On the hypothesis that his religion helps the savage to live, the question arises whether such help comes mainly by way of thinking, acting, or feeling. Now the thinking is of poor quality, to judge by primitive mythology. The acting, again, is symbolic, its efficacy being held to depend on the intervention of a higher power manifested only for such as are in the right spiritual condition. Thus it is all-important that feeling should provide the necessary assurance of being in touch with this higher power, which, however, is only by gradual experiment revealed as a power making for righteousness.
WERE I by outlook and training a Christian theologian, my first duty would be to discuss the principle on which I proposed for working purposes to distinguish between natural and revealed religion. One who is simply an anthropologist, however, has no need to raise this question of method. For his concern is primarily—if not solely—with the savage; and it will be generally conceded that, in so far as savages have any religion worthy of the name, this must be classed as belonging wholly to the natural kind. Civilized folk are agreed that revelations are not made to the uncivilized man, however much they may be made on his behalf; nor will they admit the authenticity of his claims to inspiration, though put forward by him in all seriousness. In short, as regards the ultimate source of such faith as is in him, the so-called ‘child of nature’ is not allowed by his superiors in education to have had any other teacher than himself. Religiously rated he appears as no better than Terrae filius, a self-made man. Thus the way is clear for a purely scientific treatment of his religion, since there is no alternative in view of current opinion except to consider it as part of his culture—that is to say, of his total scheme of self-cultivation. Here, then, it will be enough to insist on the intellectual, as apart from the moral, interest of trying to bring all the creeds of mankind into relation with each other. Anthropology as a branch of naturalistic, non-normative Science seeks truth of fact as its immediate object, and makes play as if to satisfy a boundless curiosity regardless of other profit. Nevertheless, in its bearing on human life as a whole, no branch of Science, and least of all the Science of Man, can have any real meaning or value save on the fundamental assumption that further understanding must result in a more comprehensive, and likewise deeper, love.
Seeking, then, no wider angle of vision than that which is common to all the biological sciences, let us proceed without further ado to our special task of studying the religious experience of the savage in its emotional aspect. And first, before we examine particular manifestations, it will be necessary to frame some general notion of the relative importance of the emotional element in primitive religion as compared with other factors.
Now we may safely follow the psychologists in regarding life, and hence the religious life in particular, as a triple function made up of feeling, thinking, and acting. In these lectures, then, let attention be directed chiefly to the feeling. If feeling forms, so to speak, the hinder end of the complete mental process, so much the better for the inquiry, seeing that savagery in its turn is at the hinder end of the complete historical and cultural process. Or, again, if we look at mind and culture, not from the standpoint of their becoming, but rather from that of their present being, both alike display a stratigraphy in which feeling supplies the base—a base notoriously more stable than any portion of the superstructure. Now the twofold object of the anthropologist is to get back and to get down. Proceeding, then, either way or both ways together, we reach feeling, or emotion, as the key to the primitive in every sense.
Further, it is necessary to consider whether it is not on the emotional side of primitive religion that its chief, nay, almost its only, value for mankind must be sought. At this point, however, let us go cautiously. I may be told, not without show of reason, that the anthropologist is not entitled to pronounce on questions of value at all—that he must leave such matters to the philosopher. Nevertheless, the biological sciences certainly do make use of the notion of value in a sense of their own, though from a philosophical point of view it is an inferior sense. They attribute survival-value, as they term it, to whatever proves helpful in the struggle for existence, being content to beg the question whether in any and all circumstances it is better to live than to die. Conformably, then, with such an outlook the anthropologist can seek to evaluate primitive religion as a life-preserving activity. By life he means this life. If, for instance, primitive religion led on the whole to martyrdom, he would be forced to rate its biological value low, regardless of compensating possibilities such as might suggest themselves to the philosopher or theologian. Doubtless such a criterion lacks finality, and, if the anthropologist fails to recognize the fact, he must be firmly put into his place. As, however, a certain optimism is native to our breed, most plain men and even, it may be, most philosophers will welcome the proof, if such be forthcoming, that religion and survival are not incompatible, but that on the contrary the one is, even at the stage of savagery, a condition of the other. Thus it is not beyond our competence, while it is of no small interest, to raise the question whether the value, in the sense of the survival-value, of primitive religion consists largely in its emotional quality and yield.
In order to prove that this is so, let us employ a method of residues. In the first place, let it be assumed that primitive man is, somehow and on the whole, the better for his religion in the sense that it is a biological advantage to him. Later on we shall have fuller opportunity to ask how it helps; but for the moment to postulate that it helps will be enough. Meanwhile it is only fair to recognize that something is being taken for granted. True, the universality of human religion is a fact that leaps to the eye. For all that, humanum est errare. There are unhelpful, not to say positively harmful, propensities almost or quite as universal as the religious tendency; and it would be paradoxical to argue that we are any the better for having to stagger along under this pilgrim’s burden, this load of original sin. For example, the love of strong drink is almost as natural to man as are fleas to a monkey. Yet will any one undertake to demonstrate that a taste for intoxication, however mild, is a biological asset? The fact is that, biologically speaking, the dominance of the human species has for a long time back been so well assured that, success in the struggle for existence being relative, we have been in a position to pursue the path of survival somewhat haltingly, and not without taking all sorts of liberties by the way. Indeed, apart from the invisible host of the disease germs, the only serious competitor of man has, at any rate latterly, been man himself—or, perhaps one should say, the other man. In this intra-racial form of the struggle for life the human types that manage to outnumber and outlast the rest do so by shedding various weaknesses to which mankind has hitherto been generally subject; and, in the case already mentioned of strong drink, the example set by a leading nation in banning it is sure to spread if that nation is seen to gain in dominance thereby. But to shed religion has surely never helped a people to prosper. Though half-hearted experiments in that direction have occasionally been made, it is not practical politics according to the verdict of history. Certainly as regards the savage, with whom alone we are now concerned, religion is the central fact of his existence, and apart from it it is impossible to conceive of him as existing at all. There may possibly be a danger, in the civilized society, of religion being, as it were, side-tracked by becoming overspecialized; but, under primitive conditions, the few are not capable of refining it up to the point at which the many lose touch with it. So much, then, for what is offered merely by way of preliminary induction in support of the hypothesis that somehow his religion is vitally good for the savage. If we are to prove the proposition more fully, we must go on to explicate this ‘somehow’. In other words, out of the possible ways in which this vital good might come, we must find the actual way in which it does come.
Now both for simplicity’s sake and because there is good psychological justification for it we can treat these possible ways as three. The good that the savage gets from his religion must come chiefly through feeling or through thinking or through acting; unless indeed there is an exact equivalence between these factors, which is not very likely. Which of the three, then, has on the face of it the weakest claim to be accounted a source of value? Clearly, the thinking, if savagery alone be taken into account. Considered in itself, namely, as a body of ideas more or less reducible to words, savage thought upon matters of religion is for the most part sorry stuff. A civilized mind can get very little meaning out of it. Nor is there reason to suppose that a savage mind gets much more out of it that amounts to meaning in the strict sense; though, of course, the thinking may contribute a little towards a total satisfaction which is very great indeed. The fact is that primitive religion is too spontaneous to stand in need of self-justification by way of thought, or, as it is nowadays the fashion to term it, ‘rationalization’. Apologetics are symptomatic of a self-conscious age. Thus on the purely logical side so little is attempted or achieved that Mr. Lévy-Bruhl has some excuse for using the term ‘prelogical’ to cover all the intellectual processes of uncivilized folk. It is true that he allows us, if we like, to substitute the word ‘mystic’. I should myself prefer to do so, and all the more readily because it will serve to bring out my point that the emotional quality of primitive religion is all-in-all. In any kind of mysticism, I take it, feeling prevails over understanding, the barest hint of significance often sufficing so long as the attention is preoccupied with the richness or sheer strength of the affective tone. Now I doubt if religion can ever dispense with mysticism altogether. ‘No mysticism no religion’, I would venture to state roundly. Even the driest system of so-called rational theology devised by civilized man has mysticism in it or behind it. Seeking as it does to express the divine nature by means of conceptions that are confessedly inadequate, it is bound sooner or later, in Sir Thomas Browne’s phrase, to ‘lose itself in an O Altitudo!’ One can put the same thing in another way by saying that the language of religion is akin rather to poetry than to prose. This description would indeed apply to advanced religion even as we meet it in its matutinal splendour in the literatures of Israel, India, or Greece. But how many grains of poetic gold have all the prospectors brought back from the wilderness of savage mythology? A few, perhaps, but only a few. The raw material may be there for a thought-symbolism capable of exciting and sustaining high emotion; but, so far, it has not been worked up into form.
The savage, indeed, has little sense of his deficiency in this respect, having another means of self-expression that summons his tireless body to the aid of an inert mind. Religion pipes to him and he dances. His is not the tragedy of the minor poet whose inarticulateness dams up the passion of his soul. The primitive man is articulate after his own fashion. So far, however, as he achieves form in giving vent to his feelings, thereby acquiring in like degree self-mastery and self-direction, he does it in obedience to an order, not of thoughts and words, but of sounds and gestures. Rhythm serves him in lieu of reasoning. His moods respond to cadences rather than to judgements. To put it broadly and somewhat figuratively, in primitive ritual the tune counts for a great deal more than the words. It follows that, apart from their musical context, the words in themselves can mean very little. At most they supply a sort of memoria technica to the ceremonial movement in which they inhere. Thus they are almost bare of other meaning than their reference to their wordless accompaniment. Nomina numina. Their sense consists not in what they say but in what they help to do. Hence all the life is gone out of them the moment that they are divorced from their ritual setting. The verbal formula is not self-contained enough to acquire any richness of ideal content; and thus the creative imagination must fall back on pantomime, intrinsically inferior though it be as a medium of symbolistic expression. One might as well try to extract literature from a glossary as to read a religious significance into the interminable catalogue of savage gods and godlings which the less enlightened of our field-workers so laboriously compile. These have for the most part little more than what might be called incantation-value. They are like the nonsense words of a sailor’s chanty, which have no meaning over and above the moving quality imparted by the measure.
It may be objected, however, that this wholesale denial of substantial attributes to the primitive pantheon is too sweeping, since divine personages of various grades, ranging from nature-powers and culture-heroes to fairies and hobgoblins, figure so prominently in myth and story. I may be wrong, but am inclined to lay it down that genuine myth does little to invest these beings with personality; while, though story does far more in this way, it is with negligible effect on religion. Myth, as I would understand the term, always belongs to the esoteric tradition, embodying the whole oral part of the rites that the community deems to be of vital import. But this oral part is so subordinate to the gesticulatory or, as the French anthropologists are fond of calling it, the manual part, that any elaboration which takes place in the form of worship is likely to be in the latter direction. This certainly holds good at the lowest level of cult, as for example in Australia, where, though names of power are in use, prayer is virtually unknown. On the other hand, there invariably coexists with the lore that enters into the real mysteries an exoteric tradition, which indeed is to some extent designedly propagated in order to screen them from the uninitiated, and for the rest gives but a secular version of sacred things so far as it touches on them at all. If we term this ‘story’ as contrasted with myth, we can easily see that story, being altogether less serious in purpose than myth, gives greater scope to irresponsible play of fancy. Moreover, the human intelligence is made in compartments so logic-tight and idea-proof that what in myth would be out of place, or even shocking, is tolerable in story, and may even lend it its zest—as if the repressions entailed in the stern business of religion were apt to revenge themselves in outbursts of mild blasphemy during moments of relaxation. Indirectly no doubt, and in the very long run, story reacts on myth and, acting as a catalytic, enables religion to assimilate some of the variety and colour that are proper to romance. Primitive religion, however, on the whole is rigoristic. There must be no trifling with the set forms of a ritual process which does not need to be made intelligible so long as it is duly enacted. But perhaps enough has been said to make it plain that the element of outstanding value in the religious experience of the savage is not the thinking.
We come next to acting. Now acting, we have just had reason to note, predominates over thinking in primitive ritual. Religion according to the savage is essentially something that you do. Granting all this, however, one cannot fail to observe that the thing done—the drômenon, as the Greeks said—is not the thing that the worshipper really wants to do, but merely a prefiguration or pretence of it. Considered therefore in itself, it is a nugatory kind of acting, a beating of the air. It makes it no better, but rather worse, if the savage at the moment of action is so immersed in his drama that he confounds appearance with reality, and beats the air with a blow that seems to him to go right home. Sooner or later he is bound to discover that pretending to do something is not in effect the same as doing it, however much it may feel like it at the time. Thereupon, representation and realization having been contradistinguished to the prejudice of the former, rehabilitation becomes possible only in one of two ways. Either a purely subjective value will have to be attributed to the mimic act as a method of relieving the feelings, of predisposing the will to achieve, and so on; or, if an objective value is assigned to it, then it might be held to be the occult cause of an event which on the bare face of it is caused independently. Needless to say, the savage is no philosopher to balance such considerations against each other with the aid of an imposing terminology. It is almost subconsciously, that is to say, blindly, that he reaches a working solution of the puzzle. As far as one can make out, his faith is usually robust enough to lead him to assign what we should call an objective value to his rites. There is little sign that he expects spiritual rather than physical benefits to result from them. The whole material world is deemed to be within reach of his imitative blandishments. If he makes mock rain, he hopes thereby to bring down real rain from the sky. Nevertheless, we must credit him with the perception, however vague, that a mechanical effect is being produced in a non-mechanical way. It is a miracle, and a miraculous power must be there to account for it. Sooner or later this wonder-working condition is generalized as mana, or by means of some kindred notion. Whence, then, comes this mana; or, in other words, how is it to be imparted so that every wish of the heart may be translated into hard fact by ritual action? Primitive theology with its pragmatic outlook finds no problem more pressing or more difficult to solve.
Now of possible solutions the simplest would be to suppose that the mana originates and inheres in the rite itself. There is evidence to show that the savage comes very near to this view at times, but I doubt if he ever finds it altogether satisfying. On such a theory the rite would be like one of those objects of the environment which impose themselves on the imagination as being extraordinarily useful, or dangerous, or merely odd. The benignant cow, the majestic lion, the uncanny owl afford examples from among the animals; the plants have their balms, their poisons, their fantastic forms; and so, too, the inorganic world teems with its natural wonders, good, bad, and indifferent. No doubt the savage finally brings all such marvels and portents within the range of his formula and credits them with mana; but this simply means, I think, that he comes to class them, with himself, as spell-binders. In his view they are neither more nor less than so many medicine-men, his colleagues or his rivals as the case may be. Thus their analogy does not explain the efficacy of ritual action; on the contrary, the analogy of the rite explains them. For a rite is no natural object, but an artefact. It is an instrument which man has devised for his use, even if it sometimes develops such intrinsic power at his instigation that the user is in danger of becoming a slave to his own machine. The rite, then, being essentially a mechanism, its mana is not the secret of how it works, but—what is by no means the same thing—the secret of how to work it. Something of himself is put by man into ritual action before it can accomplish its prodigious effects. Mana, in short, is in one aspect the mind that the religious man puts into his work. It is a well-recognized fact among savages that my rite is of no use to my neighbour unless, so to speak, I hand him over the goodwill—a thing which, in Melanesia, for instance, can be done at a price. It is not enough to hand over the tools, one must communicate the touch. The virtue, then, is not in the apparatus, but in the directive energy that operates through it.
There is, however, another aspect in which the spiritual element underlying and conditioning ritual action may be envisaged. Granted that rites will not work apart from a certain grace or goodwill, is man the one and only source and author of this blessing? Is ‘My will be done’ the soul of the affair? Now as soon as the savage has a clear conception of gods, he undoubtedly prefers to say that the successful issue of his acts of worship is due to their favour. In large measure, however, his conception of such gods or other beneficent powers is derived directly from the rites themselves. Gods start, in fact, as no more than portions of the ritual apparatus, and for a long time remain somewhat passive agents of the will of the human operator, who to the end must call if they are to answer. On the other hand, these divine beings, who increase steadily in personality, and in a corresponding will to have their own way, symbolize in concrete shape that conditionality which the religious man comes more and more to feel in his efforts to adjust himself to his universe by means of rites. He has been learning all the while by sad experience that he can put himself right with his world in a material way if and only if he first puts himself right with it in a spiritual way. He projects as it were into his own chosen instrument, the religious rite, a refusal to work for the wrong sort of man. Out of his very ritualism—his tendency to impute an independent value to the rite as such—there comes back to him a demand, as from an independent authority, to seek for mana within. From spirit to spirit there comes, or seems to come, the message that ritual action avails nothing except for the valiant and pure heart. Thus, just as thinking was found to be relatively unprolific as a source of value in primitive religion, so acting when considered in itself is seen in its turn to be of not much greater importance.
It remains, then, to assign its due to feeling as by far the most fruitful element in the religious experience of the savage. After all, to feel like winning in the battle of life is always more than half-way to a victory which, in the biological sense, can never be complete. Nay, by the aid of such a feeling man looks clean past survival, which is at best a matter of racial interest, and contemplates a life everlasting as the reward of his individual striving. This dynamical mood is the crown of religious endeavour at the primitive level. Neither to know, nor to do, but to feel that he can do is the deepest aspiration of the savage. He seeks from cult neither truth nor works so much as a sense of power. Such at any rate is my reading of the evidence, though others may interpret it differently. No one indeed is likely to lay much stress on the satisfaction derived from religion by the thinking part of the mind at this stage of its development. Amor intellectualis Dei hardly comes within the range of the uncivilized man. There exists, however, a widespread, if likewise a superficial, opinion to the effect that the savage is a gross person who requires from his religion material benefits and little or nothing more. Will the experts who know the facts agree that the savage is a materialist after the hard-headed fashion of modern commercialism? Surely they would call him anything but that—a spiritualist, a mystic, a man who puts sentiment before business. Some of his ceremonies may be occasional, when there is definite crisis to be met, and the precise nature of the help needed is plain to all concerned. For the most part, however, they are periodic, corresponding no doubt in a general way with the seasonal life of the community, but usually occupying the intervals between the activities devoted to material ends instead of accompanying them during their progress. Thus, however much they may have it as their ultimate purpose to further practical ends, they stand proximately for a release from secular cares, a retreat from the world and its worries. Indeed, since holiday and working day are set apart in the calendar of social events, their underlying motives are bound to be similarly contrasted. The utilitarian function of the working day being plain to all, another function must be found for the holiday and one that spurns mere utility. If the former is good for what it brings, then the latter must be good for what it is. It may be that in the economy of life play is but a preparation for work; but that is not how it feels to the child who rejoices in play for its own sake. So, too, that child of nature, the savage, enjoys his moments of spiritual leisure for their own sake. If they help him to live at other times, it is because they enable him for the time being to feel that he is living well.
Yet this analogy with play must not be pressed—not even if with the psychologists we are inclined to treat it not as mere analogy but rather as a homology. Play, fine art, and religion may for psychological purposes be said to belong to the same family, inasmuch as all are alike recreative forces whereby the soul is enabled as it were to draw the breath needed for the rough and tumble of the vital struggle. But religion is sharply distinguished from play by its high seriousness. This differentia does not perhaps serve so well to mark it off from fine art, which, though in common with play it is primarily a kind of pleasure-seeking, reveals in its more refined forms a sincerity of purpose, a depth of inner meaning, a devotion to its own immanent ideal, which bring it near to the spirit of religion; so that it is not without good reason that we speak, metaphorically, of the ‘cult’ of beauty. Religion, however, is divided from fine art in its turn by being alone pervaded by what has already been described as the dynamical mood. Though a withdrawal from real life in esse, religion retains the sense of being real life in posse—real life mastered in advance. Thus religion must always yield a sterner joy than fine art. The appeal of fine art is wholly softening; as if it were the love-making attitude towards a responsive universe—a mood of tender and reciprocated dalliance. Religion, on the other hand, promises a mastery over a real life that consists largely of hard knocks. The knight takes a pride in his armour, yet not without a chastening sense of danger, nay of death itself, ahead.
The truth is that, as we have seen, primitive religion is never so far withdrawn from the hard business of real life as to lose touch with it and so to abandon its practical interest. The occasional rite continues to minister directly to the alleviation of critical situations. Again, the periodic rite, whether it bears on tribal or on purely individual concerns, stands in general relation to some recurrent strain for which custom prescribes a cure by way of a retreat into the sphere of the sacred. Yet religious observances of every kind would seem to have an absorbing quality of appeal that causes the participant to feel that for the moment he lives a life apart, is removed to another world. He is on a plane of existence where he seems to do hard things easily. Of course, he is more or less aware at the time that he is doing them symbolically, not actually. Even so, he now feels that he could do them as never before—that, given his present temper, they are as good as done. Thus he comes to value this all-facilitating temper in and for itself, and makes a habit of resorting to the spiritual plane of his own free will rather than by the sheer threat of the wolf at the door. A religious consciousness is fostered by a process of self-nurture. The symbolism which originally faced outwards, namely, towards the material world, is turned round so that it faces inwards, that is, towards a world of its own. This new plane of experience is one baffling to the intellect because the literal, the language of the senses, no longer suffices; but it is apprehensible to the mind as a whole, since on the side of feeling and will the value of the dynamical mood approves itself directly. Herein, then, lies the truth of religious symbolism—not in what it says, for it speaks darkly, but in what it makes a man feel, namely, that his heart is strong.
Strength, however, even spiritual strength, may be abused. To be of vital assistance to mankind it must have become the firm ally of moral goodness. There is a dangerous kind of exaltation that manifests itself in association with religion throughout its history. To the God-intoxicated man it may seem that henceforth in his omnipotence he can do nothing wrong—non posse peccare. Not only kings and priests of high degree with acknowledged pretensions to a sacred character, but men of low station, and with a doubtful past to offset their sudden conversion, have been known to claim complete immunity from human weakness on the supposed guarantee of religion. Who can blame the savage, then, if he, too, finds in religious excitement an opportunity, and at the same time an excuse, for extravagances of every kind? After all, he is engaged on the biggest experiment that mankind has ever attempted, and one of which the end is not yet in sight. In an experiment there is always danger, more especially during its initial stages. It was a savage, not a civilized man, who invented religion, so far as it can be treated, in the anthropological way, as a man-made institution. Just so it was a savage who first made fire; and doubtless he burnt his fingers badly in so doing. Religion is likewise a playing with fire. The religious man is engaged in trying out the properties of an element which warms but also burns and scars. Thanks to the predominance of emotion over reason in it, religious experience is always hot. Gone cold it has gone out. Rationalism can at most serve to temper a flame which it does not light and may easily extinguish.
Now in the remaining lectures of this course we shall try to examine the elemental stuff of primitive religion by an analytic or piecemeal method. Proceeding in such a way as is appropriate to what after all is a biological, not a chemical, investigation, we shall do our best as it were to vivisect this highly complex form of experience, which, though organic with the rest of our nature, is yet so basic and central as almost to amount to a living thing on its own account. For the moment, however, a synthetic or wholesale view of it must suffice.
The immediate question before us is why this experience, though by hypothesis of vital importance to the savage on the whole, may in part prove a hindrance to him instead of a help. The dynamical mood, while making him feel that he is a superman, apparently does not ipso facto cause him to be super-moral, but on the contrary sometimes causes or allows him to be quite the reverse. Does, then, the illusoriness which undoubtedly pertains to the thought-symbols of his religion, so far as they are taken literally, likewise pervade the very core of his experience? Does it extend to the strong feeling of assurance behind the weak and obscure perception of the reasons for it? Not necessarily; even if it could be said in a sense that religious experience is make-believe through and through. For we can make ourselves believe what is true as well as what is untrue. Make-believe is in fact the only method by which belief can be reached, since it is a state of mind which must always in the last resort be self-induced, however much objective fact may clamour for recognition. Now if there is truth at the heart of religious experience it must be moral truth. Intellectual truth is more directly the concern of science and philosophy, and, though theology is part, and perhaps the highest part, of philosophy, it does not in itself amount to religion. Again, beauty, which in its way is a third kind of truth, enters into religion only through the intermediation of fine art.
From a biological point of view, however, moral truth is the most important of the three, because it regulates practice, and practice is the final test of successful living. Is moral truth, then, the peculiar contribution of religion? Doubtless some would argue that it could be established independently by means of an ethics founded on common sense. Indeed, a biologist, who forgot that his working assumptions are subject to philosophic criticism, might easily deem himself capable of drawing up a satisfactory moral code simply in the light of what might be called the vital statistics of the species. Rules of conduct calculated on such a basis would indeed be exceedingly helpful so far as they went, having much the same worth for the prudent man as a set of medical directions on how to keep healthy. But the reinforcement of religion can transform this low-level, cold-blooded kind of morality into a passion—a veritable hunger and thirst—for righteousness. Such a re-orientation of the moral outlook can certainly be caused thus, while it is very improbable that it can be caused otherwise, seeing that the pursuit of knowledge or of beauty, however disinterested, has not so general a bearing, and so cannot exert as wide an influence, on the conduct of life as a whole. Religion only, then it would seem can bring about a moral readjustment which from a psychological point of view might be said to resemble a change to a higher gear. In the traditional language of religion it is a rebirth or again a turning round of the soul to the light, a conversion.
It by no means follows however that because religion is potentially capable of endowing morality with a new and deeper meaning it is always bound to do so in actual practice. Moral regeneration is perhaps of rarer occurrence than one would wish to believe, even when religious development is well advanced. We must beware, then, of expecting too much of primitive religion in this respect. Even if it be agreed that what I have called the dynamical mood is the typical outcome of religion at its earlier stages, and that the mood in question involves a sense of exaltation—of what is sometimes called ‘uplift’—one has no business to conclude that the result is a heightened morality. On the contrary, the known facts would lead us to infer rather that the excitement generated by cult is almost unmoral in its initial phase. Mana is, as Freud would say, ambivalent. Possessed by it, a man is moved to let himself go whether for better or for worse. He feels himself half-god, half-devil; or, perhaps it would be truer to say, feels himself god and devil by turns, since he has been shaken out of his normal equilibrium and is liable to the most violent fluctuations of impulse. He has yet to learn—and he has got to learn by slow experiment—how to become master of a form of heightened energy which at first can only be said to master him. His problem is how to be passionate and self-controlled at once and together—how to conjoin high tension with manipulation. Religion thus brings to a head what is essentially the vital problem as it confronts man, the sole careerist of the animal kingdom. Born in the mud like the other beasts, man alone refuses to be a stick-in-the-mud. At all costs he must contrive to slough off his primeval sluggishness. So he dances through his life as if he would dance until he drops, finding out, however, on trial that he can develop as it were a second wind by dancing to a measure. Urged on by this supreme discovery man has left all rival species in the lurch, while within the race itself the sleepy peoples go under, the savage being far more inert-minded than the civilized man in every way. We are altogether his superiors in the art of self-stimulation; and, though we have by no means yet succeeded in sorting out the good methods from the bad, we can claim on the whole to know better than he does how to achieve an extreme intensity of life which so far from being prejudicial to its duration is positively favourable thereto. To him, however, must be given full credit for divining the general helpfulness of his religion as a means of raising himself out of his inveterate apathy, even before the particular ways in which benefit could be secured, and risk avoided, were at all clear to his mind. Some instinct told him that he must abandon himself boldly to the dance if he would pick up the rhythm, and so dance on more strongly and more happily than ever.
It looks then as if religion apart from morality was neither good nor bad, but just a neutral force. It is possibly a question of words, however, and, if we do not like to speak of an unmoral kind of religion, we can call the experience denoted by words such as mana merely the raw material or protoplasm of religion. Indeed, so far as there could be either a religion or a morality worthy of the name that existed independently of each other, one would be more disposed to grant to such a morality a certain positive worth as against any that could be assigned to such a religion. A common-sense morality even if it amounted to no more than a prudentialism, an enlightened egoism, would make for human well-being as far as it went. But a wholly unmoralized religious enthusiasm might seem at a first glance to be about as useful as an earthquake. But the question of value is not quite so simple as the metaphor suggests. We cannot compare matter in motion with something much more subtle in its nature, namely, mind in motion. A spiritual upheaval may have certain devastating effects and yet by relief of tension bring peace in the end. Further, to be agitated is not necessarily to be upset, given the self-equilibrating power natural to every form of life. Once more, a certain process of unloosening may foster growth in the organism by allowing freer play to the expansive forces. Thus if there is something at the bottom of primitive religion which is almost unmoral, it is not therefore to be reckoned an unwholesome affection, a disease of the soul. Nor, again, should it be rated, if harmless, yet superfluous, a mere by-product of an over-brimming vitality; since there can scarcely be room for such luxuries in the economy of the primitive struggle for emergence. There remains a third possibility, which one is led to adopt by many good reasons. The neutral quality is that of something germinal, undeveloped, undeclared. The promise is there, though latent. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil may as yet be fruitless; but it is in bud.
The central interest of these lectures, then, will be to study the first beginnings of the moralization of religion so far as it depends on those elements of feeling that are evidently so vital to the process. Our anthropological evaluation of primitive religion will take into account mainly the extent to which it furthers morality by stimulating the appropriate emotions; though due weight must likewise be attached to whatever impetus is thus lent to the quest for truth and for beauty. Whether such a scheme of inquiry will answer remains to be seen. I can sympathize with the Irish professor who said that he would reserve his introductory remarks until the end of the course. But a veritable jungle of facts lies before us. So having boldly taken a line, let us discover by actual trial how well it will take us through.