Relgion - The Mysterious Power
( Originally Published 1910 )
THE problem of this chapter can best be suggested by the following statement regarding the Algonkin : They possess "an unsystematic belief in a cosmic, mysterious property, which is believed to exist everywhere in nature." This property seems to be an impersonal one, and whenever it is associated with objects in nature, it becomes obscure and con-fused. 'While manifesting itself in various ways, its emotional effect is always a sort of sense of mystery.' This belief, vague and indefinable as it is in the mind of the man of primitive culture, has consequently been easily misunderstood by those of other cultural levels. This `mystery' of the Indians was at first identified as a deity, or `Great Spirit,' and even yet it is extremely difficult for the anthropologist to determine the precise face-value of the concept as held by some North American tribes. The white man's natural tendency seems to be to conceive it in terms of mind, or personality. Thus Brinton, with his mind undoubtedly saturated with Indian beliefs, offers this generalization regarding the basis of religion: "Behind the sensuous, phenomenal world, distinct from it, giving it form, existence, and activity, lies the ultimate, invisible, immeasurable power of Mind, of conscious Will," with which man is in some sort of communication.'
That there exists a very widespread belief analogous, if not identical, with the `mystery' of the North American Indians, the manitou of the Algonkin, seems increasingly evident, but that it is a concept of a personal force or agency is more and more open to question. Aston, writing from the point of view of primitive Japanese religion, says: "Primitive man did not think of the world as pervaded by spiritual forces. His attitude was a piecemeal conception of the universe as alive, just as his fellow-man was regarded as alive without being analyzed into soul and body." In general, the belief in this potency, for which there is no suitable single word in English, is well described as follows : "The conception of this something wavers between that of a communicable property, that of a mobile, invisible substance and that of a latent transferable energy; . . . this substance, property, or energy is conceived as being widely diffused amongst natural objects and human beings; . . . the presence of it is promptly assigned as the explanation of any unusual power or efficacy which any object or person is found to possess; . . the mind of the savage of these races is intensely interested in this force, or property, and greatly preoccupied with the thought of it." It is "a distinct and rather abstract conception of a diffused, all-pervasive, invisible, manipulable, and transfer-able life-energy, or universal force." "All success, strength, or prosperity is conceived to depend upon the possession of" this force in sufficient quantity.
The science of religion has long been encumbered with such terms as animism, fetichism, totemism, nature, tree, stone, and ancestor worship. They undoubtedly stand for true objective facts, but since they refer only to the object of worship, taking no account of the mental attitude expressed by them, they have never thrown any light upon the inwardness of primitive religion. We believe it can be shown that the `concept' of a Mysterious Potency is the key to the real significance of the forms of worship so described, and that it also throws light upon many obscure and curious savage customs. It is an element in the belief of primitive man that we have not thus far taken into explicit account, a belief which possibly has had important influence upon the origin and development of the religious attitude. It is possible that this belief, pervasive as it seems to be, is really the psychical foundation for the so-called `perception of the infinite,' exploited by some writers, or the `religious instinct' which others attribute so generally to all men. We shall try to show, however, that this `concept' is a quite natural result of primitive man's contact with his physical environment. Our first task is to indicate the wide extent to which such a notion prevails among savage peoples, and thereby to gather something more of its meaning.
As already suggested, it is generally present in the thought of the North American Indians, as the fact that it has, in many tribes, a perfectly specific name seems to bear witness. Reference has just been made to the Algonkin manitou. As the idea has, through the subjectivity of this people, attained what is possibly the most systematic and developed form in which it is anywhere known, a somewhat detailed description of it will be proper. Those Algonkin peoples that have been most carefully studied 1 conceive it in a vague, naÔve manner as a sort of active, cosmic property, or essence, which, although present everywhere, is frequently possessed in preŽminent degree by particular objects or persons. The Indian's conception of its nature is never precisely formulated, but is rather to be inferred from what he, in a child-like way, takes for granted in describing something he does. Thus, according to Dr. Jones, a Fox man comments upon the experience of the sweat lodge as follows : "Often one will cut one's self over the arms and legs, slitting one's self through the skin. It is done to open up many passages for the manitou to pass into the body. The manitou comes from the place of its abode in the stone. It becomes roused by the heat of the fire, and proceeds out of the stone when the water is sprinkled on it. It comes out in the steam, and in the steam it enters the body wherever it finds entrance. It moves up and down and all over inside the body, driving out everything that inflicts pain. Before the manitou returns to the stone, it imparts some of its nature to the body. That is why one feels so well after having been in the sweat lodge." The manitou is, then, a virtue which can be transferred from one physical object to another. It is capable of producing not only physical effects but mental ones as well. If a man is brave, or shows any extraordinary quality, it is because he is the possessor of a large measure of this impersonal essence, the manitou, and if his enemies kill him and eat his heart, it is to reŽnforce their own manitou with the supernatural quality of their foe, believing implicitly that it will react upon them in the way it has upon him. Whenever anything out of the ordinary happens, or whenever a person manifests a remark-able ability, it is regarded as due to an unusual endowment of manitou. It is supposed to show itself in an especial manner through dreams and in the mystic transports which follow long fasts and solitary meditation. It is, therefore, by such means that the youth of these people seek to become endowed with the manitou, or at least to put themselves into rapport with it. It is important to note that the manitou is primarily a mysterious quasi-mechanical essence, the active element in all that is strange, excellent, or powerful. It is equally important to note that this quality comes by insensible steps to be identified in many cases with the object or person of which it is the vehicle, so that in the end it may be said to be in a measure personified.' The belief in this vital quality of things lies at the basis of Algonkin religion and most of its attendant rites and ceremonies. Since all special ability depends upon it, man's most important opportunity is to endeavor to establish and to maintain right relations to it. The emotional effects connected with these ideas and observances are naturally intense and are interpreted by these peoples as evidence that manitou has entered into them.'
The name of this impersonal potency is, among the Siouan peoples, wakonda, or terms closely cognate with it. It is conceived as a power that may reside in the various objects of nature, e.g. in the sun, moon, thunder, lightning, stars, winds, plants, animals, and man. An object or man believed to possess that power is said to be wakonda. "In addition, the term was applied to mythic monsters of the earth, air, and waters," to fetiches and ceremonial objects and to many places of striking character. The Omaha believed in wakonda as a pervasive life in all nature, the animating principle of all phenomena and of human endeavor. There is no evidence that they regarded it as a supreme being; it simply "expressed the Indian's idea of immanent life manifested in all things." It was a subtle bond of life common to man and nature by means of which he could secure from the objects of nature the assistance of their special powers. In other words, wakonda is productive energy, "that which makes or brings to pass." It also meant, in a vague way, power, sacred, ancient, grandeur, animate, immortal. As in the case of the manitou belief, many things are wakonda. Whatever attracts attention in any way, or seems associated with any striking occurrence, is thought to possess in some measure this mechanical, impersonal power. The wild animals, especially those characterized by cunning, fleetness, and great strength, were thought to owe it to some peculiarly intimate contact with this power. All human achievement, beyond the most commonplace, was not thought to be due to any special merit in the individual, but solely to his shrewdness or to his luck in making proper connections with wakonda. There is no reason in the mind of these people for the masterful progress of the white race other than that they have gotten a better hold upon wakonda than has the Indian. Blood, and hence the menstruant woman, is wakonda. She radiates danger and also fecundating energy. Here, as Lovejoy holds, possibly may be found the basis of the puzzling sex taboos and of the `nudity charm. Among the Omaha, the rules of the buffalo hunt, the consecration of hearts and tongues, ceremonies of anointing the sacred pole, planting corn, and many other details of the ceremonial life relate to the securing or making of proper contacts with wakonda.
To the Dakota, the common whirlwind, for instance, is peculiarly endowed with wakonda, and whenever a man or animal makes a motion analogous to the whirlwind, he is believed to possess some of its power, or to be trying to get it.
Thus the moth, because of its fluttering wings, and especially because of the way in which it emerges from its cocoon, is possessed of the power of the whirlwind. The buffalo bull is supposed to be seeking to obtain the whirlwind's power, when, before going into a fight he paws the earth and deftly throws a little dust up into the air, producing the semblance of a whirlwind.' In these imitative acts we have a most valuable suggestion as to the method of the development of magical rites from this general belief in a mysterious power?
The Iroquois had a belief very similar to that of the other Indian stocks referred to above, the term used by them being orenda, or a closely allied word. Howitt, who has discussed it most at length, defines it as "a hypothetical potence or potentiality to do or effect results mystically." An Iroquois shaman was one who had much orenda. A fine hunter likewise had a superior quality of orenda, while an unsuccessful hunter was one whose orenda was not a match for the orenda of the game. If one clan wins out in a contest with another, it is because again of superior contact with orenda?
It is impossible to say from a study of the literature dealing with them that all of the North American Indian stocks possess the idea, since it has so often been misinterpreted by their observers under the category of personal divinities. Among the Iroquois the idea is in no wise a synonym for a psychic element of any sort, for, as Howitt points out, their names for Iife, soul, ghost, mind, and brain, as well as that for muscular strength, are in no way related to the word orenda. In the light of the evidence we possess, it seems altogether likely that the belief in a mysterious power of the sort described above was very widely prevalent among the Indian peoples. The Shoshonean tribes possessed it (Howitt), and it was or is a well-developed notion among the Kwakiutl (Boas). The Pueblo also possibly have it in some form. One writer says that they worship the sun and moon, not as objects in themselves, but as the manifestation of a mysterious power. The following description of the Northern Maidu of California strongly suggests the same belief. They think "that the whole country occupied by them is thronged with mysterious powers, or spirits, known as kukini. These beings are regarded as residing at definite spots, to which in particular the shamans go to gain power." They may be-come the guardian spirits of these functionaries. The likeness of this belief to the Algonkin theory of manitou, which one may obtain for himself as a sort of protective agency, is very significant. In fact, manitou has often been called a guardian spirit, which it certainly is not, if guardian spirit is taken in the ordinary sense; for when the Algonkin youth goes into seclusion to secure the manitou, and dreams of or has a waking hullucination of some animal which he henceforth regards as a protector, his idea is simply that this animal stands ready to assist him with its own manitou when he needs it. If the belief of the Maidu is a genuine spiritistic notion, it is at least valuable in this connection as showing a bond of union between the idea of the mysterious force and that of the animistic view of the world.
There are also remnants of this belief among the Pawnee, although it is very difficult to determine its importance to them. Their fascinating star-cult may be only a variation of the manitou philosophy, notwithstanding those investigators to whom we owe our knowledge of the cult regard it as based upon a well-developed pantheon of genuine deities. If this is the case, it is possible that the Pawnee religion is an illustration of how the impersonal conception may, under appropriate social and economic conditions, develop into the more advanced religious type. It is a significant fact, however, that Mr. James R. Murie, the Pawnee informant of these investigators, assures Mr. William Jones that the fundamental idea of this cult is precisely that of the Algonkin manitou.
The Thompson Indians also have the manitou `concept,' but it is difficult to determine whether the following descriptions by Teit refer to it or not; in any case they strongly suggest it. They believe in the existence of a great many mysterious beings. The `land mysteries' are the spirits of the mountain peaks. In the lakes and at cascades live `water mysteries.' Some of these assume bodily form and appear to men. " A lake in the mountains near the Coast tribes has never been known to freeze over, no matter how cold the weather." This is, of course, interpreted, as in the case with anything strange or unusual, as evidence of the influence of some mystery, which, so far as the accounts go, seems to the present writer quite the same as the mystic potency, wakonda. With their minds full of the idea of a mystic power in everything, it is not strange that they are subject to many confirmatory hallucinations. On the surface of the lake above mentioned, apparitions at certain times appear. "A lake at the head of Salmon River becomes (as they think) very tempestuous as soon as people touch its waters." Their prayers and observances of various kinds "were founded on their belief in mysterious powers pervading all nature. The stars, the dawn, mountains, trees, animals, were all believed to be possessed of mysterious powers." As far as mere words go, this description would apply perfectly to the Iroquois or to the Algonkin. The Thompson Indians in all their old prayers addressed simply `Thou' or `Chief,' referring to a power or essence possibly much more vague than these names in English seem to connote. "Roots, and other vegetables, growing near a haunted or mysterious lake, should not be dug or gathered. Vegetation near such a lake is called its blanket, and the lake, if robbed of its blanket, will take revenge by visiting sickness, bad luck, or death upon the root-gatherer." This, again, would seem to be due to some mystic power present in these places.
A very clear and striking instance of the belief in this impersonal `force' is to be found among the Melanesian Islanders. They believe in a power, or influence, not physical, and in a way supernatural. It shows itself, however, in various physical forces and in any kind of power or excellence which a man may possess. This potency is called by various names in the different groups of islands, but the notion is everywhere fundamentally the same. One of the most convenient of its names is mana, and by this we shall here refer to it. This mana is not fixed in anything, and can be conveyed in almost anything; spirits, also, whether ghosts or supernatural beings, have mana and can impart it to persons or objects. Although personal beings are its source, mana can act through various media, such as water, stones, bones, and the like. "All Melanesian religion consists in getting this mana for one's self, or getting it used for one's benefit, all religion, that is, as far as religious practices go." It is sup-posed to reside in everything out of the ordinary in human life or in nature. It may be attached to persons, ghosts, spirits, or things. " When one has got it, he can use it and direct it, but its force may break forth at some new point," its presence being determined by what are, to the natives, definite objective proofs. Thus, if one of these islanders finds a queer-shaped stone, similar, for instance, to the fruit of some tree, he will put it at the foot of such a tree to see if it will increase its yield, and if he imagines that this has been increased, he is convinced that his stone contains mana. If a friend wishes to secure some of this same advantage for his own trees, he may bring a stone, and on payment of a suitable sum, lay it by the side of the stone which contains the mana, and thus secure some for himself. Ordinarily, however, it seems that mana is secured through the aid of spirits and ghosts. Prayers and sacrifices are addressed to them, but only to induce them to assist the worshipper with some of their mana. These sacrifices are, in many cases, little more than charms for securing the `power.'
In some of the islands the ghosts are the most important avenues of securing mana; in others it is the spirits. Only those ghosts are given this quasi-worship who, when in the body, gave evidence of having unusual control over the power. It is thus somewhat more definitely connected with persons than it is in the belief of the North American Indians, and this connection with persons is a possible ex-planation of how it came to be so closely identified with ghosts and spirits. The following words of Codrington suggest some further details as to the connotation of the concept. It is an "invisible power which is believed by the natives to cause all such effects as transcend their conception of the regular course of nature, and to reside in spiritual beings, whether in the spiritual part of living men or in the ghosts of the dead, being imparted by them to their names and to various things! that belong to them, such as stones, snakes, and indeed objects of all sorts." By means of the power, men may bring about both good and ill, may bless and curse. It is thus evident that it is an entirely impersonal and quasi-mechanical something with which spirits are in peculiar rapport, but which is also in a measure controlled by men who have distinguished themselves by great bravery and by daring feats,' and hence by easy transfer is also possessed by the ghosts of these men as long as their memory is comparatively fresh .
On account of the great economic and social differences of the Algonkin and the Melanesian, it is useless to try to determine which of them have the concept in the most highly developed form. It seems clear that the Melanesian idea belongs to the same genus if not to the same species as does that of the Indian. We shall attempt to show presently that this whole general notion of an impersonal force may very legitimately be regarded as the direct result of man's first and most unreflective reactions to his world. If such was the case, it seems most in accord with what we know of social change to regard the various forms of the concept found among different peoples as divergent growths having no serial relationships, but rather cognates, their divergences being due to the different social and physical contexts in which they have existed. Thus the Indian notion, at least that of the Algonkin stock, is rather highly generalized and is the relatively abstract outcome of a certain amount of naÔve reflection. The Indian does not appear to have had the same interest in spirits and ghosts that the Melanesian has had, and hence his concept has not been associated with spiritual agencies, while, with the Melanesian, the idea has been very definitely associated with ghosts and spirits. The reasons for this difference of interest are probably connected in some subtle way with the social development of each people, and of this we know practically nothing. It would be entirely gratuitous to say that the Melanesian belief is a development from a preŽxisting ghost or spirit worship. There is no evidence that they now worship ghosts. They simply honor them or inveigle them to secure their mana, and ghosts which have never given evidence of possessing any of it are promptly forgotten.
There is somewhat definite evidence that the concept of the mysterious impersonal force is held by many other races. Lovejoy gives a good resume of some of this evidence. He finds an idea of the sort reported as held by various Polynesian and allied races; he refers to the clear testimony of Hetherwick that certain of the Bantu peoples possess it, and to the probability that it is also to be found among the Masai. The Bantu word is mulungu, which is connected with words meaning great or old. "In its native use and form the word does not imply personality, for it does not belong to the personal class of nouns. Its form rather denotes a property inhering in something, as life or health inheres in the body. The untaught Yao refuses to assign to it any idea of being or personality." Another observer reports the Bantu as having a vague notion of a power transcending ordinary spirits. Baring-Gould says of the nomads of north-ern Asia that God is to them awful and undefined. They feel his presence about them and above them, and, with dazzled and bewildered mind, seek to know nothing more. In the light of what we have noted regarding primitive belief elsewhere, it is tempting to think that here also we have the concept of the `wonderful,' the `mysterious,' and that the idea of personality has been read into it by an observer with preconceptions.
In the case of several peoples which have been carefully studied, but not from the point of view of the belief here discussed, there are many suggestions thrown out which seem most intelligible if taken in connection with this belief. There are frequent references in such studies to `magic power' or the like, and from all descriptions it is entirely cognate with mana or wakonda. The term `magic power,' however, is unfortunate because it predisposes one to lump all effects so de-scribed under the heading of magic. Magic, properly speaking, refers to a set of practices of a certain sort, which may or may not be founded upon a belief in some mysterious potency such as we have described above. The reasons for regarding magic as quite distinct from this can be fully given only when we turn to the discussion of magic itself. We simply raise the question here as to whether, when we are told that certain people believe that magic powers reside in particular places, objects, or people, if it is not quite possible that in many cases it is really a force analogous to the Melanesian mana that is meant. It seems that a people might, in the simplest stages of such a belief, be governed simply by the tacit assumption of such an existence and yet have no name for it.
Whether the Australians have such a name or not cannot be definitely determined from reading the accounts of those who have directly studied them. On the basis of such work as that of Spencer and Gillen and of Howitt, Dr. Frazer has attempted to read magic into practically all their belief and practice. It seems to the present writer that a differentiation is here possible which will generally add much to our under-standing of the true inwardness of primitive custom.
The following account from Spencer and Gillen suggests an attitude of mind so similar to that of the Melanesian that it is difficult to regard it as other than fundamentally the same. It certainly could not be classed as magic without changing the connotation of that term very radically. The Central Australians point to a heap of stones which they believe some one once vomited up. These are thought to be full of `evil magic,' and must be kept covered with sticks. If they should ever become exposed, and a person passing by should see them, he would be made sick and be caused to vomit. Hence all who pass are careful to throw a stick upon the heap, and thus help to prevent the `evil magic' from issuing forth.' The `evil magic' here referred to can be nothing other than that impersonal mechanical contagion, or force, which is the subject of this chapter. Another illustration of the same thing is the use made by some of these Central Tribes of the churinga, or emblem, of the rat totem. This emblem is rubbed upon the faces of the young men to increase the growth of their whiskers. There is the fundamental thought here that the rat's long whiskers are due to some especial power residing in the rat, or, to use the Algonkin term, to its manitou, and that this may be transmitted to other beings through any object associated with the rat. In fact, the Australian apparently believes, as do most savages, that every power or quality is an endowment from without, rather than something belonging to the very organism itself, that is, something made possible by the way the animal or person is built up. The savage does not have the concept of the interrelation of structure and function. Each living being first exists, and then whatever it does that attracts attention is supposedly due to some especial power which is more or less extrinsic or detachable.
It seems worth while to illustrate further and in some detail the way in which this idea underlies the general ceremonial life of the Australians. As we have said, they apparently have no specific name for it, and hence probably do not conceive it intellectually. If we have even approximated a correct interpretation of them, the `concept,' as they have it, is one of habit rather than of the intellect; that is to say, various automatic or reflex acts have gradually been elaborated into a somewhat definite biological attitude toward the world, an attitude which they have never had occasion to raise above the biological level, or to abstract from the overt, objective world. Spencer and Gillen quote from Curr's The Australian Race the statement that the power which enforces custom on the tribes is mostly impersonal. These authors believe that the fear of the old men is the most obvious factor, not, however, denying that there is some notion of an impersonal sanction. While the attitude of the younger members of the tribe toward the old men is doubtless most reverential, it is also true that old and young alike believe that great catastrophes would surely befall them on the occasion of any infraction of custom. Some of the tribes have stories of great cosmic cataclysms being precipitated because of a man's indiscretion in revealing the sacred secrets of a ceremony to the women. The old men in all likelihood believe in a mysterious agency by which the infraction of custom is avenged. This agency, if it is thought of at all, is certainly not conceived in terms of any spirit personalities. In any case, it is certainly true that the Australian is hedged about in most complicated ways by powers of some sort, and that these powers, whatever their nature, are not associated with ghosts or spirits in any appreciable degree, nor do they even have, except in certain peculiar connections, any well-developed ideas of spirits at all.
The most interesting phase of Australian ceremonial life (i.e. among the Central Tribes) are the Intichiuma rituals which Dr. Frazer explains under the category of magic We believe they belong to a stage antecedent to both magic and religion, and that they furnish most interesting evidence of an implicit belief in an impersonal potency of some sort. These ceremonies are sacred rites associated with the totems, "the object of which is to secure the increase of the animal or plant which gives its name to the totem." All the Arunta natives believe that the members of each totem have originated from the animal or plant whose name they bear, and this supposed fact is, to them, a satisfactory reason for the totemic name. This theory of their relationship to the totem must not be allowed to divert our attention from the main point. Once granted that an individual or a group of persons becomes by chance associated with some plant, animal, inanimate object, or natural phenomenon, either through contiguity, or fancied resemblance, it requires no stretch of the imagination to see that the primitive man would conceive of them as connected in some hidden or mysterious way, and that this connection should quite naturally come to be thought of in terms of relationship. The theory of descent from the totem is quite possibly, then, merely due to the superficial limitations in the primitive man's mode of thought rather than to any fundamental conception of the nature or meaning of the world. The idea of primary importance here is that there is a power possessed by different groups of people in connection with certain animals or plants, and that through the medium of this common power the people can exercise a control over the natural objects. This seems to the present writer to be a fair statement, on the surface, of the situation among the Central Australian tribes described by Spencer and Gillen. Passing beyond the direct warrant of their narrative, the hypothesis is here offered that the Australian theory of control over the totem plant or animal through Intichiuma ceremonies is but an aspect of a vague, perhaps only half-conscious (because unformulated) theory that a potency of some sort is present in nature analogous to wakonda, manitou, or mana. At any rate each totem group believes itself to be in peculiar rapport with the force present in the totemic ancestor and continuing in its particular class of plant or animal at the present day. Dr. Frazer's original definition of a totem is apparently in entire accord with the view here presented, i.e. "A totem is a class of material objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect, believing that there exists between him and every member of the class an intimate and altogether special relation." 1 This special relation, in the case of the Australian, would seem to be that the individuals and their totems possess in a measure the same potency, that they are together manitou, the Algonkin would probably say. Hence the members of a totem, by an exercise of the potency possessed by them through appropriate ceremonies, can induce a similar activity of the same power residing in the animal or plant. They seem to think of the existence of the plant or animal as due in some way to this agency but not possessing it as a spirit. Hence, if a man has control over the same potency or owns some of it himself, he may very logically assume that he can, through it, produce an increase in the totem object, whose existence he assumes to be already dependent upon the power in question. Such, at any rate, seems to be a possible theory of the Australian ceremonies for increasing the supply of the totem objects if it be granted that the natives have some working concept of an impersonal potency in nature which may be tapped by especially qualified individuals or societies.
This view of the matter helps us to see how the native may properly eat, to a certain extent, of his totem, for this totem is not an animal related to him in the same sense in which certain individuals in the tribe are related to him. He and his totem simply possess or are in rapport with a common power. Hence there could be no fear of eating it, as there might be were it regarded as a deity or even as genuinely akin to himself. In fact, Spencer and Gillen tell us that the relation is not, as some previous observers have assumed, `one of mutual respect and protection.' On the hypothesis here presented, this is precisely what we should expect. The relation of the native to his totem is altogether a practical one. He does not worship
it nor seek to protect it from his fellows. He simply believes he possesses, in common with it, a particular power which he can turn to useful account, that is, that he can so manipulate it as to cause the numbers of the totem to increase.' An examination of the details of the Intichiuma ceremonies still further confirms our theory. Thus the men of the witchetty-grub totem, in the course of their ceremony, visited spots where there were rocks supposed to represent the adult animal and its eggs. These were sung over and struck with twigs, the leader also touching the men with one of the stones. They likewise visited a spot where their ancestor is supposed to have been in the habit of preparing and eating these same grubs. Here, again, they struck the rocks and sang to the animal to lay many eggs. Here also there is supposed to be buried a large stone representing the adult animal. Thus, the natives of this totem go through various movements which they suppose their ancestors made. They visit a number of holes, each of which contains a stone representing the chrysalis stage of the grub. These are sung over, handled, and cleaned.
In the course of these proceedings they make various movements which are doubtless imitative of some stage in life of the grub, accompanying the same with songs to the same effect. All these things, and many others that might equally well have been mentioned, suggest that the natives are trying by suggestive acts and by singing to arouse or exercise the potency in themselves so that it will exert itself in the multiplication of the grubs.
From every point of view we find the Australians possessed of practices and beliefs which seem to presuppose this conception of the world as in some way alive or charged with mysterious force. There is a suggestion of it in the various beliefs connected with the local totem centres. These are places where the careless must beware. Woman especially must be careful, since one of the spirit individuals which swarm in these places may enter her, seeking reincarnation. The churinga, or bull-roarers, associated with the totems and with each individual, are certainly regarded as endowed with some mystic power (magic, Frazer would say). This power is believed to attach also to the holes in which these bull-roarers are kept hidden. The young man must undergo many ceremonials and endure long probation be-fore being allowed to look upon these sacred spots.' These preliminary observances for the novice are suggestive to the reader as expedients to purify or fortify the body of the novice that he may withstand or endure the mysterious influences with which he then for the first time comes in contact. The manner of dealing with these sacred objects, handling them, loaning them to other groups or tribes, all convey the impression that the native believes that they are endowed with a potency of some sort. In borrowing the churinga of a neigh-boring group, the natives think they will be benefited in some way. "A group is anxious to have in its possession for a time a large number (of churinga), with the general idea that it will in some vague and undefined way bring them good fortune." 1 But enough for the Australians. Possibly an undue amount of space has been devoted to them. The unanalyzed term `magical' has, however, been applied so indiscriminately to everything connected with this race, that it has seemed worth while to examine their beliefs and customs from the point of view of this other `concept, so widely current among the natural races.
It is possible that this `concept' of the mystic potency was really one of the dominant elements in the native religion of the Romans. As was stated in the preceding chapter, scholars generally have recognized that their primitive religion was quite lacking in the definite personal coloring which renders the religion of Greece so attractive. It is only, however, when the religious ideas of the Romans are examined in the light of the ethnic religions at present extant that we gain a suggestion of the true significance of this deficiency in personality. To 'be sure, the Roman deities did develop more or less personality, but there is much in the accounts we have of the festivals and ceremonials to suggest that the original attitude toward them was very much like that of some present-day races toward the `mystic potence.' The various objects of attention in primitive Roman life were thought of as being the seat of imperfectly defined powers of some sort. Thus the hearth fire, the doorway, cross-roads, had their numina, in each case a vague, semi-personal ` presence' of some sort. The performance of vocations, such as that of agriculture, was thought to be possible only through the assistance of unseen, mysterious powers, and at different seasons of the year such powers were especially manifest and had to be dealt with through appropriate ceremonials.
Not merely in the case of the Roman but also in that of many other religions of antiquity do we find much that is suggestive of this same `concept.' Thus, sacred objects and sacred places in primitive Semitic religion are not always associated with deities and personal spirits. In fact, the `holy place' may have its sanctity prior to and quite independently of any association of a deity with the place It seems also probable that the elaborate system of Chaldean magic was based upon this same belief in a mechanical potency. In the case of the Greeks, the concept of personality was so strong that we find little if any trace of the `mystic potency' in their historic religion. If, however, we could get back of the Olympian pantheon, we might find a substrate of belief similar in character to that which has here concerned us. Thus Farnell says, "The aboriginal Greek may have regarded the mountain, the sky, or the stone as sentient, possessed with power [italics ours] to help him or hurt him, and may have tried to appease it with certain rites, without believing in a definite and clearly conceived person who lived in the sky or in the mountain." 1
In the preceding pages the attempt has been made to illustrate how widespread among ethnic races is the notion of a `power,' or potency, as the basis of all natural phenomena; that it is so vaguely conceived, in most cases, as to be scarcely describable as a personal agency of any sort; that it is rather thought of as impersonal and even quasi-mechanical. We do not question but that this unformulated hypothesis of the savage lies at the basis of his so-called magical practices. The point is rather that, for a clear understanding of the primitive attitude, which is, in current discussions, classified in part under the category of magic and in part under that of religion, there is need to grasp this idea by itself as the savage's basic point of view. It contributes in a certain way to the development of both religion and magic, but it is not the entire substance of either one of them. Religion is primarily the expression of a valuational consciousness, in the building up of which, as we have said, custom and habit play important parts. In the working out of values and in the adjustments made in recognition of them, ó or for their conservation, as Hoffding might say, ó the notion of a superior potency in nature would be interwoven as part and parcel of the primitive mode of thought. The same valuational consciousness might utilize the idea of this potency either as vaguely impersonal or as the effect of conscious will. The fact that most of the highly developed religions postulate superior personal agencies of some sort does not mean that they have abandoned as inadequate the vaguer impersonal view, but rather that the older view has been modified or has been given different expression by some modification, internal or external, of the social groups concerned. Magic, on the other hand, is not something cruder, more primitive, than religion, involving a different working hypothesis, but is rather a set of practices or expedients ex-pressing a different psychical attitude, a different point of view, in the development of which the same concept of primitive philosophy and the higher theory of personal, spiritual agencies seem to have been equally available and useful. At any rate the theory of an impersonal power is no more exclusively used by magic than is that of personal agencies by religion. In every case it is the subjective point of view thus finding expression that determines the practice as magical or as religious. To be sure, this difference in point of ,view can never be fully determined, and doubtless one is often fused with the other, but this should not lead us to fall back upon objective differentia which make no pretence of taking into account the subjective point of view.
We may now turn our attention to the problem of the conditions which could conceivably have given rise to such `concepts' as those of manitou, orenda, or mana. It seems natural to us, at first thought, that primitive people should have originally viewed the world in terms of personal agency. The other `concept' appears too abstract; it seems to presuppose too much antecedent reflection to admit of its being regarded as a truly primitive mode of thought. We should remember, however, that personal agencies can scarcely have been postulated of nature by people hardly conscious of any definite personality in themselves. The first attitude of the little child toward the strange and startling is a sort of biological `take care,' or ` watch out.' We venture the assertion that if he attributes a personal power to the inanimate object, it is at the more or less unconscious suggestion of the sophisticated adult.
It seems to the present writer that the savage at first would be likewise more apt to assume the `watch-out' attitude toward things about him than to suppose them possessed of spirits. He was surrounded by objects which affected him more or less for good or ill. What they might contain or might be, ultimately, he probably did not stop to say to himself had he been able to do so. They simply demanded of him caution. If he were wise or circumspect, he might use them to advantage ; if not, he might expect to be injured. As far as he could at first generalize, he would simply say, ` there are things, places, animals, that I must watch out for.' As far as his own attitude was concerned, he would scarcely need to state the matter more definitely, but in communicating his attitude to others he might find it easiest to say, `That animal is manitou,' or, `This stone is or has mana;' that is, there is something unusual about them; they have a potency that some other things do not seem to have. The following statement by Major Leonard, allowing something for its rhetorical tone, probably states very fairly the conditions productive of the attitude here described. Writing of the Niger valley native, he says: "To him Nature was the work of something invisible, or something human, yet not human, that he could not see, but that he could feel as he felt the wind soughing through the tangled foliage, an invisible presence, as it were, a breath or a vapor, similar to that which he felt filled him. . . . It is not the beauty, it is not so much the greatness and grandness, and not even the immensity of Nature, that appeals to or impresses the savage. Rather it is her proximity to him, a proximity fraught with evil, danger, and death, that fills him with awe. It is her kinship, her oneness, so to speak, with him that impresses him with reverence. . . . Therefore it was not only on the face of the waters, but on a grass or shrub-covered expanse as well as over the leafy and uneven surface of the forest, that he saw stealing, if not as embodied form, at least in a materialized if shapeless shape, what to him was some vast and mysterious power." Similarly Howitt, writing of the Iroquois, says that, since activity is usually accompanied by sounds of some sort, "it followed naturally that noises or sounds were interpreted to be the certain evidence of the putting forth of such mystic potence to effect some purpose. . . . The speech and utterance of birds and beasts, the soughing of the wind, the voices of the night, the moaning of the tempest, the wild creaking and cracking of wind-rocked and frost-riven trees, lakes, and rivers, and the multiple other sounds and noises in nature were conceived to be chanting the dirges and songs of the various bodies in the use and exercise of their mystic potence." Not merely did the wind and various natural phenomena connected with it impress the natural man with the idea of a pervading power; his attention was also attracted by certain animals, whose strength or fleetness so much surpassed his own, or who were apparently weak and insignificant, and yet by cunning or by their very insignificance escaped their enemies. The Eskimo of Cumberland Sound believe in the extraordinary powers of animals, those of the sea, in particular, being endowed with powers greater than those of ordinary human beings.' The animal beliefs of the North American Indians are numerous and well known, and all of them seem to be spontaneous expressions of the Indian's feeling for the wonderful or mysterious in that department of nature. Thus the bear, the coyote, the raven, the buffalo are more or less widely regarded as possessing superior powers. We have already pointed out how the Plains Indians noticed that the buffalo pawed the ground in a peculiar way before charging an antagonist, thus sending into the air a small whirlwind of dust, and, as they thought, in this manner arousing the wakonda, to which he had access, and which was typified by the whirlwind, that he might have power over his enemies.
The wind in this case seems to be the primary object of wonder to the Indian. The whirlwind suggests to him in some way "the subjective experience of a confused state of mind. When a man loses his presence of mind, he is said to have been overcome by the power of the whirlwind. As this misfortune often befell a man in battle, it became the prayer of the Indian that the minds of his enemies should be confused." Similarly "the Dakota believe that there is a close relation between the whirlwind and the fluttering wings of a moth. The cocoon is regarded as the bundle or mysterious object from which a power similar to that of the whirlwind emanates. I was told that the observed facts as to the emergence of. the moth from this bundle were in themselves evidence of the sacred character of the moth because it could escape from an enclosure. Like the wind, it could not be confined. It represents, from that point of view, the kind of power desired by the Indian; viz. to be intangible, invisible, and destructive like the wind." In explanation, the Indians hold that "there is a deep mystery in the wind, since it is intangible and visible only in its effects. The moth, by its wings, reproduced the phenomenon of the whirlwind, or received from it power to rise in the air. Then all the other mysterious acts of the moth were explained by its rapport with this power." The symbol of the cocoon carved on various implements, or even the cocoon itself carried about, "is regarded as a perpetual prayer to the power of the whirlwind." Many variations and further aspects of this belief might be noted. They help us to see the simple ways in which the Indian's wonderment is excited, and with it the belief in a pervading mysterious power. The attitude toward the moth and the buffalo suggests to what intricate degrees the fundamental belief in an undefined power may develop, and the curious connections that it may acquire.
From observations in quite a different quarter of the world, Leonard illustrates the same primitive awe of animals by the negro's attitude toward the tortoise. It is an animal whose many characteristics appeal to the Niger Tribes. It has few enemies, does not try to get away, merely withdraws into its shell, seems to be able to exist for a long time without food. Add to this immunity its habitual silence, its sedentary habits, the extreme slowness of its movements, its natural instinct to keep out of sight, and we see why the savage regards it as a peculiarly mysterious and therefore intelligent creature, the possessor of spirit-power of some sort.
When the idea of this potency is once acquired from some striking object or situation, it is easy to see that it would gradually assume the function of a general explanatory concept, or rather that the natural man would more and more carry with him into new situations and experiences this habitual frame of mind. Thus, among these same negroes, implements are treated with great care, and as fully entitled to respect, altogether apart from their domestic or outside uses. In this way the farmer has the greatest veneration for his farm implements, as has also the fisherman for his nets, the trader for his measures and goods, and fisherman and trader both for their paddles, and the hunter for his bows, arrows, and guns. Each individual one of them possesses a soul of its own that, in the eyes of the negro, gives it a special and peculiar significance. We venture the suggestion that these so-called spirits of the implements are at least analogous, if not identical, with the `undefined potency' of some other peoples.
These various articles are the means of their owners' livelihood, and hence, to them, must be the vehicles of some more or less hidden powers. It would be easy for a civilized man to imagine that this veneration is for definitely conceived spirits, when it may be merely a variation of the general attitude of wonderment which probably is often entirely unformulated, or, if formulated at all, under the questioning of the white man, tends to be stated in the terms which he, perhaps unintentionally, suggests.
Enough has perhaps been said regarding the primitive character, wide prevalence, and possible origin of the `concept' of a quasi-mechanical, impersonal force in nature. With variations more or less important, it seems to prevail so widely in savage philosophy that some explicit account should be taken of it in all discussions of magic, primitive religion, customs, and morality generally. We do not believe it can be held to be in itself a religious concept. It is rather a point of view or theory of the world which may or may not be used by religion, a `concept' which may play into the hands of magic as well as into those of religion. It is a part of the raw material which, along with much else, may enter into the developed religious consciousness. The part it is possible for it to play may be seen best in certain aspects of the development of the idea of divine personages. A deity, we may remark, is probably not originally an abstract power personified, but rather an actual person who has unusual control over this power. A deity, however, could not spring from this condition alone. There are other important factors to be taken into account. To the discussion of these and related problems we shall turn in the following chapter.
It would be easy, if time permitted, to find many survivals of the primitive point of view in the folk-beliefs and even religion of modern culture races. The belief in luck, so widely prevalent among Teutonic peoples, is possibly akin to it. According to this belief, there is something undeterminable about nature. One may try ever so hard and exercise all the dictates of common sense, and yet things will go against him, while another may not try in the least, and yet he may chance to attain the very best of fortune. The widely prevalent belief in charms and amulets, especially among the more ignorant of modern Catholics, contains essentially the same idea. Likewise the present-day `revivalist' who `agonizes' in prayer for the `power' to come down that he may have much success in `winning souls' makes use of the same primitive philosophy, even though he frequently personifies the potency in terms of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, in spite of. the apparent personification, the mental attitude involved is the same as that of the Indian who seeks rapport with wakonda. A little reflection upon modern life would show that all of us easily drop back into this naive, primitive mode of thought, according to which we are prone to feel that things may come to pass notwithstanding natural law or our own personal capacities.