HOWEVER worship be defined, little reflection is needed to discern the basis of its beginnings in what has preceded. Worship implies in the worshiper fear, reverence, gratitude, veneration, homage, love, respect, admiration, or a complex of some or all of these; and in the object worshiped power, worth, or dignity, or a complex of them. As we moderns know it, and as the world has known it as far back as written traditions or remains of various sorts permit investigation, worship involves certain definite modes of action by worshipers, directed to or at the object of worship; and these modes of action tend to become stereotyped, or, to anticipate a little, to crystallize into ritual. And many reasons lead to the belief that this stereotyping began very early.
Man's conception of things being anthropopathic, he would regard them as he did men, and in addition he would treat them, so far as circumstances and the nature of the case permitted, much as he did men. Since he thought of them as having senses to be tickled, appetites to be gratified, mentality to be reckoned with, temper to be made or kept placid and amicable, and power to be turned to good account or at least to be prevented from acting against him, he would deal with them as his experience and observation had taught him his own kind liked to be treated, and thus secure his own well-being. It could not have been long before the social element entered, tradition as to methods of accomplishing ends soon becoming a determining factor. Man had already discovered that the individuals of his own species differed greatly in qualities and power, and that different modes of procedure were either politic or necessary. Those weaker or less cunning than himself he could either disregard or render subservient. Those stronger and more resourceful would evoke fear or win respect, and to them he would concede what he must. The degree of respect or fear, expressed in terms of tribute or homage, would depend upon the conceived or actual disparity between his powers and those of the others. How short a distance separates respect or homage from worship becomes evident when one considers the refinement in theology of the distinction of dulia, hyperdulia, and latria from each other, or when one notes the difficulty of distinguishing the results in the objective actions attending "veneration," "higher veneration," and "worship." This same standard of action would apply to whatever grade or order of beings man actually dealt with or conceived himself as dealing with. As Professor King puts it:
"Granted that the idea of a superior personality once appears in the religious consciousness, it is easy to see that the problem of worship itself, and of different types of worship, is quite a simple one. It seems almost self-evident that the deity will be approached and treated precisely along the lines of intercourse within the group of worshipers. He will be bargained with, or treated with respect, because be is recognized as having the advantage in power. He will be flattered, offered gifts, feasted, and treated precisely as would occur in a human society
[1. Cf. NSH., article "Dulia."]
if any member were felt to surpass the rest in some important type of excellence. In general, the modes of worship will be, first of all, repetitions of the acts called forth by the object or situation which has aroused the interest. In what better way could keepers of flocks conceive of honoring their god and keeping him interested in men than by the ordinary communal feast, of recognized importance in maintaining proper social relations on the human side? The peoples with whom witchcraft is of dominating importance will necessarily treat their deities after the manner of treating the human sorcerer."
The expression of animistic thought in this relation is that what is pleasing to the worshiper will be regarded as pleasing to the object of devotion; what would effect the purpose in mind if applied to the subject is considered effectual applied to the object.
Most likely the impression upon man most nearly (if not quite) universal made by any given object was that of relative power. The question that would then arise would be: Is this being favorable to me or adverse?
[2. King, Development of Religion, p. 257.
3. Cf. Carpenter, Comparative Religion, p. 14.]
Will it use its power to help or hinder or injure? If the conception was that the object was propitious, gratitude, warming in time and with the supposed or real repetition of favors (again real or supposed) into respect, love, and admiration, would evoke homage or worship in its essential even though crude elements. If the object was conceived to be malign in disposition, the endeavor would naturally follow either to overawe or to propitiate. It would not take very long to discern here how magic in some of its aspects could arise. Threat or magic would be employed, in course of time, to overawe; on the other hand, blandishments of various sorts would be used to conciliate; or apotropaic performances might grow up to drive and keep away the power conceived as hostile, to prevent it from accomplishing ends unwelcome to man. Variety in treatment must have arisen from the supposition that there were grades of being and differences of disposition among these beings. just as some men were more powerful in physique or resourceful in wiles, so with these other beings with whom man supposed himself in contact. That different kinds of power were conceived as existing in the many spirits which man thought he perceived in his world is in the very forefront of the phenomena we have passed in review.
In what has preceded there is implicit an assumption that is not difficult to establish. This is that man's relation to beings other than himself was to a large extent, if not entirely, egoistic. He was concerned with what contributed to his own well-being as he understood it. Not overlooked here is the later stage when gens and tribe have entered with their idea of solidarity, in which the individual was to a certain extent submerged and so far extinguished. In this stage, indeed, the actions of the one, under penalty of his clan's displeasure or worse, were made to contribute to the weal of the whole, or, at the very least, to be devoid of harm or danger to it. Prior to this grade of culture--if psychology tell true its tale--the needs of self alone furnished the criterion of action, self including doubtless also family. And when the individual self was merged in the clan self, when the good of one was the good of all, and vice versa, the test of egoism, though now a better and larger quantity, still ruled. Dealings with not-man, as with man, concerned the affairs of everyday life, were a matter of barter and exchange between man and the others. Two passages from the Hebrew scriptures here leap into the mind. Jacob (Gen. 28: 20-22) promises devotion to God on condition of receiving a certain continuing favor. The reverse of this picture appears in Deut. 28, where in return for definite religious performance prosperity is assured the people by their God. Philostratus makes Apollonius of Tyana declare that worship and sacrifice and the like are but a quid pro quo, human in its formulation. Indeed, Apollonius thought that large offerings made before any benefit was received from the god were suspicious, arguing guilt in the sacrificer and an attempt at bribery of the deity. Such a condition as the understanding between mortal and deity, the driving of bargain with the god, can be ascertained as occurring all through history. Only late does altruism appear and thenceforth struggle for expression against odds.
Our chief concern here is to note the fad most pertinent to our line of investigation and implicit in the foregoing--that worship as
[4. Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, i. x.]
registered by history and observation is most easily accounted for on an animistic basis. Worship, if our hypothesis be true, is but the sublimation (at first only slight) of sentiments that are wholly native to man's nature from the start. The difference in degree or intensity corresponds to the conceived difference in certain qualities found in the object. The higher worthfulness or helpfulness or potency found or conceived in an object commanded that initial stage of tribute, higher than was yielded to others, which developed in the course of time--how limited or extended we cannot tell--into what would now be conceded to be essentially worship.
Incidentally in the preceding discussion the fact has come out that man worshiped what we call inanimate objects in nature (stones, mountains, rivers, seas, the luminaries, the sky, the earth, and the like); individuals in the vegetable kingdom (the sacred tree, for example, indigenous in nearly all lands but necessarily varying in species with the latitude and longitude); others from the animal kingdom (snakes and monkeys and what not); imaginary beings good and bad, malign and benign; as well as living men and the souls of the departed. We trace to animism the varied cults that have engaged the soul and spirit of man throughout time and all over the world. Idolatry in all its varieties and in the numerous connotations of the word needs little other explanation of its origin. Worship springs out of man's nature along with his efforts to satisfy his varied appetites of soul and body, and is formulated on the basis of his real or supposed experiences. To use a word that sums up luminously the entire situation, man is incorrigibly theotropic, his thoughts have ever turned Godward. The element that was lacking was judgment of the things he chose as objects of service, perception of what was worthy of adoration, realization of a true standard of values.
It is not our purpose to trace in minutiae the development of cult. We are concerned here solely with the phenomenology and implications of animism, not with the unfolding of all that results. It would indeed be interesting to follow out the complexity of cult, to show how it came to cover so large a portion of life, unfolding into exacting ritual, and embracing alike the insignificant details and the momentous crises of existence. We should find fascinating the testimonies alike to common psychological trends--as in the almost universal cult of the serpent, easily interpreted upon physical grounds--and to racial peculiarities which led to specific contributions which enriched later humanity, such as the Greek devotion to the beautiful and the Roman passion for legal formulation. But this belongs to a different line of discussion.
We must, however, glance at two elements in the case--conservatism and the social factor.
By the first is meant that fear to change methods and formulæ (whether of words or of action) which, however wrongly (because of man's major fallacy, post hoc propter hoc), were supposed to have efficacy. For the existence of this there is abundant testimony. From all quarters to observers of procedure which to them, in their advanced stage of culture, seems inherently irrational, who ask: Why do you do this? or, Why do you do it this way? the almost invariable answer comes, Our fathers taught us to do it. Often there is attached a further reason, clearly mythological or else supported by some supposedly conclusive proof from experience, such as: if we did not, this or that dreadful thing would happen just as it did to so and so who did it another way or did not do it at all. In Nias (Malaysia) in case of epidemic the cause is often found in a desertion of the old ways, and a renewal of vows to return to the earlier order of things is believed to remove the trouble. Among the Pueblos the working of this principle has been observed.
"(Of the two great forces which have lifted humanity to the present plane of civilization--imitation and invention--the latter has been almost wholly suppressed by the Pueblos. The result is exact reproduction in both industry and religion.
And Todd's testimony is given again as follows: "Oral traditions and the 'customs that are written within the book' . . .form the social matrix and make up by far the larger part of that social heredity which is the very stuff of informal education, and the basis of formal pedagogy." From a different branch of the American aborigines evidence of the application
[5. Frazer, Scapegoat, p. 115.
6. Spencer, Education of the Pueblo Child.
7. Todd, The Primitive Family as an Educational Agency, p. 183.
8. Todd, Primitive Family, p. 178.]
of this principle to ritual is given as follows: "Any mistake made in singing these (ritual) songs or in reciting the ritual (of the Omahas) resulted in the early death of the offender."
The continuity of this extreme conservatism can be traced in the area of ritual down to our own times. Indeed it has become an axiom among investigators both of religion and of anthropology and folk-lore that the oldest living remains we have are to be found in ritual, whether of worship, work, or, strange to say, play. The Brahmins have enshrined in their writings the necessity of adhering with the utmost fidelity to the words and ads, and the very sequence of the same, to the end that the sacrifice may be effectual. It is a matter of history that Sumerian rituals which began to be formulated in Babylonia perhaps as early as the sixth or fifth millennium before Christ were employed for a thousand or more years after the Sumerian language had ceased to be spoken, and this in order to gain effectual approach to the gods. Several branches of the Christian Church still employ languages long defunct and unintelligible to the majority
[9. FIetcher and La Flesche, Anthropological Report, etc., p. 575.]
of the worshipers, and this is done for no reason that is intelligible, or at least plausible, to those not of the communions referred to. Only a few years ago intense feeling was caused in Greece over the proposed rendering of the Greek of the New Testament into modern Greek. In various other ways might be demonstrated the tendency to a fixity in ways of thinking about things, in modes of action, and in methods of expression, and all this as a characteristic native to man in all stages of civilization and in all spheres of action.
The second element includes the complex results of many minds working on the same problem. An ever stronger emphasis upon the formative influence of the social factor in the development of mankind is laid by modern investigators in anthropology and religion. One way in which communal life worked was the observation of details, supposed to be of significance, which might or did escape the notice of individuals. A gesture in a dance, a chance occurrence in a ceremony, mere coincidence in some totally unrelated phenomena such as the presence of a variegated leaf or the simultaneous note of a bird or leap of an insect--any of these or a thousand other details marked at the time might come to be considered essential parts or accompaniments of the performance, whatever it was, thereafter to be included or simulated whenever the results were sought again, with the assumption that omission imperilled those results. Here is one partial explanation of the growing complexity of ceremonial up to a certain point. It can be seen at once how conservatism steps in here to preserve the method of procedure thus arrived at.
But this social factor undoubtedly operated also in a different way. The ways of seeing and interpreting things differ among observers. Man is an argumentative animal. Opinions pro and contra passed, and one consequence must have been a series of compromises in which weight of opinion or authority produced finally the formulæ and methods most acceptable to the community. Here is one door by which probably entered what we know as progress. The interest of the community, clan, or tribe, we have seen, operated to restrict and limit individual choice and initiative. Society did at a certain stage, and perhaps much earlier than any period of which we have dire(ft evidence, regard itself as open to reactions from benefit or injury done to non-human beings through the agency of any one of its members. This being so, the individual must a(ft with reference to the welfare of the whole. It is at this point pertinent therefore to point to the entrance of the ethical as distinct from what has so long been regarded as the religious. To examine this, however, would take us away from our theme, as it belongs in an entirely different field from that we now cultivate.