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abiding object the origin and the source of all things?
This I believe to be the explanation of the undoubted fact that the earliest manifestation of worship is what is called Fetichism—the worship of the lowest things. It is not denied that the primitive man seeks his first object of adoration not in the stars of heaven but in the fragments of wood and stone which he picks up from the earth. But in the view which I here have taken, I have departed essentially from the reason commonly assigned to this phenomenon. It is popularly said that the primitive man reverences the lower in preference to the higher objects because his own nature is as yet too lowly to be aspiring. He is supposed to be seeking things on a level with himself. To my mind, on the other hand, it is exactly the reverse. I believe that the primitive man in preferring the stone to the star is actuated by precisely the opposite desire. Instead of being attracted to the stone by its levelness with his own nature, he is drawn to it by its appearance of superiority to his own nature. He sees in it something which presents the aspect of a being above his own. He finds in his individual life the evidence of fluctuation and change; he finds in this inert piece of matter the evidence of steadfastness and immutability. Its very inertness marks it out to his mind not only from the world within but from the higher portion of the world
without. Accordingly he gives it the pre-eminence. But in giving it the pre-eininence he is manifesting not the absence but the presence of aspiration. He comes to it not because bis level is low, but because he is in search of a standard higher than himself, and one that shall be free from those limitations which he has found in his inmost nature. He has been taught to reverence above all things the attribute of longevity, eternity, everlastingness. He has been taught to reverence that attribute just because he has found it wanting in himself. He believes it to be wanting in himself by reason of the changes and fluctuations in his own thoughts and feelings. This belief is a delusion, but it is none the less present and strong. He flies for refuge to the things which seem free from change and not subject to fluctuation. He finds them not in the highest but in the lowliest forms, and he makes these forms his gods. He is unaware as yet that they owe the aspect of changelessness not to their perfection but to their imperfection, not to the presence of power but to the absence of life. His worship is based upon an erroneous premiss; yet it is the expression of an instinct that is true and real. The man has reached the knowledge of his individual nothingness, and he has made an honest attempt to pay some tribute to the source of his being
I would not have it thought, however, that in
this attitude of the Fetich - worshipper we have reached any real recognition of the nature of religion. We have arrived at the origin of religion, but not at religion itself. Man has come to the knowledge of his own absolute dependence; but religion can only begin where absolute dependence ceases. The sense of individual nothingness has led him to the recognition of an outward cause; but what is to lead him into communion with that cause ? Clearly it must be something above and beyond the feeling of absolute dependence, must in some sense be a counteraction of that feeling. Religion is not merely a getting; in its deepest essence it is a giving. It begins with the sense that it derives everything from another, but it must culminate in the persuasion that it has something to give back. It has its root in the feeling of dependence on the divine; it must reach its flower in the desire to rise to the divine. Before it can reach that flower the thing which has been first sown must die; the sense of absolute dependence must be broken. The primitive man can attain the knowledge of a first cause by the realising of his own nothingness, but he can only commune with that cause by arriving at the sense of liberty. Communion is a giving, and he who gives must feel himself to be free. The stage of passiveness must be superseded before religion can begin.
Now the defect of the Fetich-worshipper is his state of passiveness. His sense of dependence is too absolute; before he can rise it must be broken. I am aware that I am here in direct contradiction to the popular view. The popular view regards the primitive man as having fallen into error by selecting an object of worship from things too far beneath him to be reverenced. Paradoxical as it may seem, I hold the error to lie in the opposite extreme. The object of worship selected by the primitive man is, to my mind, too far above him. The piece of wood or rag or stone to which he bows is a detrimental object of reverence precisely from the fact that it is reverenced by reason of its transcendentalisın. He has chosen it because it is unlike himself, because it is removed from everything which his experience has ever realised. He recognises it as divine because it seems to be free from what he regards as the limits of the human spirit, because it reveals no spontaneity, 10 inward movement, no structural change. His earliest worship is directed to that which is most remote from his own humanity; his reverence for the divine is dictated by his repudiation of the human.
How, then, is this dream to be broken? How is the primitive man to be brought to the recognition of the truly religious life? There are two possible ways in which the delusion might be dispelledeither by the depression of the Fetich, or by the elevation of the spirit. If the Fetich-worshipper were permitted for a sufficiently long time to examine the object of his reverence, he would certainly come to see that it did not possess that attribute of changelessness in which he has clothed it. He would come to see that the pebble on the beach is as certain to be worn away as is the life of the individual soul. But it so happens that the Fetich-worshipper cannot get a sufficiently long time to make any such observation. The pebble on the beach will survive him, and, in spite of its constant diminution, it will during his earthly life never seem to get less. There is no hope, therefore, of breaking the illusion through the depression of the Fetich. But there is another and a higher method. What if, instead of depressing the Fetich, it were possible to raise the spirit? What if the primitive man could be brought to change his first conclusion ? What if he should be led to alter his mind as to his own nothingness? He has filed to the Fetich as a refuge from that fleetingness and short-livedness which he has found within himself. What if he should find that after all he is not fleeting, not short-lived ? He has arrived at his first notion by the discovery that his individual life had a beginning in the past; what if he should come to the discovery that a beginning in the past does not involve an end in the future? Would not the effect of such a revelation be to lift the spirit of the man out of its sense of dependence into a sense