Magic And Religion
( Originally Published 1910 )
THE essential nature of the religious attitude will be made clearer by contrasting and relating it to the point of view expressed in magic. We do not believe that magic can, in all cases, be sharply differentiated from religion. The varieties of each are innumerable because the conditions under which they appear vary indefinitely; but if we take extreme cases, there seems to be quite a difference of mental attitude involved in the one and in the other.
In order to get at this difference, we may conveniently start with an examination of Frazer's conception, that magic represents a more primitive method of thought than does religion.' His contention is that magic preceded religion, and was gradually given up in favor of the latter as its value was little by little discredited. Lang expresses rather baldly the theory put forth by Frazer thus: "Have not men attempted to secure weather, and everything else to their desire by magic, before they invented gods and prayed to them for what magic, as they learned by experience, failed to provide?"
If we may be permitted to construct a picture of primitive man on the basis of Frazer's suggestions, we would find something like the following : He must have been a man with developed intellectual interests, in fact, with as good an equipment of intellectual attitudes as are possessed by an Englishman of fair education at the present day, but along with all this a total ignorance of the world in which it was his fate to work out his salvation. His condition was apparently such as would be that of a fairly intelligent man introduced from no-where into our universe, having all our keen intellectual interests and active impulses, but entirely at sea as to where and how to begin to act. Hence he would of necessity make many mistakes and would only gradually learn fruitful methods and come to discard useless ones. As primitive man looked abroad upon the world, he conceived it as composed, for one thing, of various material objects and of a variety of forces and activities. He also peopled his world at a very early period, if not at the very first, with some sort of spiritual beings (apparently not spiritual agencies). From Frazer's discussion, it seems that he regards this hypothesis of spirits as coincident with man's first dealings with his mysterious world. Just why he should then have imagined there were spirits is not clear, for he had no use for them at first. However, as he continued to live in such a world, this hypothetical man soon discovered that it was to his interest to manipulate its objects and forces in various ways. But he did not turn at first to the spirits for assistance. From the earliest times he sought general rules whereby to turn the order of natural phenomena to his advantage. Under the stimulus of this impulse he formulated many rules of procedure, some of which were golden and some of which were dross, that is, some genuine laws were discovered and the beginnings of science were laid.' But man's first mental attitude was one of arrogant self-confidence. He imagined he could do anything he chose with the natural forces which surrounded him. He thought he had discovered the key to nature in the generalizations, `like produces like,' and `that which has been once in contact with another thing continues, after being physically separated from it, to be connected with it in some very real way.' In putting the matter thus, we are certainly not overstepping the thought Frazer seems to be trying to express, for he says that man was on the alert from the first for general rules whereby to turn natural phenomena to his advantage, and that this presupposition of magic must then have been his first formula.
However, Frazer says, primitive man discovered in time that he had been mistaken in his first generalization. "Step by step he must have been driven back from his proud position; foot by foot he must have yielded, with a sigh, the ground which he had once viewed as his own." 1 The recognition of his own helplessness is supposed to have carried with it a corresponding belief in the importance of those supernatural beings with which his imagination peoples the universe. It enhances his conception of their power. He had, apparently long before, thought of the world as inhabited by these superior beings as well as by himself, but they were not important to him as agencies, at least he considered himself their equal. But as his magic fails him, as he finds that he is not the cause of the phenomena of nature, of the storms, of the sunshine, of the fulness of the harvest, he begins to attribute the power, which he once supposed he possessed, to these supernatural beings. His theory of the world is still that it is dominated by conscious agency, although no longer his own. If he is frail, how vast and powerful are the beings who do control the gigantic machinery of nature. "Thus, as his old sense of equality with the gods slowly vanishes, he resigns at the same time the hope of directing the course of nature by his own unaided resources, that is, by magic, and looks more to the gods as the sole repositories of those supernatural powers which he once claimed to share with them. With the advance of knowledge, prayer and sacrifice assume the leading place in religious ritual; and magic, which once ranked with them as a legitimate equal (should we not expect Frazer to have said their superior ?), is gradually relegated to the background, and sinks to the level of a black art (why not entirely given up? we may ask) ; it is regarded as an encroachment, at once vain and impious (why impious?) upon the domain of the gods, and as such encounters the steady opposition of the priests (i.e. the representatives of the more advanced and intelligent conception of how to get along in the world), whose reputation and influence rise or fall with those of their sods." In other words, sacrifice and prayer become the resource of the enlightened portion of the community, while magic is the refuge of the superstitious and ignorant.' "By religion, then," Frazer says, "I understand a propitiation and conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and human life." 2 Religion is essentially an invention coordinate with the gradual growth in man of the conviction that magic was inefficacious. "This old happy confidence in himself and his powers was rudely shaken. He must have been sadly perplexed and agitated till he came to rest, as in a quiet haven after a tempestuous voyage, in a new system of faith and practice. It was they (i.e. the superior spirits), as he now believed, and not he himself, who made the strong wind to blow."
Such is Frazer's theory of the origin of religion out of magic. We have described it in some detail because it serves by contrast to render clearer the view of the matter here presented. His hypothesis is logical and clear when taken as a thing in itself, but when taken in connection with objective conditions it violates, we believe, almost every principle of the psychology of primitive peoples. It bears every evidence of having been worked out a priori, and, when once possessed of it, its inventor has persistently seen every detail of anthropological science which has the slightest connection with religion or magic in its light. The most general criticism to be brought against such a theory is that it is too simple by far to be plausible.
That primitive man imagined he could, through magical technique, control the processes of nature is unquestionable, but that this belief came to him as a sort of intellectual generalization can scarcely be maintained. However little we may know of primitive man, we do know that he could not have had the same developed intellectual attitudes that the modern man possesses.' He was not a man of fully developed mental capacity experimenting cautiously and painfully with a mysterious universe. His first so-called generalization was the direct outcome of the almost physiological processes of habit and of association. Whatever physical object or act chanced to attract attention in any time of emotional stress, or when some other object or act was near the focus of attention, that object would thereafter be thought of in connection with the latter situation. Whenever ideas are thus associated, it is easy to come to the belief that their objective counter-parts are connected. The postulates of magic as well as of religion are in large measure due to the inertia of habit. Man in all ages has been at the mercy of his associations of ideas, and, in fact, has been able to free himself from their domination only through the development of reflection and the critical faculty. Magic and religion are each, according to Frazer, diverse schemes devised by the primitive man for the manipulation of his world to his advantage. We maintain that they were both quite independent of any conscious purpose in their origin, and that, far from one's being succeeded by the other, they are coincident, and develop from different phases or types of man's reactions to his world. The present status of magic and religion among primitive races is a refutation of Frazer. They exist side by side, nor is one in the hands of the ignorant and the other the possession of the more intelligent. Even the consistently religious man among the natural races believes and fears magic, even though he does not practise it. In other words, even though he supplicates the gods, he is firmly convinced that the methods of magic are very real and very efficacious; he has evidently not taken up with the gods because he believes magic is futile, else why should he continue to fear it. The priest, as the representative of the religion of the group, opposes magic, not because it is a manifestation of impious assumption against the `superior spirits,' but because he thoroughly believes in and dreads the power of the magician. A still deeper ground of the universal antipathy between religion and magic will be pointed out in a later section of this chapter.' Further evidence that religion does not necessarily take the place of magic because the latter comes to be discredited is afforded by the fact that many of the natural races, as the Todas, regard races inferior to themselves in culture as especially powerful in magic. If religious practices arose because magic was found to be futile, we should not find among those of primitive culture this practically universal belief in the power of magic, even though it be practised by comparatively few of their number. There is absolutely no evidence that the development of religion is coincident with any decline in man's belief in the reality of magical agencies.
Moreover, the test of consequences could never have been operative in any appreciable degree. Dr. Frazer surely does not think that prayers and sacrifices succeeded in the long run in turning natural phenomena more largely to man's advantage than did magical practices. If primitive man weighed magic and found it wanting in practical consequences, he must inevitably have done the same with religion, and have found it equally powerless to bring results when applied to the course of nature and to human life. Magic and religion are undoubtedly related, but they represent within the social organism contemporaneous growths of a somewhat different sort.
We have pointed out the practical difficulty in Dr. Frazer's theory of the change from magic to religion. We wish now to consider specifically his theory of religion. Religion, according to him, is not different from magic except in its use of more enlightened methods to effect the same sort of ends, magic depending in part upon the theory that like produces like, and that objects once in contact continue to be in contact in some mysterious way, even though separated, and in part upon the belief that it may compel spirits to obey its behests, while religion spends its time in the more enlightened occupation of conciliating superior powers by prayer and sacrifice. We do not believe that an analysis of the concrete data of religion, whether primitive or advanced in form, will support this conception. As we have before suggested, were religion a practical expedient, it would have died out, as magic is doing, with the growing sense of its inutility. But religion does not owe its existence to such motives. It originates, it is true, to a certain extent in the practical life of a people, but only when the stress of the practical is less acutely felt, so that it is possible to survey the whole in an appreciative way. It is true that the feelings of appreciation thus gained may be carried over and used in very pressing and practical situations, but the essential character of the religious attitude is not derived from the immediate situation in which it is used. Prayer and sacrifice, although in a way practical expedients, are also just as truly expressions of an appreciative disposition on the part of the worshipper. The act of worship is never merely a means but is as truly an end, carrying with it its own satisfactions. It is the reaction of the individual or tribe to the most ultimate values which it is capable of conceiving. One mode of reaction will in many cases, to be sure, merge with the other, the practical and the appreciative will be operative side by side, but the attitudes are nevertheless distinct. True, we have attempted to trace the development of the appreciative out of the practical, but even if our theory should seem to be sustained, it would not support Frazer's notion of the relationship of magic to religion. From his point of view that relationship is merely one of priority. From the point of view here presented, they are not two successive expedients. If religion in any sense follows magic, it does so because the latter has mediated the development of a new attitude, of conceptions of worthfulness quite beyond those which belong to itself.
Jevons, in his Introduction to the History of Religion, argues for the originality and independence of religion as far as magic is concerned, and in the same way disregards the genetic aspects of the developments of experience. He starts with practically the same assumption as Frazer, i.e. that religion is based on some sort of an idea of supernatural powers, but attempts to draw from it opposite conclusions. To prove his point he presupposes, in the peoples of primitive times, the differentiated experience of the culture-races. This procedure is, of course, unavoidable if one starts with such a definite concept for one's criterion, for the concept must be given the setting in the type of experience in which alone it is intelligible. Thus, in order to render the idea of the super-natural intelligible, Jevons tells us that for the primitive man the universe was like a vast workshop full of varied and complicated machinery, that his needs were pressing, and he could not take his time to "study the dangerous mechanism long and faithfully before setting his hand to it." Action must be immediate. Again he tells us that for the savage there were `innumerable possible causes' for what he saw about him, and in the midst of which he was turned loose with nothing to guide his choice as to which were the correct ones.' Concern ing all this we should say that it is only from our point of view that this position is `perilous' or the mechanism dangerous.
To the savage the universe does not present itself as a vast workshop of complicated machinery working at full speed. It is no more complicated to him than are the needs of which he is conscious. From the modern man's point of view these are multitudinous enough, but for him they are certainly few and simple. He is conscious of the vast and complicated universe present to our experience, only at the points where certain food and danger stimuli and the like affect him. (Is it different in kind for us?) It is as these necessities are met under varying conditions that other necessities are brought to consciousness. Thus, whatever may be the condition of the modern savage, the truly primitive man was most certainly not, as Jevons suggests, "surrounded by supernatural powers and a prey to supernatural terrors." 1 Neither need we suppose that `he put forth his hand with dread.' The very recognition of such powers, and the corresponding adjustments of experience, are possible only in a stage of culture that has departed far from its primitive simplicity.
Such are the difficulties in Jevons's use of the supernatural. His point, of course, is that, if such an idea is present in the primitive mind, it will lead at once to worship and religion, for no one would be foolish enough to try to manipulate by magi-cal practices that which was already by definition conceived as beyond calculation and control. The force of the argument rests on the supposition that the idea of the supernatural was present in the mind of the primitive man, with all the meaning and connotation that it might have for us.
Here, again, we object to the assumption that truly primitive man was possessed of the highly differentiated concepts of the present culture-races. Many of the natural races of the present show themselves quite deficient in many concepts familiar to the civilized man, and the primitive man could hardly have been better off than the modern savage. No doubt from `the earliest times, however, situations and combinations of circumstances presented themselves which gave rise to attitudes and reactions functionally equivalent to certain attitudes of ourselves, so that, were we to bear in mind the functional equivalents of the primitive and the cultural attitudes, they might be compared and even classed together. But usually when the idea of the supernatural is attributed to primitive man, it is taken as ordinarily understood to-day, loaded with a lot of metaphysics and speculative material which it could scarcely have possessed for primitive intelligence.
The concept of the supernatural, as far as it is more than a mere name, that is, as far as it has a definite place in the movement of experience, is much the same in all stages of culture. It is a concept which tends to appear when some set of conditions interrupts a habitual process of any kind. It is not necessary, however, that there should be any definite formulation of the supernatural in such a time of stress The attention is rather focussed upon the problem of securing a more adequate adjustment of the means, as they are under-stood, to the end which, for the time, withstands ordinary methods of approach. The point of interest is the end which cannot be reached by the usual expedients rather than the expedients themselves, so that it is hardly possible for these to be differentiated very specifically into natural and super-natural. The idea of the supernatural is the extreme development of certain situations of tension, not the immediate result of them. To the savage of today the supernatural seems to be little more than that phase of a situation that must be treated with the greatest care, and it seems very unlikely that Jevons is right in saying that at the very beginning man was conscious of a `mysterious power which was beyond his calculation and control.' Without doubt the idea of such a power did develop in time, that is, the notion of a vague, impersonal force, similar, possibly, to the Algonkin notion of manitou or to the Melanesian concept, mana. It seems possible, also, that this is a more primitive way of conceiving the forces of the natural world than that in terms of spirits. This conception is, however, not that of supernatural powers, but rather that of a certain mysterious element of the undifferentiated environment which must be reckoned with.
The problem, then, which confronts us, is that of determining the circumstances under which those types of action which are distinctively magical and distinctively religious stood out definitely in primitive man's reaction to his world. The supposition is not that man was at one time irreligious, but rather that his experience was too simple to make a religious reaction possible. The same must be said of magic. In and so far as they have elements which are similar functionally, religion and magic originally formed a part of a primitive, undifferentiated attitude, and separated from each other as experience became more complex and the requirements of action more varied. The primitive attitude involved the simplest conscious adjustments of the human species to the most immediate and pressing problems of the life-process. It involved habits and customs with reference to these needs and the beginnings of efforts to mediate ends of which the first crude impulses had fallen short. The accumulation of habits about various centres of spontaneous interest, such as gathering fruits, capturing game, the act of procreation, birth, the coming to maturity, death, and the like, laid a foundation for a more intense valuation of those centres of interest.
Obscure as are the beginnings of culture, it is possible, as has already been suggested, that man's first philosophy, in so far as a purely naïve conception of things can be called a philosophy, was not an animistic one, that is, it was not a conception of the world as pervaded by, or moved by, a greater or less number of conscious spiritual agencies.' It was more probably an attitude related to the widely current savage belief of to-day that there is in nature an impersonal, semi-mechanical force which man can to some extent use to his advantage. Of course this attitude toward the world, wherever it appears, is interwoven with human action and determines it to a certain extent. It does not, however, follow that it has been related in any peculiar way to the development of either religion or magic. Although this may have been a truly primitive way of looking at things, it is not now, and hence probably never was, a critical or reflective theory. The primitive man of to-day has no philosophy regarding this `force.' He experiences the greatest difficulty in telling what he really thinks at all. An attitude toward the world is not of necessity an outcome of reflection. It may be the almost mechanical outcome of one's contact with his immediate environment. Possibly all our attitudes begin in this way, and vary only in the degree in which they become subjects of reflection and of criticism. The savage is thus possessed with what we may call an instinctively formulated environment, to which he reacts as a matter of course, and only with great effort, if at all, can he abstract a particular phase of that environment and think of it by itself. Almost all observers emphasize this inability of the natural races. Methods of action and views of things are almost invariably taken as matters of course. Seldom can they stand off from any phase of their life and survey it critically in view of its avowed function. It seems, therefore, hardly likely that any type of action, such as magic, could have grown up as the definite expression of any isolable feature of their life. The simple, unreflective world-view, together with the half-instinctively recognized necessities of the life-process, result in multitudes of activities which are as undifferentiated as is the type of consciousness expressed in them. Certain of these acts occur in certain types of contexts, and in this way alone become the basis for peculiar types of mental attitudes. In this way they gradually differentiate, and, along with this breaking up into different kinds of acts, there appear different mental attitudes. Thus, we hold that both magical and religious practices are diverse growths, not from any particular theory or hypothesis regarding the world, but rather from the primitive complex of naïve reactions. As man's life increased in complexity, through the necessity of doing more and more things and meeting a greater variety of conditions, diverse mental attitudes would, as a matter of course, evolve, and the acts associated with the evolution of these attitudes would come to be their expression.
An examination of the acts usually classed respectively as magical or religious among the present natural races seems to bear out the above point of view. In innumerable cases they can be shown to be primarily the natural reaction of the psychophysical organism, almost its mechanical reflex, in situations of strain or relaxation, or to such conditions as require practical adjustments of some sort. In other words, they are the natural overflow of the organism toward its naïvely conceived world. Thus, Frazer speaks of the performance of various mimetic ceremonies by the women at home while the men are away on the war-path. In the Hindu Kush, when the men are out raiding the women abandon their work in the fields and assemble in the villages to dance day and night. It is easy to see that the women would naturally be anxious and excited under such circumstances, and their emotional tension would easily find outlet in dancing, together with various acts imitative of things their lords were possibly doing. In fact, the imitative acts, far from being designed to assist the warriors in some magical way, have every suggestion of being ideomotor in origin, that is, not consciously designed to accomplish any end, such as assisting the men, but the spontaneous outflow of action along the line of that which absorbed their attention. Just as when we see a struggle, or even think of one very intently, we often find ourselves making movements as if we were actually in the fray itself, so the women of a tribe, with their minds full of the fighting that might be in progress, would find themselves actually acting it out in a fragmentary way at home, or, if their excitement did not take such a definite form, it is at least easy to see how they might be too wrought up to continue their accustomed work, and how, as they met together, excited activity of some sort, whether mimetic or riot, would inevitably result.
So much for the origin of such acts. It is easy to see how they might later acquire a teleological significance. In the course of time some one might reflect upon them and come to believe that they were essential to the success of the war party. For instance, upon one occasion, the women might not have felt their accustomed anxiety and have continued their ordinary work. If the men came back worsted, they might think of their own conduct and attribute the defeat to it. Or suppose they should sometimes dance, not because of their anxiety, but from force of habit. Possibly it would never occur to them to explain the reason for so doing; but if at a later time they should be asked why, the whole series of acts, the fighting of the men and their own mimes and their dancing, would be so bound together in custom that they could only think of them as connected in a very real way, the performance of one even conditioning the success of the other.
Frazer also mentions the practice of the Carib Indians severely beating two lads at the time their warriors were engaged in battle. Here, again, the cause need be nothing more than mere ideomotor suggestion. The stay-at-homes might conceivably fight with each other from pure excitement, and this somewhat painful exercise would be reduced in time to merely beating lads who could not easily strike back.
In most instances of acts of a magical character, it seems quite possible, then, that they can be most easily explained as having been originally the direct outcome of certain simple psychical conditions. The theory of magic would gradually evolve from these preexisting practices, and, under certain conditions, the religious attitude would also arise from them. They are, in other words, a stratum of unreflective reactions whose origin may be perfectly accounted for in terms of the recognized forms of psychophysical activity, out of which the more specialized reactions of magic and religion may grow. The typical act of sympathetic magic, that in which a man makes an image of his enemy and roasts it or pricks it, that pain or death may come to the enemy, was more than likely in the first instance a spontaneous psychophysical reaction. A man, temporarily or absolutely prevented from attacking an enemy, might find relief from his wrought-up state of mind in an imitative attack upon him, or, in the first instance, with his mind full of the attack, he might have struck or hacked at a stake or tree. Under the same conditions he might even make an image of the enemy. Every detail of the act of sympathetic magic may thus be seen to have been possible prior to any theory of magical influences. The theory itself, as has been pointed out, is not intellectually framed, but is rather merely the vague consciousness of a movement which is determined by association of ideas and has as its sustaining force the inertia of habit.
We hold, therefore, that the mass of customs, of no ostensible religious or magical motive, possessed by all peoples are of peculiar significance because, by revealing so clearly their psychological origin, they furnish an important clew to the fundamental nature of what are now religious acts and magical acts. They are, in fact, the remnants of a great substratum of habit which, largely by accident of circumstance, never became incorporated into the movements of experience which eventually crystallized in magic and religion. They may be regarded indifferently as religion or as magic in the most primitive form of these beliefs. Such a theory regarding these customs does not carry with it the assumption that they are literal remnants of truly primitive life; for of such life we can know nothing. The point is simply that, whatever their history has been, they represent now the simplest results of the reaction of the psychical organism to its environment, results unreconstructed by reflection and ungarnered by religion or magic. We believe that it is possible at any stage of culture for relatively primitive types of action to occur. Granted a psychophysical organism with fairly constant basic needs but without much development of reflection, and in an unmodified natural environment the forms of action which appear will not vary widely in different stages of culture. The more or less automatic results of the psychophysical mechanism should be the starting-points of all attempts to explain human customs, institutions, and beliefs. These results are present and practically constant in all ages and stages of culture.
The following are illustrations of these simple customs which, as we have suggested, are possibly not to be classified as either magical or religious. They may fairly be called magic and religion in their most primitive form. Among the Central Eskimo, "There are numerous regulations governing hunting, determining to whom the game belongs, and the obligations of the successful hunter towards the inhabitants of the village. "
There are very strict rules prohibiting in any way the contact of land and sea game. Thus, deer meat must not be eaten the same day with seal. When skinning deer, the hunter must avoid breaking a single bone. Bits of different parts of the animal must be cut off and buried in the ground or under stones. On the west shore of Hudson Bay, dogs are not allowed to gnaw deer bones during the deer-hunting season, nor seal bones in the season of seals. Potstone must always be bought from the rock where it is obtained. In one section the natives address a large rock and bid it farewell in passing. At a certain dangerous cape they always shake the head and mutter in passing.' (It may well be that all of these customs are involved with the belief in a mysterious mechanical agency analogous to the Siouan wakonda; even so, they would remain legitimate illustrations of the point we here make.)
The following customs apparently belong to the same category as those of the Eskimo mentioned above. In Central Australia, when men start out upon an avenging expedition, each member of the party drinks some blood and also has some spurted over his body that he may be lithe and active.' Among these same tribes, a mother, a few days after child-birth, cuts off the part of the umbilical cord still remaining attached to the child, swathes it in fur strings, makes it into a necklace, and places it about the child's neck. It is supposed to facilitate the growth of the child, to keep it quiet and con-tented, to avert illness generally, and has the faculty of deadening to the child the noise of the barking of the camp dogs.
Among the Thompson Indians of British Columbia, if a person bathes in the river, he must do so below, and not above, fishing platforms, as the salmon are affected a mile or two below the place where a person bathes. Children are forbidden to mention the name of the coyote in winter-time for fear that the animal may turn on his back and immediately bring cold weather by so doing. Again, if a person burns the wood of trees that have been struck by lightning, the weather will immediately turn cold. The death or burial of a person causes an immediate change in the weather. A certain root was chewed and then spit out against the wind to cause a calm. To burn the feathers of the ptarmigan or the hair of the mountain goat will cause sudden cold weather or a snow-storm. A woman should not eat in the morning if going out to dig roots or to rob the nests or the stores of squirrels. If she fails to observe this rule, either she will not find the nests or they will be empty.' In some of the Melanesian Islands it is common for a native who wishes to descend a steep hill or cliff to pile up some sticks at the top to insure a safe descent. There is no thought of a sacrifice in this act, nor does any prayer accompany it. Many volumes of such regulations might be collected from the accounts we possess of the natural races, detached customs which are little more than habits, possibly to a certain extent growing out of the belief in a mysterious potency, but sharing few of the distinguishing characteristics of magic or religion. They belong to what we call the 'do-or-avoid-this-or-that-performance-lest-something-happen' type of action. The practices of magic are more definite. They are explicit attempts to reduce recalcitrant forces to the whim of the practitioner.
Many of those who have written upon the subject of magic lay great stress upon an axiom, supposedly held by primitive man, that `like produces like.' Possibly such a conception of natural causation may, in time, have been constructed, but, if such were the case, we believe that it was the result of magical practices rather than their presupposition. Many of the instances that seem to be based upon a theory of like producing like can be explained as purely spontaneous re-actions, frequently the outcome of situations of emotional tension, or acts which have clung together through the peculiar way in which they were first associated. In most of these cases we believe it is an afterthought that the acts have an efficacy of any sort. As far as primitive man states to him-self the cause of the efficacy of a magical rite, it is largely that such a rite sets free, or renders active not spirits, but that mystic potency with which he believes nature is surcharged' This notion is much simpler than the so-called axiom that `like produces like,' and it has contributed largely to the development of such customs as we have mentioned above. When a man whistles to produce a wind, or eats the flesh of a tiger that he may become bold, he is simply trying to avail himself of some of this pervasive mystic potency. When he whistles, he imagines he is exerting his own potency to accomplish what he thinks the trees do when they whistle and groan and sigh and the wind blows, or what the Sioux thinks he sees the buffalo bull doing, when, before a fight, he paws the dust, thus producing a small whirlwind. The Indian does not believe that confusion will come to the buffalo's foe through any principle of like producing like, but because the buffalo in this way sets free his wakonda, and this causes the confusion. While Jevons, in his Study of Comparative Religion (chapter on " Magic "), assumes that magic is based upon the axiom which we have just criticised, he qualifies his view in an appended note, admitting that it is through the exercise of `power,' especially by a magician, that such effects as that of killing a man by stabbing his effigy are supposed to occur, rather than by the element of likeness between stabbing a real man and doing the same to his effigy.
Superstitious beliefs such as the above are, of course, analogous to the many detached superstitions persisting to-day in the lower strata of civilized society. Many of these, to be sure, may be remnants of genuine magical and religious beliefs, but many others are in all probability vestiges of primitive man's crude associations or of his spontaneous and un-reflective reactions. Much of the material collected by Dr. Frazer from the peasant beliefs and customs of present-day Europe, and which he interprets as magic, belongs, we believe, to this primordial substratum.
We have been advancing the hypothesis that magic and religion are differentiations from a primitive substratum of crude associations and spontaneous reactions. We have given some illustrations which seem to point to the reality of such a substrate. If we turn to practices which are avowedly magical, we find it possible, in a very large number of cases, to show a real kinship between them and this more primitive type. Distinctly magical practices which can thus quite clearly be traced back to spontaneous reactions of the psychophysical organism occur among the Central Australians. It is, of course, impossible to say whether these particular customs have had only such an origin, but it is certainly a safe hypothesis that they have at least developed through the suggestion or the imitation of practices which did so originate. Every native in this portion of Australia believes he can injure another by pointing at him a stick or bone, which has been sung over. This practice is clearly an outgrowth of anticipatory acts or of acts performed because the real onslaught is either impossible or impracticable under the circumstances. In the same way spears may be sung over and are thought to be able to inflict wounds beyond the power of the medicine-man to cure. The hair of a dead man is considered for certain of his tribe to be a very efficient magical instrument. A girdle made of such material is supposed to add to its possessor all the warlike qualities of the person from whom it was made.' The practice here described is quite clearly to be explained on the ground of the law of association. It would be natural for the relatives of a dead man to desire to keep some portion of him which would be relatively permanent, and it would be easy for them to associate with this hair whatever peculiar capacities he was known to possess, until, finally, those capacities would be thought of as inherent in the hair itself and capable of transmission through it. For the same reasons the dead man's fur-string girdle and head-bands are held in high esteem.
The Australian method of procuring wives by magic is a further, and a very clear, evidence of the theory here presented of the development of magical rites. As described by Spencer and Gillen, they seem to be just such acts as a man might tend to perform as his attention was engrossed with the thought of a certain woman and with the desire to obtain her for his wife. Thus, he may wear a charmed head-band before the woman, which is a generally recognized sign of Iove, and of course the woman who discovers it is directed to her would be affected by it in much the same way that a modern white woman might be moved by a verbal proposal. It is simply a conventional and recognized way of indicating one's desires, and the savage who explains everything in terms of mysterious influences can see no other means of interpreting the reactions of the psychophysical organism to the stimuli which affect it. In the same way the flageolet is: the lover's signal among some of the Plains Indians of North America, and here, also, the natural response of the woman was explained through the influence of some magic power. Another perfectly natural, but from the Australian point of view magical, method of securing a wife is to attract her by a much-valued shell ornament, which the suitor wears at a corrobbree, and makes it a point that the desired one sees the symbol of his wish. Many of their other methods fall into the same class as the above. An interesting illustration of a magical act which is the almost mechanical outcome of association is that of these same people who seek to increase the growth of the whiskers in young men through rubbing their chins with the Churinga (the sacred object or emblem) of the rat totem (their rat being distinguished by very long whiskers). Here, as in all cases, the simple native passes spontaneously and unreflectively over from one object to an associated object, and as unreflectively thinks of the second object as possessed of the powers or qualities of the first
A further illustration of the connection of a supposedly magical rite with acts which are the quite spontaneous expression of an intensely emotional state of mind is the following method of punishing a man who has stolen a wife, but who belongs to a group which is either too far away or too powerful to make an open fight desirable or prudent. The husband, with the assistance of another man, prepares a small stone knife-blade of quartzite or flint, which, with various accessories, is sung over and left in the sun in a secluded spot for some days. The men go to it every day and sing over it the request that it kill the man who stole the woman. Finally, it is thrown with great force in the direction of the enemy. The men then wait in silence, crouched in a very uncomfortable position, sometimes for several hours, until they imagine they hear the spirit in the stone, asking from a great distance where the man is. They then return to the camp and listen for a great noise which indicates to them that the sharp stone has found the man and killed him. This procedure is, of course, quite highly developed, but each act might apparently have been originally just such a spontaneous outburst as would be made by a distracted person who could find no direct means of inflicting punishment upon his adversary.
Illustrations of this sort might be multiplied almost indefinitely. Some of them are primarily practical adjustments, but most of them are activities of an accessory character, that is, acts in which emotional tensions have found relief, or excess activities at the time of relief from much emotional tension. The greater number of the customs collected by Frazer in The Golden Bough, as illustrations of the prevalence of magic in primitive culture, fall, as suggested above,' into this class, and are not strictly magical activities at all.
If these practices had chanced to be more closely associated with the evolution of tribal consciousness and tribal interests, they might have furnished the nuclei of rituals and definite religious ideas. If they had been more closely connected with lines of individual interest, so as to have furnished a technique available to the individual for carrying out his personal desires, they would have formed the basis of magic. Thus the custom referred to of piling some sticks at the top of a steep hill to insure a safe descent has the appearance of an embryonic religious sacrifice. But the occasion for it is not insistent enough, nor does it require any concerted attention on the part of a social group, so that religious values can scarcely develop through it. On the other hand, such a custom does not have sufficiently close connection with daily individual interests to make it possible for any general technique for dealing with these interests to develop from it.
Magic has been called primitive man's science because it offers a more or less definite method of manipulating nature for practical purposes. While this is a good working conception, it is worth while to remember that its roots go down into the natural reactions made by the psychophysical organ-ism in certain kinds of situations, rather than to any speculative hypothesis regarding nature. Both magic and religion are based upon processes already going on in the social body, some practical, others accessory, and all more or less non-reflective and spontaneous. Some of these processes, as we have said, are quite definitely related to social ends and aims ; others have less definite connections of this sort, that is, they seldom hold the attention of the group for long periods, nor do they enter, in any marked way, into the activities in which the group engages; possibly they relate to ends or impulses which are distinctly anti-social, such as the injury of a fellow-tribesman because of personal jealousy. In these cases the act either does not interest the group as a whole in such a manner that the latter sees in it the expression of a communal desire, or it arouses its antipathy because of its being secret and hence inimical to the well-being of the community.
As far as the form of the action and its origin are concerned, there is, then, originally, a practical identity between magic and religion. They involve, however, different motives, and therefore develop along different lines. Since each is a development from a common stock of ideas and forms of action, the ultimate diversity illustrates most vividly how difference in motive and social context can modify or even determine an evolutionary series. In the following pages we hope to make clear how the peculiar characteristics of magic may be thus explained.
In the first place, let us note the status of magic in the primitive societies known to us. In practically every direction we find that the sorcerer is one who deals privately with secret powers, or at least with means not generally known to the group, and the object is almost always private gain or personal vengeance. ' The peculiarity of the sorcerer, Lyall says, is that he does everything without help of the gods. It begins "when a savage stumbles on a few natural effects out of the common run of things, which he finds himself able to work by unvarying rule of thumb." This writer further says, in substance, that religion is divided from magic by its characteristics of inspiration, adorations, vows, and oracles, while magic is a system of thaumaturgy by occult, incomprehensible arts.' The priest serves a god, while the sorcerer makes a demon serve him. The contrast here drawn is not comprehensive, nor is it accurate in detail, but it suggests the line of cleavage which we have attempted to make.
The fact that magic is individualistic and more or less private is strikingly illustrated by Rivers' experience in his study of the Todas. He found the greatest difficulty in learning anything definite regarding their magic. Those who knew were evidently afraid to reveal the fact, and many were entirely ignorant of the nature of the sorcerers' machinations, and expressed themselves as very desirous that their secret workings be uncovered. The actual powers reputed to belong to the Toda sorcerer bear out fully the theory of magic here proposed. He is supposed to be able to inflict various injuries upon a man who has in any way offended him. His methods are distinctly private and his end personal. Another striking fact is the differentiation between the priest, or dairyman, and the diviner, medicine-man, and sorcerer. The dairyman is, in a way, the functionary of the social group, while the sorcerer is merely an individual who has in some way acquired special powers which he uses for his own ends. He is believed to be able to cause sickness or death in the family or among the buffaloes; he can cause the buffaloes' milk to fail, or he can make them kick their calves. He may also keep the milk from coagulating, may cause the dairies to burn down, or the bells to be lost, and all to satisfy private grudges.
Among the tribes of the Niger Delta, it is believed that "Any person who owes another a grudge can, and does, inflict "mortal injury on that person," by magical means. These negroes believe that there is a witch society in every community, the doings of which are shrouded in great mystery. There are very likely crafty and scheming persons, who play upon the people to such an extent that they, in their heated imagination, picture them as far more numerous than they really are. Leonard, from an intimate acquaintance with these tribes, says, referring to their belief in magic: "It is possible to recognize at the very outset two landmarks : the first being the entire absence of the ancestral element [which is present more or less in their religion]; and the second, the fact that the powers utilized by the exponents of magic are natural, and of the element of evil, pure and simple," as over against those things which make for social harmony and for social good.
Kidd, in writing of the Kafirs, says that witchcraft is regarded by them as being private, illicit, and anti-social in its use of the forces of nature. They have also a technique of public magic, which is used for the benefit of the whole tribe' When the rites of magic are thus appropriated by the tribe for public use, they are inevitably more or less socialized, and, it is likely, begin to partake of the nature of religion. If ever there is a meeting-place between magic and religion, it must be among those groups which have thus developed a social type of magic from that which must, originally, have been individualistic. The following are a few further illustrations of many that might be given : —
"The Sia have something as appalling to them as the return of the dead, in their belief in witchcraft, those possessing this craft being able to assume the form of dogs and other beasts."
"They create disease by casting into the body snakes, worms, stones, bits of fabric." The theurgists of the secret societies are able, however, to cope with them. So among the Central Eskimo, the angakoq, a conjurer or medicine-man, is really a tribal functionary who has many ceremonies by which to drive off spirits. His principal office is to find the reason for sickness and death or any misfortune visiting the natives. Storms and bad weather are conjured by them by taking a whip of seaweed and waving it on the beach and crying, `It is enough.' We have record also of an apparently magical rite performed by an Eskimo community. A village united to kill an evil spirit that had been causing bad weather.' There are several classes of medicine-men among the Ojibwa, one of which is organized into a secret society, and deals with matters of public concern and is distinctly religious in character, while the others are more or less private in their activities, and are responsible for the type of magic which is so much dreaded by the Indians. Among the tribes of Central Australia "every man may have recourse to what is usually spoken of as sorcery, by means of which he may work harm of some kind to an enemy, and this power is not in any way confined to the medicine-men, though on the other hand they are the only men who can counteract the evil influence of an enemy."
It is an interesting question as to why the treatment of disease among savage peoples has been so fully taken up by magic rather than by religion. The answer seems to be that although sickness and death are matters of interest to the group, they are more or less uncertain as to times and occasions; it is something that must necessarily interest some few more than the whole group. To be sure, after a death, it may become a matter of group concern to guard against the departed spirit, but before death the sick man is a problem requiring the attention and skill of some individual. Or perhaps the treating of sickness by magic originates in the fact that it is supposed to be caused by magic, and hence must be counteracted by a similar force. But as the cause of sickness we can detect the individual character of magic as opposed to religion. The medicine-man who cures, on the other hand, represents the tribe in its desire to keep itself intact against the wiles of malicious individuals.
There is, we believe, no generalization concerning savage practices which may be made with greater assurance than this, that magic is relatively individualistic and secret in its methods and interests, and is thus opposed fundamentally to the methods and interests of religion, which are social and public. This individualistic and secret character of magic makes it easy for it to become the instrument of secret vengeance, as we have seen above. There is no primitive society, as far as our accounts have gone, which does not dread the sorcerer. Everywhere there is a clear-cut distinction between the sorcerer, who deals secretly with unfamiliar agencies, and the priest or medicine-man, who works for the public good. In some cases the latter uses `good magic,' and in some the recognized technique of religion, and it is difficult to separate the one clearly from the other, as far as the attitude of mind involved is concerned. Public magic is to all intents and purposes organic with primitive religion. On the other hand, when religion becomes subservient to anti-social or to merely private ends, it is scarcely to be distinguished from sorcery. Among the Tshi-speaking tribes of West Africa it is possible for an individual to seek out some spirit and ally himself with it, in the same way that a clan or village may seek among the undomesticated spirits for a tutelary deity. Such an individual spirit has one most important function : to work, according to the will of its possessor, evil of all kinds against the latter's enemies. When an individual resorts to such a spirit, the request which he has to prefer is such as he dare not make publicly to the clan god, the guardian of the interests of the community and of tribal morality. Customs such as these are scarcely to be distinguished from magic. They have to do with the occasional interest, the private grudge; there is no abiding consciousness of value built up by means of them, as in the case of religious rites where all join together at stated intervals to celebrate matters of general and abiding interest. This contrast is brought out in the following from Nassau: "In the great emergencies of life, such as plagues, famines, deaths, funerals, and where witch-craft and black art are suspected, the aid or intervention of special fetiches is invoked. But for the needs of life day by day, with its routine of occupations whose outgoings are known and expected, the Bantu fetich worshipper depends upon himself and his regular fetich charms, which indeed were made either at his request by a doctor, or by himself on fetich rule obtained from a doctor. The worshipper keeps these amulets and mixed medicines hanging on the wall of his room or hidden in one of his boxes. But he gives them no regular reverence or worship, no sacrifice or prayer, until such times as their services are needed. These needs come day by day" in "hunting, warring, trading, lovemaking, fishing, planting, or journeying."
The reaction of the group against sorcery, or magic, seems to be primarily the assertion of the consciousness of the group, as expressed or organized in recognized customs, against the individual who departs from known methods of action and seeks to accomplish ends of his own by secret means. It is the reaction of the familiar and public against the unknown and private. In this opposition between magic and religion, we have the beginnings of a conflict which has continued up until our own day, that is, the conflict between science and religion. Since religion is in large measure the appreciation of values, a thing which is rendered possible only through the formation of habits and associations about the end or object valued, it must always possess more or less inertia, more or less of a tendency to resist change or innovation. Hence it instinctively looks with suspicion upon all individual initiative, especially as this finds play in magic, or later in genuine science.
The connection of magic with the mysterious is well illustrated by the tendency of all primitive peoples to attribute magical powers to people with whom they have little inter-course. Thus, the members of the lowest stratum of society in India, i.e. the Dravidians, are regarded as magicians, par excellence, by the higher classes.' The Todas dread the sorcery of the Korumbas, a lower race, far more than that of their own magicians' Among the Central Australians, distant and unfamiliar tribes are supposed to be experts in magic.
In connection with the fact that magic has to do with the private and mysterious as over against the social, it is of some importance to note that the practiser of magic is usually recognized as a peculiarly gifted individual, having through his own effort or initiative these special powers. The making of a medicine-man is, moreover, never a public function. A man acquires such powers only through his own subjective effort, or through the help of another medicine-man. Thus, among the Central Australians the sorcerer may acquire his powers either through the agency of some supposed spirits, or through the help of others of the same craft. In either case the process is a private and individual affair.
When a man feels he is capable of becoming a sorcerer, he ventures away from the camp quite alone, until he comes to the mouth of the cave where the spirits dwell. The series of strange experiences which follow need not be described here. Suffice it to say that they are essentially like those commonly occurring among all savage peoples in similar situations, and that they depend upon the psychic mechanism of self-suggestion.
Among the Niger tribes, the education of the sorcerer is again private and largely a subjective process. The novice gains his power through one who is already possessed of the magic potency. Having been instructed by the sorcerer in the "mysteries of the Great Mother, the master of divination turns him out into the bush all by himself to the contemplation of the mysteries which lie around him," and that he may commune with his other self. The results of this period of seclusion are of the same general nature as in the case of the Australians. In this way the novice imagines he comes into possession of special powers.'
Among the Todas the diviners and sorcerers are people reputed to have unusual powers. In many cases the power of divination is inherited from some near relative, but "any one who showed the evidence of the necessary powers might become a diviner." The Toda sorcerers are said to belong to special families, and each one probably communicates his power to one or more of his sons. Here, then, again, the phenomena of magic are such as pertain to the individual rather than to the influence of the group consciousness. Among the Sakai of the Malay Peninsula, the magician had peculiar power which had been bequeathed to him by his ancestors. Through this power he was supposed to be able to bring health or misfortune and disease upon his fellows.
In all these cases, and they are certainly representative, there is the constant suggestion that the worker in magic deals with some mysterious power, a power which is impersonal, even though it be conferred by spirits. That there is some connection, if not an identity, between this power and that of the `mystic potence' referred to earlier in this chapter, and discussed at length in another chapter, seems highly probable to the present writer. Magic, then, has to do with the private and sometimes nefarious use of this cosmic force. How this sane conception has played a part in the development of religion we shall see in the chapter upon the development of deistic ideas.
We have had repeated occasion to emphasize the importance of the social atmosphere in the development of religious ideas. It will be instructive, in concluding this chapter, to note how it is through the lack of this social factor that magic has developed many of its peculiar characteristics. Certain means suggest themselves as available in a social situation that would not in other situations come to consciousness. This is easily conceivable when we reflect that the means that do come to consciousness are always more or less the result of association by contiguity. With primitive man and with ourselves it is not the inherent connection of things that is taken into account, but simply the elements of a situation that are commonly and prominently before the attention. Hence the particular development of a system of mediation and control will depend largely upon the actual elements in the situation in which it develops. Merely by way of illustration, undoubtedly one of the important elements in any primitive social structure is the system of ideas connected with the ancestors of the group. The very social consciousness tends to retain as a part of itself the members who have passed away as well as the living. We are not, of course, suggesting that religion originates in ancestor-worship, but simply that the idea of ancestors is one of the elements in social consciousness, and a very primitive one, too. No better illustration of this can be found than the myths of the Central Australians concerning the Alcheringa, to which we have already referred. As we have seen, the Alcheringa, without being really worshipped, are bound up with nearly all the ceremonies. We have also seen how many of the ceremonies of the Kwakiutl Indians originate in the adventures of an ancestor, as also the Mountain Chant of 'the Navaho. It is thus by no means theoretical that the customs of a tribe are involved with the idea of their ancestors, whether these latter are worshipped or not. If it came to be believed that they could exert an important rôle in the mediation of tribal needs, the activities associated with them would easily assume the form of worship, or would tend to adapt themselves to the maintaining and keeping vital of the bonds of fellowship between the past and present portions of the group. As is well known, W. Robertson Smith has shown that sacrifice among the Semites was such a practical expedient.' Worship, with them, was a time of joyous communion. The interests of the tribe and the means of securing them would be inseparably connected with the various expressions of the tribal life and consciousness.' This connection of ancestors and spirits with mediating activities is possible only in the case of those activities which have developed within social groups, and the contrast here with magic is significant. For magic there are no ancestors, for there can be no definite consciousness of ancestors out-side of a social group. For magic there would be only spirits, and these could scarcely have the definite and abiding character that is possessed by the spirit beings of religion, since they would lack the sustaining influence of a tribal consciousness. Under these conditions it would be an easy matter for sympathetic magic, as we know it, to develop, that is, a form of magic involving no reference to spirits and depending upon a supposed interrelation of things that are associated by contiguity or similarity.
By general consent, in so far as magic deals with spirits at all, it concerns itself with those which have no relation of good-will to man, no stated relation of any kind, in fact, but are simply wild and capricious. The distinction of gods and wild spirits made in some later stages of culture is further evidence of the connection of religion with the definite organization of a social body and of the more or less individual and non-social character of magic. The same author says also : "A supernatural being as such is not a god; he becomes a god only when he enters into some stated relation with men, or rather with some community of men. In the be-lief of the heathen Arabs, for example, nature is full of living beings of superhuman kind, the jinn, or demons. These jinn are not pure spirits, but corporeal beings, more like beasts than men. . Like wild beasts they have, for the most part, no friendly or stated relations with men, but are outside the pale of man's society, and frequent savage and deserted places far from the wonted tread of men... . The jinn are gods without worshippers, and a god who loses his worshippers goes back to the class from which he came, as a being of vague and indefinite powers who, having no personal relations to men, is on the whole to be regarded as an enemy. . . . In fact, the earth may be said to be parcelled out between demons and wild beasts on the one hand and gods and men on the other. To the former belong the untrodden wilderness with all its unknown perils, the wastes and jungles that lie outside the familiar tracks and pasture-grounds of the tribe, and which only the boldest men venture upon without terror; to the latter belong the regions that man knows and habitually frequents, and within which he has established relations, not only with his human neighbors, but with the supernatural beings that have their haunts side by side with him." 1 We have quoted at length because the point is so clearly expressed that religion is connected with the familiar and the habitual, and this for primitive man is largely synonymous with his social group. Beyond this is the great world of the occasional and hence the mysterious. It would be only the more daring, and hence the few, the individuals, who would have dealings with this outer world. The contrast here drawn by Smith is, of course, based upon the studies made by him in the beliefs and customs of the primitive Semites. In the main we do not believe that the division is as marked as here represented. Whether a people make this definite separation between religion and magic probably depends upon an intricate combination of circumstances. The development of a strong tribal life, or definite tribal feelings such as evidently belonged to the Semites, as seen, for instance, in their sacrifices, which were originally communal festivals, would be an important factor in such a distinction.
The point we have wished to make in this discussion is not that religion is essentially social and magic essentially individual, but that the former develops most readily in the atmosphere of the group, and that the latter is relatively an individualistic affair. Magic is simply primitive man's science, and there is nothing to hinder the tribe from availing it-self of the scientific knowledge in the hands of its members. Many social groups may and have adopted magical practices. Magic furnishes the community with a technique for doing many simple things. It is a postulate available for many emergencies, and it is conceivable that it might stand for an attitude of approach toward many possible difficulties without its practice, in any formulated way, becoming a part of social habit. As a postulate, it would lend itself to each individual in the meeting of his own difficulties. We can see that in multitudes of cases the difficulty would be only occasional, and in many others it would interest only the individual concerned. It is also easy to see that in a difficulty of either of these kinds the initiative of the individual would be largely called into play, if not in devising a new method, at least in adapting the old device to the new situation. Magic would thus be readily associated with the private individual, and in tribes in which the power of custom was strong, this particular aspect of magic, which, as we have reason to believe, is the larger aspect of it, would be outlawed. In communities of the opposite type, that is, those of loose organization, magic might be so thoroughly taken up by the group as to be in-distinguishable from religion. Many of the North American Indian tribes illustrate this aspect of the development of magic. This is particularly true of the Plains Indians. Major Powell says, however, of the Indians in general : " The medicine-man is an important functionary among all the tribes of North America, and medicine practices constitute an important element in the daily life of the Indian tribe. But medicine practices cannot be differentiated from religious rites and observances. The doctor is priest and the priest is doctor, the medicine-man is priest-doctor."