Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, , at sacred-texts.com
The clear solution, as distinguished from the rebuttal, of all such contradictions is to recognise that, however we may grade religious conceptions and systems, they are all parts of one process, even as are political conceptions and systems. To say that magic is hostile to religion is like saying that either republicanism or monarchism is hostile to politics. For primitive man there are no conceptual divisions between religion and science, worship and art; and the distinction between art-magic and sympathetic-magicmade after the express declaration that mere sympathetic magic was "the germ of all magic"is an arbitrary stroke of pro-Christian classification, which, nonetheless, logically defeats its purpose. For the primitive sacramental meal was demonstrably on the plane of sympathetic magic inasmuch as, even when it did not kill the victim in a mimetic fashion, it was a making-friends with the God in the way of human
fraternisation; and it is to this sacrament that Dr. Jevons, for obvious reasons, accords the special religious rank. It is worse than idle to seek to keep it on a plane apart by framing a formula of "direct consciousness" on the part of the worshippers that they were descended from an animal progenitor on the score that they felt filially towards him. The professed magic-monger's consciousness was rather more direct than theirs. But the definitions themselves give up the case. "Applied science" is just "art," and "art-magic" is thus just a form of what Dr. Jevons calls sympathetic-magic. Moreover, the ritual of supplication and gratitude, which he declares to be strictly religious, is visibly framed in the same spirit of expectation of profit as is seen in the magic ritual. A study of the human-sacrifice ritual of the Khonds, cited hereinafter, will make clear both the congruity and the conjunction.
It is certainly true that the one ritual becomes hostile to the other when magic is practised by the sorcerer as an outsider, secretly competing with or undermining the priest. 1 But in that sense any one religious system is hostile to any other in the same field; and in the same sense heresy is hostile to orthodoxy, and dissent to the official cult, without ceasing to be a form of religion. Such a distinction is on all fours with that between "religion" and "superstition," disposed of by Hobbes as a mere marking off of the "allowed" belief from that not allowed." If the alleged "hostility" between religion and magic is reducible to a mere distinction between quasi-communal and individualistic sorcery, the whole dispute passes from the plane of psychological theory to that of simple sociological classification. We pass from a debate over a fallacy to a debate over a mere plea for a particular terminology. 2 But now there arises a fresh fallacy of ethical discrimination. The communal sorcery, called religion, is falsely certificated as moral and humanitarian. It is no more so than the other. In Africa the private or amateur sorcerer (usually a victim of the professional witch-doctor") is regarded as the enemy of mankind; but it is precisely by the public magicianwitch-doctor, rain-doctor, sorcererthat the alleged amateur is nefariously "smelt out" and given up to slaughter. 3 If it be argued that "religious" magic aims at the public good and "mere" magic at private harm, the answer is that the public magician is often notoriously a murdering scoundrel, and the alleged private sorcerer an innocent man done to death.
[paragraph continues] And that is not all. On the separatist theory, the legend of Elijah's calling down fire from heaven makes him an irreligious magician, in that he was not only acting irregularly and unofficially, but going through the procedure of a sorcerer with absolute confidence in his power to control the will of his God. His machinery of supererogatory watering of his sacrificewhich, as regards the coming rain, was sympathetic magicwas "religiously" gratuitous presumption; and he was staking the whole fortunes of his cult on the chance that his prayer would be miraculously answered. He was, in fact, coercing his God by making the God's credit with his people depend upon the God's obedience to his wishes. 1 It will not avail to acquit Elijah on the score of faith when the faith of the magician in his means of controlling the Gods is made precisely his offence. Among native tribes of the Victoria Nyanza region, "the people, in fact, hold that rulers must have power over Nature and her phenomena." 2 Here the "anti-theistic" magic is the main element in the communal religion; and once more the separatist theory breaks down.
That priests in many ages and stages of culture have been hostile to magic is true just in the sense in which it is true thatwith deeper causethey have been hostile to science. In the early and "dark" ages of Christendom the priests of the Christian Church, primed by a magical-medical doctrine of the curing of sickness by the laying on of hands, denounced as atheistic the view of disease passed on by pagan science. 3 Those priests were all the while practisers of exorcisms, 4 and were none the less, for Dr. Jevons, highly religious. In the same way the intensely religious Ainu of Saghalien, who practise magic for the cure of disease and resort to professional wizards for the same purpose, 5 resent as irreligious the attempt to promote the earth's fertility by manure. When Mr. Batchelor, the missionary, proposed to dig and manure his garden, and explained his wish to his Ainu gardener, that religious personage, strong in his inner consciousness, thus rebuked him: "What, will you, a clergyman and preacher of religion, so dishonour and insult the Gods? Will not the Gods give due increase without your attempting to force their hand or endeavouring to drive Nature?" 6
[paragraph continues] Here we have the very doctrine of Dr. Jevons and Dr. Frazer: the manuring missionary was an "arrogant" magician, seeking to control the unseen powers in a way which was not the Ainu way. (That, it appears, was usually expectoration.) "Considerably surprised," says Mr. Batchelor, "I looked at him to see if he were joking. But he was quite serious." Poor Mr. Batchelor was being treated as his cloth had treated the doctors in the days of unflawed faith. Happily the Ainu did not possess an Inquisition.
True it may be, again, that magic is at some points a lowering of the religious sentiment; though much of the quasi-scientific reflection on this head appears to be a mere echo of ecclesiastical declamation. If we were seriously to inquire which has done the more harm in the way of hindering civilisation, strangling science, obscuring the facts of Nature, and prompting human cruelty, it would soon be found that the organised cults which curse the magician have been by far the more pernicious. 1 The barbarisation wrought by the attempts of the courageously "superstitious" few to practise witchcraft is trifling beside that compassed by the no less superstitious many in putting supposed witches to death. This holds good of the general life of Africa through whole millenniums, in which countless millions of human beings have been slain as sorcerers and witches on the accusation of professional witch-doctors; and again of the inferrible life of the Hebrews and the recorded witchcraft-manias of Christendom. And if this side of the problem be waived, the fact remains that the Christian religion, which Dr. Jevons and the rest rank as the highest and purest of religious systems, historically took its rise in the "reversion" from theistic faith to a form of sympathetic magic, the eucharist, and was practically rooted as a State cult throughout Europe by the assumption of magical functions on the part of the priest, not only in the administration of the eucharist itself, but in the claim to exercise "supernatural" powers of exorcism and to wield "supernatural" instruments in the form of holy relics. Such practices certainly represent an intellectual and moral declension from the ethic of all the leading Greek schools and of the nobler rabbins.
In other cases a differentiation between magician and priest may have been in origin economic and political, apart from any ethical motive. Among the Bataks of Sumatra, while ancestors are imaged, and the images, as being made potent by soul-stuff, have
places in the temples where ancestors are worshipped, the higher Gods are without images or temples, and are prayed to only in conjunction with ancestors or spirits; and here it is noted that the magician "has nothing to do with the worship of the Gods, but operates on the relations with spirits and souls," while the priest attends to the matters relating to the higher Gods. 1 The explanation appears to lie in the fact that, as among the Romans, every Batak house-father is priest as regards ancestors, souls, and spirits. The priest-managed cult is either the survival of one imposed on the populace by conquerors and specially provided for (as probably was the case in Rome), or a result of priestly enterprise in imitation of foreign systems. 2 Its ethical content is a matter of other chances.
Granted, yet again, that dissenting magic, whether beneficent or maleficent in intention, is logically inconsistent with the conceptions of deity normally professed by the magic-monger himself, it is here on all fours with the total structure of the official creed, whichsoever it be. The conception of sacrifice in all its forms is morally irreconcilable with the doctrine of divine justice and goodness, and was on that very ground repudiated by the greater Hebrew and pagan moralists; and with the doctrine of salvation by sacrifice falls the doctrine of salvation by faith. Press that one ethical principle, and the whole apparatus of official Christian ethic collapses, even as the apparatus of prayer and providentialism falls by the test of the principles of divine omniscience, beneficence, and foreordination. Dr. Jevonss principle of exclusion, in fact, finally makes tabula rasa of the whole field of religious institutions and religious life, and leaves us recognising only a factor which he has expressly excluded from his definition of the religious consciousnessto wit, philosophy.
Here, again, the theoretic separation is spurious. In terms of many parts of Dr. Jevonss exposition, early religion is just the effort to unify the cosmos through a conception of deity; and early philosophy was nothing else. To stamp as religious only those forms of thought in which the believer has "direct consciousness" of "the divine," excluding every process of meditation and inference as such, is to include in religion the phenomena of hallucination and even of insanity (to say nothing of the liberal expansion of the
formula to include men's belief in their personal descent from an animal), and to bar out as non-religious the theism which stands on the thesis that "this scheme of things cannot be without a mind."
On the other hand, ordinary animism, which Dr. Jevons rules out, is certainly a belief in terms of almost though not quite unreflecting consciousness; and to proceed to disqualify it on the ground that it is a projection of man's personality into Nature is to evoke a fatal challenge; for if this is to be said of animism, it will certainly have to be said much more emphatically of theism. The "impression of the divine personality" of which Dr. Jevons speaks is precisely the projection of the subject's personality into the unknown, and this by Dr. Jevonss own showing. To judge from his later argument, while he at times professes to waive the question of the veracity of the religious consciousness, he is much disposed to let it be its own verification. 1 This, however, he can scarcely venture-on in the case of the primitive man's belief that he descended from a fox, a bear, or a serpent. It is one thing to pronounce such a belief "truly religious," by way of securing in advance the "true" heredity of the Christian eucharist; it is another to put such a "fact of consciousness" beside the Christian consciousness of direct divine intercourse and inner answer to prayer. On the latter step must follow the admission that the so-called religious form of "consciousness" is by far the more self-projecting, the less truly receptive, of the two, save indeed where it is merely the mouthpiece of the other. Otherwise Dr. Jevonss undertaking ends in the edifying decree that the company of the truly religious includes every mahdi, every fakir, every sibyl, every savage seer, every spiritualist, every epileptic Salvationist, every Corybantic worshipper of Cybelê or Kali, and repels not only a Thomas Aquinas, a Pascal, a Hegel, a Spinoza, a Martineau, but every similar thinker who in antiquity prepared the very doctrines which the "feelers" demonstrably took as the theme of their alleged consciousness. 2
It can hardly be that in thus shaping his definition Dr. Jevons aimed at demonstrating subtly the sub-rationality of religion. He has, indeed, by his theorem of "direct consciousness," brought religion to precisely the position he assigned to taboothat of an "irrational" and "arbitrary" association of ideas. He accepted
from Mr. Lang, as we saw, the verdict that taboo is thus irrational because its principle is "that causal connection in thought is equivalent to causative connection in fact." Yet this is exactly the principle which he vindicates on behalf of the religious consciousness. Its notion of causal connection is to be in very truth equivalent to causative connection in fact. It is not to reason; it is not to seek evidence or submit to tests; it is to bring all experience in submission to itself. And it is not only the belief in a Good Male God that is thus assured of its superiority in virtue of its arbitrariness; it is every hallucination of every savage, every vision of the Virgin by a neurasthenic Catholic, every epiphany of Isis or Aphrodite or Cotytto in the pastnay more, every dream of a devil! It seems a sinister service to latter-day religion thus to demonstrate that it is on all fours not with purified philosophy, but with the most unintelligible forms of taboo and the darkest forms of "superstition."
Once more, however, the scientific course consists not in taking advantage of the logical suicide of those who conduct the other, but in setting forth the fundamental analogy of the psychological processes thus arbitrarily differentiated. The "direct consciousness" of the theistsheer hallucination apartis simply a reversion to the earlier man's confidence in his animistic conceptions, doubled with the conscious resistance to sceptical criticism seen in every dream-interpreter and ghost-seer of the country-side. The persistence is simply a matter of temperament and degree of enlightenment: there are men who can transcend this like other testimonies of their direct consciousness, in learning to see it as a kind of hallucination which may be predicted to arise in some cases in regard to any theistic conception which any thinker may contrive to set up. Where there are images of the Virgin, men and women will have visions of the Virgin; where there are images of animal-Gods, there will be visions of animal-Gods.
Between "impressions" and "projections" there is no such psychological gulf as Dr. Jevons assumes. If there were, the political influence on doctrine which he classes as non-religious would still be in terms of his other theorem truly religious, for the act of thinking of rule in heaven in terms of rule on earth is a sufficiently docile surrender to an impression on consciousness, and would be made by multitudes with the possible minimum of reflection. But, in truth, a minimum of reflection there needs must be in every process of belief; and what Dr. Jevons at times describes as pure processes of direct consciousness are demonstrably not so, or are so
only in the sense in which the same thing may be predicated of the thinking of the primitive magician. The man who says he is conscious of an inward answer to prayer is not conscious of it as he is of the sound of a voice; what he experiences is a sense of satisfaction, which (albeit only the result of a release of nervous tension) he infers to come as a direct communication from deity; 1 and such inference is merely a more casual and less meditated process of reasoning than those which Dr. Jevons dismisses as non-religious. It is thus less rational as being less "reasonable"; but it is not "irrational" save in the loose sense of "fallacious." It is more arbitrary, but only in the sense that it is less mindful of reason and more egotistic, more self-willed, than the process which appeals fraternally to other men's judgments. Arbitrary in Dr. Jevonss implied sense of having no basis it cannot be: so to define the term is to reduce it to insignificance. However vicious religious reasoning may be, it remains reasoning.
29:1 Cp. Tiele, Egyptian Religion, pp. 180-2; Budge, Introd. to Book of the Dead, p. cli; W. Ellis, Polynesian Researches, as cited above.
29:2 Cp. Prof. E. Doutté, Magie et religion dans lAfrique du nord, Alger, 1909, pp. 334-5.
29:3 Cp. Decle, Three Years in Savage Africa, 1900, pp. 152-4.
30:1 "To control a deity by means other than prayer and good life is anti-theistic" (Jevons, Introd. to Holland's trans. of Plutarch's Romane Questions, 1892, p. xxix).
30:2 Paul Kollmann, The Victoria Nyanza, 1899, p. 168.
30:3 Cp. A. D. White, Hist. of the Warfare of Science with Theology, 1897, ii, 26-28 and refs. Lea, Hist. of the Inquisition, 1888, iii, 395. 410, and refs.; Arnobius, Adv. Gentes, i, 48 Augustine, De Civ. Dei, xxii, 8; Tract. 7 in Johann., § 12; Clementine Homilies, ii, 12; E. T. Wittington, Medical History, 1894, pp. 121-2.
30:4 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, vi, 43; Clemens Romanus, De Virginitate, Ep. ii, 12 Origen, Against Celsus, vii, 67; Tertullian, Apol., 23, 40. Cp. Lecky, Hist. of Eur. Morals, 6th ed. i, 381.
30:5 Batchelor, The Ainu of Japan, 1892, pp. 196-7.
30:6 Id. p. 256.
31:1 See below, Part iv, § 5, as to the intensification and perpetuation of both ordinary and sacramental cannibalism and human sacrifice by priesthoods in ancient Mexico, Fiji, and New Zealand.
32:1 Warneck, Die Religion der Batak, 1909, pp. 5, 6.
32:2 Warneck notes (p. 4) that the Hindus in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries forced Indian God-forms on the Bataks in place of others of their own, but has no clear theory of the process or the antecedents. He notes again (ib.) that "only gradually were Gods and men differentiated"; but surmises that the habit of speaking reverently of "God" as distinct from the five Over-Gods is a survival of an earlier and purer God-idea" (p. 7). It seems much more likely, in view of his own narrative, to be a derivation from Islam.
33:1 Pp. 389, 393-4, 397, 405.
33:2 For an emphatic contradiction of such a view see Mr. Lester Ward's Outlines of Sociology, 1898, pp. 27-29. I do not find, however, that Mr. Ward's doctrine here is in harmony with that laid down by him in Dynamic Sociology, i, 11. For a mediatory view see the end of this chapter.
35:1 I am not here reasoning à priori, but from a knowledge of concrete cases. It is to be wished that a scientific study should be made of the processes of religious consciousness, familiar and other. But even without that, the crudity of Dr. Jevonss psychological apparatus is sufficiently evident.