything, the existence of the raw material, at least in part, is presupposed. The primary conception of these islanders as to spiritual existence is a point. Then something pulsating. Next of something greater, everlasting. Now comes the Great Mother and Originator of things......The Great Mother approximates nearest to the dignity of creator; but when she makes a child, it is out of a bit of her own body. She herself is dependent on these prior existences, destitute of human form." Id. p. 21. (In all likelihood Adam in an early form of the Semitic myth made Eve from his own body.)

43:5 Rev. D. Macdonald, Oceania, Linguistic, and Anthropological, 1889, pp. 161, 167.

43:6 Id. pp. 172-173. Mr. Macdonald remarks that though all the deities, including Maui (who dies), are called spirits of the dead, "perhaps originally they were not regarded as the spirits of dead men" (p. 202). But he goes no further. Mr. Macdonald, it should be added, holds the old view that the ancestors of all savages once had the knowledge of a Supreme God ascribed to the first men in the Hebrew Bible.

43:7 Stow and Theal, Native Races of South Africa, 1905, pp. 113, 134.

43:8 J. Mathew, Eaglehawk and Crow, 1899, p. 146.

43:9 Macdonald, Oceania, p. 202.

43:10 Cp. Lafcadio Hearn, Japan, 1904, pp. 34, 37, 131, 134, 141. Dr. Jevons, however, might argue that the orthodox Japanese do not regard themselves as merely human, since their religious teachers claim that in the matter of divine descent they are unique among the nations,

44:1 p. 104.

44:2 The alleged deification of the totem is latterly recognised not to take place while totemism as such subsists. It occurs only when normal totemism is disused. See Frazer, Totemism and Exogamy, 1910, iv, 5. But it is easy to see how such a development could take place. "The aborigines of the northern parts of Victoria believe that the beings who created all things had severally the form of the crow and the eagle The following legend was current on the Murray. Before the earth was inhabited by the existing race of black men, birds had possession of it. These birds had as much intelligence and wisdom as the blacks—nay, some say that they were altogether wiser and more skilful" (Mathew, Eaglehawk and Crow, 1899, p. 15).

44:3 P. 107.

44:4 P. 138.

44:5 P. 194. This seems to be an adoption of the theory of Prof. Max Müller, Introd. to Science of Religion, ed, 1882, p. 143.

45:1 P. 195.

45:2 Introduction to Plutarch's Roman Questions, rep. of Holland's trans. 1892, pp. xviii, xxiii.

45:3 Id. p. lvi. See Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. pp. 82-86 for a criticism of Ihne's views. Cp. A Short History of Freethought, 2nd ed. i, as to Schwegler.

45:4 Christianity and Mythology, as cited, pp. 75, 85.

45:5 Cp. Christianity and Mythology, as cited, pp. 78-80.

46:1 Work cited, pp. xliii-xliv.

46:2 Id. p. xli.

46:3 Id. p. xxviii.

46:4 Id, p. xlvi.

Next: § 12. Historic View of Ancestor Worship