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Lecture 7: Eschatology of Plato

Lecture 7
Eschatology of Plato

Plato's Authority.

BEFORE I proceed to explain to you more in detail the ideas of the later Hindu philosophers on the fate of the soul after death, it may be useful, if only to refresh our memory, to devote one lecture to a consideration of the best and highest thoughts which the same problem has elicited in Greece. If we should find hereafter that there are certain similarities between the thoughts of Plato and the thoughts of the poets and prophets of the Upanishads and the Avesta, such similarities are no doubt interesting, and perhaps all the more so because, as I pointed out before, we cannot ascribe them either to the community of language or to historical tradition. We can only account for them by that common human nature which seems to frame these ideas by some inward necessity, though without any tangible evidence in support of any of them. You will not be surprised if I turn at once to Plato.

Plato, though called a philosopher only, speaks of the fate of the soul, after death with authority, with the same authority at least as the authors of the Upanishads. Both Plato, however, and the authors of the Upanishads were far too deeply impressed with the real truth of their teaching to claim for it any adventitious or miraculous sanction. Unfortunately they could not prevent their less inspired and less convinced followers from ascribing to their utterances an inspired, a sacred, nay a miraculous character.

Plato's Mythological Language.

It cannot be denied that the similarity between Plato's language and that of the Upanishads is sometimes very startling. Plato, as you know, likes to clothe his views on the soul in mythological phraseology, just as the authors of the Upanishads do, nor can I see what other language was open to them. It is an absurd anachronism, if some would-be critics of ancient religions and ancient philosophies fasten with an air of intellectual superiority on this mythological phraseology, and speak contemptuously of the childish fables of Plato and other ancient sages as unworthy of the serious consideration of our age. Who could ever have believed, they say, that a soul could grow wings, or lose her wings. Who could have believed that there was a bridge between earth and heaven, and that a beautiful maiden was standing at the end of it to receive the soul of the departed? Should we not rather say, Who can be so obtuse as not to see that those who used such language were trying to express a deep truth, namely, that the soul would be lifted up by noble thoughts and noble deeds, as if by wings, and that the highest judge to judge the soul after death would be a man's own conscience, standing before him in all its beauty and innocence, like the most beautiful and innocent maiden of fifteen years. Think only of the intellectual efforts that were required before even such parables could have been thought of, and then instead of wondering at the language in which they were expressed, we shall wonder rather that anybody could have misunderstood them, and have asked to have such simple and transparent parables declared.

The Tale of the soul.

Plato asserts without fear of contradiction that the soul is immortal. The Upanishads hardly assert it, because they cannot conceive that doubt is possible on that point. ‘Who could say that the soul was mortal?’ Mortal means decay of a material organic body, it clearly has no sense if applied to the soul.

‘I have heard,’ Plato writes, ‘from men and women wise in divine matters a true tale as I think, and a noble one. My informants are those priests and priestesses whose aim is to be able to render an account of the subjects with which they deal. They are supported also by Pindar and many other poets—by all, I may say, who are truly inspired. Their teaching is that the soul of man is immortal; that it comes to an end of one form of existence, which men call dying, and then is born again, but never perishes. Since then the soul is immortal1, and has often been born, and has seen the things here on earth and the things in Hades; all things, in short there is nothing which it has not learned, so that it is no marvel that it should be possible for it to recall what it certainly knew before, about virtue and other topics. For since all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things, there is no reason why a man who has recalled one fact only, which men call learning, should not by his own power find out everything else, should he be courageous, and not lose heart in the search. For seeking and learning is all an art of recollection.’

The next passage occurs in the Phaedrus, where we meet with the myth of the chariot, guided by a charioteer, and drawn by two winged steeds, of which in the case of man, the one is good, the other bad. I must give you some of Plato's sentences in full, in order to be able to compare them afterwards with certain passages from the Upanishads.

The Charioteer and the Horses.

Plato (Phaedrus 246, transl., p. 123) says: ‘Enough, of the soul's immortality, her form is a theme of divine and large discourse; the tongue of man may, however, speak of this briefly, as in a figure. Let our figure be a composite nature—a pair of winged horses and a charioteer. Now the winged horses and the charioteer of the gods, are all of them noble, and of noble breed, but our horses are mixed; moreover, our charioteer drives them in a pair, and one of them is noble and of noble origin, and the other is ignoble and of ignoble origin, and the driving, as might be expected, is no easy matter with us.’

If we turn to the Katha-Upanishad III. 3, we read there: ‘Know the soul to be sitting in the chariot, the body to be the chariot, the intellect (buddhi) the charioteer, and the mind the reins. The senses they call the horses, the objects of the senses their roads…He who has no understanding, and he whose mind (the reins) is never firmly held, his senses (horses) are unmanageable, like vicious horses of a charioteer. But he who has understanding and whose mind is always firmly held, his senses are under control, like good horses of a charioteer. He who has no understanding, who is unmindful and always impure, never reaches the goal, but enters into the round of births (samsâra). But he who has understanding, who is mindful and always pure, reaches indeed the goal, from whence he is not born again’ (from whence there is no return).

Some people have thought that the close coincidence between the simile used by Plato and by the Upanishad, and the resemblance is certainly very close, shows that there must have been some kind of historical contact even at that early time between the religious thought of India and the philosophical thought of Greece. We cannot deny the possibility of such a view, though we must confess our ignorance as to any definite channel through which Indian thought could have reached the shores of Greece at that period.

The Procession of the Gods.

Let us now explore Plato‹s speculations about the soul a little further. There is his splendid description of the procession of the gods in heaven, a myth, if you like, but a myth full of meaning, as every myth was meant to be.

Zeus, we read, advances first, driving his winged car, ordering all things and superintending them. A host of deities and spirits follow him, marshalled in eleven bodies, for Hestia remains alone in the dwelling of the gods. Many then and blessed are the spectacles and movements within the sphere of heaven which the gods go through, each fulfilling his own function; and whoever will and can, follows them, for envy is a stranger to the divine company. But when they afterwards proceed to a banquet, they advance by what is now a steep course along the inner circumference of the heavenly vault. The chariots of the gods being well balanced and well driven, advance easily, others with difficulty; for the vicious horse, unless the charioteer has thoroughly broken it, weighs down the car by his proclivity towards the earth. Whereupon the soul is put to the extremity of toil and effort. For the souls of the immortals, when they reach the summit, go outside and stand upon .the surface of heaven, and as they stand there, the revolution of the sphere bears them round, and they contemplate the objects that are beyond it. That supercelestial realm no earthly poet ever yet sung or will sing in worthy strains. It is occupied by the colourless, shapeless, intangible, absolute essence which reason alone can contemplate, and which is the one object of true knowledge. The divine mind, therefore, when it sees after an interval that which really is, is supremely happy, and gains strength and enjoyment by the contemplation of the True (Satyam), until the circuit of the revolution is completed, in the course of which it obtains a clear vision of the absolute (ideal) justice, temperance, and knowledge; and when it has thus been feasted by the sight of the essential truth of all things, the soul again enters within the vault of heaven and returns home.

Now here I must again stop for a moment, to point out a significant coincidence between Plato and the Upanishads.

Belief in metempsyohosis in Plato and the Upanishads.

You may remember that the Upanishads represent the soul, even after it has reached the abode of the Fathers, as liable to return to a new round of existences, and how this led in India to a belief in metempsychosis. Now let us see how Plato arrives by the same road, yet quite independently, at the same conclusion2:

‘This is the life of the, gods,’ he says, ‘but of other souls that which follows God best and is likest to him lifts the head of the charioteer into the outer world and is carried round in the revolution, troubled indeed by the steeds and with difficulty beholding true being (τὸ ὄν=satyam), while another rises and falls, and sees and again fails to see, by reason of the unruliness of the steeds. The rest of the souls are also longing after the upper world, and they all follow; but not being strong enough, they are carried round in the deep below, plunging, treading on one another, striving to be first, and there is confusion and extremity of effort, and many of them are lamed and have their wings broken through the ill driving of the charioteer; and all of them after a fruitless toil depart, without being initiated into the mysteries of the true being (τη̑ς του̑ ὄντος θϵ́ας), and departing feed on opinion. The reason of their great desire to behold the plain of truth is that the food which is suited to the highest part of the soul comes out of that meadow; and the wing on which the souls soar is nourished with this. And there is a law of destiny that the soul which attains any vision of truth in company with the god is preserved from harm until the next period, and if attaining, is always unharmed. But when she is unable to follow, and fails to behold the vision of truth, and through some ill hap sinks beneath the double load of forgetfulness and vice, and her feathers fall from her, and she drops to earth, then the law ordains that this soul shall at her first birth pass, not into any other animal but only into man, and the soul which has seen most of truth shall come to the birth as a philosopher or artist, or some musical and loving nature; that which has seen truth in the second degree shall be a righteous king or lordly warrior; the soul which is of the third class shall be a politician or economist or trader; the fourth shall be a lover of gymnastic toils or a physician; the fifth a prophet or hierophant; to the sixth a poet or some other imitative artist will be appropriate; to the seventh the life of an artisan or husbandman; to the eighth that of a sophist or demagogue; to the ninth that of a tyrant; all these are states of probation, in which he who lives righteously improves, and he, who lives unrighteously deteriorates his lot.’

The Nine Classes of Plato and Manu.

I have already pointed out in a former lecture the curious parallelism between Indian and Greek thought. You may remember that Manu also establishes exactly the same number of classes, namely nine, and that we could judge of the estimation in which his contemporaries held certain occupations by the place which he assigned to each. Plato places the philosopher first, the tyrant last; Manu places kings and warriors in the fifth class, and assigns the third class to hermits, ascetics, and Brâhmans, while he reserves the first class to Brahman and other gods. Thus you find here also as before a general similarity, but likewise very characteristic differences.

Plato then continues: ‘Ten thousand years must elapse before the soul can return to the place from whence she came, for she cannot grow her wings in less; only the soul of a philosopher, guileless and true, or the soul of a lover, who is not without philosophy, may acquire wings in the third recurring period of a thousand years; and if they choose this life three times in succession, then they have their wings given them, and go away at the end of three thousand years. But the others receive judgment, when they have completed their first life, and after the judgment they go, some of them to the houses of correction which are under the earth, and are punished; others to some place in heaven, where they are lightly borne by justice, and then they live in a manner worthy of the life which they led here when in the form of men. And at the end of the first thousand years the good souls and also the evil souls both come to draw lots and choose their second life, and they may take any which they like.’

Here there are not many points of similarity between Plato and Manu, except that we see how Plato also admits places of punishment and correction which we may call Hells in addition to the inevitable chain of cause and effect which determines the fate of the soul in its migrations after death. In another passage Plato (Phaedo 113) gives a more detailed account, not quite worthy of a philosopher, of these hells and of the punishments inflicted on evildoers. Here the souls are supposed to become purified and chastened, and when they have suffered their well-deserved penalties, they receive the rewards of their good deeds according to their deserts. ‘Those, however, who are considered altogether incorrigible, are hurled into Tartarus, and they never come out. Others, after suffering in Tartarus for a year, may escape again if those whom they have injured pardon them. Those on the contrary who have been pre-eminent for holiness of life are released from this earthly prison and go to their pure home which is above and dwell in the purer earth; and those who have duly purified themselves with philosophy, live henceforth altogether without the body, in mansions fairer than these,—which may not be described and of which the time would fail me to tell.’

Human Souls migrating into Animal Bodies.

We now come to what has always been considered the most startling coincidence between Plato and the philosophers of India, namely, the belief in the migration of souls from human into animal bodies. Though we have become accustomed to this idea, it cannot be denied that its first conception was startling. Several explanations have been attempted to account for it. It has often been supposed that a belief in ancestral spirits and ghosts haunting their former homes is at the, bottom of it all. But judging from the first mention of this kind of metempsychosis in the Upanishads, we saw that it was really based on purely moral grounds. We find the first general allusion to it in the Katha-Upanishad.

There we read (II. 5): ‘Fools dwelling in darkness, wise in their own conceit and puffed up with vain knowledge, go round and round, staggering to and fro, like blind men led by the blind.

‘The Hereafter never rises before the eyes of the careless child, deluded by the delusion of wealth.

‘This is the world, he thinks, there is no other, and thus he falls again and again under my sway’ (the sway of death).

The speaker here is Yama, the ruler of the Fathers, afterwards the god of death, and he who punishes the wicked in Hell.

With Plato also the first idea of metempsychosis or the migration of human souls into animal bodies seems to have been suggested by ethical considerations. At the end of the first thousand years, he says, the good souls and also the evil souls both come to draw lots and choose their second life, and they may take any which they like3. The soul of man may pass into the life of a beast, or from the beast return again into the man. Here it is clearly supposed that a man would choose according to his taste and character, so that his next life should correspond to his character, as formed in a former life. This becomes still clearer when we read the story of Er at the end of the Republic.

The Story of Er.

You all remember Er4, the son of Armenius, the Pamphylian, who was slain in battle, and ten days afterwards when the bodies of the dead were taken up already in a state of corruption, his body was found unaffected by decay and carried away home to be burnt. But on the twelfth day, as he was lying on the funeral pile, he returned to life and told all he had seen in the other world. His soul, he said, left the body and he then went on a long journey with a great company. I cannot read to you the whole of this episode—you probably all know it—at all events it is easily accessible, and a short abstract will suffice for our purposes. Er relates how he came first of all to a mysterious place, where there were two openings in the earth, and over against them two openings in the heaven. And there were judges sitting between, to judge the souls, who sent the good souls up to heaven, and the bad down into the earth. And while these souls went down into the earth and up to heaven by one opening, others came out from the other opening descending from heaven or ascending from the earth, and they met in a meadow and embraced each other, and told the one of the joys of heaven, and the others of the sufferings beneath the earth during the thousand years they had lived there. After tarrying seven days on the meadow the spirits had to proceed further. This further journey through the spheres of heaven is fully described, till it ends with the souls finding themselves in the presence of the three Fates, Lachesis, Clotho, and Atropos. But here, instead of receiving their lot for a new life as a natural consequence of their former deeds, or misdeeds, they are allowed to choose their own lot, and they choose it naturally according to their experience in a former life, and according to the bent of their character as formed there. Some men, disgusted with mankind, prefer to be born as animals, as lions or eagles, some animals delight in trying their luck as men. Odysseus, the wisest of all, despises the lot of royalty and wealth, and chooses the quiet life of a private person, as the happiest lot on earth. Then after passing the desert plain of Forgetfulness, and the river of Unmindfulness, they are caught by an earthquake, and driven upwards to their new birth. Plato then finishes the vision of the Pamphylian Er with the following words: ‘Wherefore my counsel is that we hold for ever to the heavenly way, and follow after justice and virtue, always considering that the soul is immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil. Then shall we live dear to one another and to the gods, both while remaining here and when, like conquerors in the games who go round to gather gifts, we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been describing.’

Coincidences and Differences.

This has justly been called the most magnificent myth in the whole of Plato, a kind of philosophical apocalypse which has kept alive a belief in immortality among the Greeks, and not among the Greeks only, but among all who became their pupils. There is no doubt a certain similarity in the broad outlines of this Platonic myth, illustrating the migration of the soul after death, with the passages which we quoted before from the Upanishads. The fact that Er was a Pamphylian has even been supposed to indicate an Eastern origin of the Platonic legend, but I cannot persuade myself that we should be justified in tracing the source of any of Plato's thoughts to India or Persia. The differences between the Indian and the Greek legends seem to me quite as great as their coincidences. It may seem strange, no doubt, that human fancy should in Greece as well as in India have created this myth of the soul leaving the body, and migrating to the upper or lower regions to receive its reward or its punishment; and more particularly its entrance into animal bodies seems very startling, when we find it for the first time in Greece as well as in India. Still it is far easier to suppose that the same ideas burst forth spontaneously from the same springs, the fears and hopes of the human heart, than to admit an exchange of ideas between Indian and Greek philosophers in historical times. The strongest coincidence is that between the nine or three times three classes of the soul's occupations as admitted by Manu and by Plato; and again between the river Vigarâ, the Ageless, where a man leaves all his good and his evil deeds behind him, and the draught of the Zaramaya oil by which in the Avesta the soul is supposed to become oblivious of all worldly cares and concerns before entering paradise; and again the plain of Forgetfulness and the river of Unmindfulness mentioned by Plato; or still more the river Lethe or forgetfulness in general Greek mythology. Still, even this may be a thought that presented itself independently to Greek and Indian thinkers. All who believed the soul to be immortal, had to believe likewise in the pre-existence of the soul or in its being without a beginning, and as no soul here on earth has any recollection of its former existences, a river of Lethe or forgetfulness, or a river Vigarâ and the oil of forgetfulness, were not quite unnatural expedients to account for this.

Truth underlying Myth.

No one would go so far as to say, because some of these theories are the same in India and in Greece, and sprang up independently in both countries, that therefore they are inevitable or true. All we have any right to say is that they are natural, and that there is something underlying them which, if expressed in less mythological language, may stand the severest test of philosophical examination.

In order to see this more clearly, in order to satisfy ourselves as to what kind of truth the unassisted human mind may reach on these subjects, it may be useful to examine here the theories of some of the so-called savage races. In their case the very possibility of an historical intercourse with India or Greece is excluded.

The Haidas on the Immortality of the Soul.

I choose for this purpose first of all the Haidas, who inhabit the Charlotte Islands and have lately been described to us by the Rev. C. Harrison, who is thoroughly conversant with their language.

According to his description the religion of these savage Haidas would seem to be very like the religion of the ancient Persians. They believe in two principal deities, one the god of light, who is good, the other the god of darkness, who is evil. Besides these two, there are a number of smaller deities whom the Haidas pray to and to whom they offer small sacrifices. They fear these smaller deities, such as the god of the sun and of the sea, more than the two great powers of light and darkness, though these two are supposed to have created everything, not excluding even these smaller deities.

The Haidas believe in the immortality of the soul, and their ideas about the journey of the soul after death are nearly as elaborate as those of the Upanishads. When a good Haida is about to die, he sees a canoe manned by some of his departed friends, who come with the tide to bid him welcome to their domain. They are supposed to be sent by the god of death. The dying man sees them and is rejoiced to know that after a period passed within the city of death, he will with his friends be welcomed to the kingdom of the god of light. His friends call him and bid him come. They say: ‘Come with us, come into the land of light; come into the land of great things, of wonderful things; come into the land of plenty where hunger is unknown; come with us and rest for evermore.… Come with us into our land of sunshine and be a great chief attended with numerous slaves. Come with us now, the spirits say, for the tide is about to ebb and we must depart.’ At last the soul of the deceased leaves his body to join the company of his former friends, while his body is buried with great pomp and splendour. The Haidas believe that the soul leaves the body immediately after death, and is taken possession of either by Chief Cloud or Chief Death. The good soul is taken possession of by Chief Death, and during its sojourn in the domain of Death, it is taught many wonderful things and becomes initiated into the mysteries of heaven (just as the soul of Nakiketas was in the domain of Yama). At last he becomes the essence of the purest light and is able to revisit his friends on earth. At the close of the twelve months' probation the time of his redemption from the kingdom of Death arrives. As it is impossible that the pure essence of light should come into contact with a depraved material body, the good Indian assumes its appearance only, and then the gates are thrown open and his soul which by this time has assumed the shape of his earthly body, but clothed in the light of the kingdom of light, is discovered to the Chief of Light by Chief Death, in whose domains he has been taught the customs to be observed in heaven.

The bad Indian in the region of the clouds is tortured continually. In the first place his soul has to witness the chief of that region feasting on his dead body until it is entirely consumed. Secondly, he is so near to this world that he evinces a longing desire to return to his friends and gain their sympathy. Thirdly, he has the dread of being conducted to Hell (Hetywanlana) ever before his mind. No idea of atonement for his past wicked life is ever permitted, since his soul after death is incapable of reformation and consequently incapable of salvation. This is very different from Plato and the Upanishads, where there is always a hope of final salvation.

Sometimes permission is granted to souls in the clouds to revisit the earth. Then they can only be seen by the Saaga, the great medicine man, who describes them as destitute of all clothing. They are looked upon as wicked and treacherous spirits, and the medicine man's duty is to prevent them entering any of the houses; and not only so, but as soon as the Saaga makes the announcement that a certain soul has descended from the clouds, no one will leave their homes, because the sight of a wicked soul would cause sickness and trouble, and his touch death. Sometimes it happens that the souls in the domain of Death are not made pure and holy within twelve months, and yet when their bodies died they were not wicked enough to be captured by Chief Cloud. Then it becomes necessary that the less sanctified souls return to earth and become regenerated. Every soul not worthy of entering heaven is sent back to his friends and reborn at the first opportunity. The Saaga enters the house to see the newly-born baby, and his attendant spirits announce to him that in that child is the soul of one of their departed friends who died during the preceding years. Their new life has to be such as will subject them to retribution for the misdeeds of their past life (the same idea which we met with in India and in Greece), and thus the purgation of souls has to be carried on in successive migrations until they are suitable to enter the region of eternal light.

It sometimes happens that some souls are too depraved and wicked after twelve months in the clouds to be conducted to Hetywanlana; they also are sent back to this earth, but they are not allowed to re-enter a human body. They are allowed to enter the bodies of animals and fish, and compelled to undergo great torture.

We see here how the Haidas arrived at the idea of metempsychosis very much by the same road on which the Hindus were led to it. It was as a punishment that human souls were supposed to enter the bodies of certain animals. We likewise meet among the Haidas with the idea which we discovered in the Upanishads and in Plato, that certain souls are born again as human beings in order to undergo a new purgation before they could be allowed to enter the region of eternal light. This intermediate stage, the simplest conception of a purgatory, for souls who are neither good enough for heaven nor bad enough for hell, occurs in the later Persian literature also. It is there called the place of the Hamîstakân, the intermediate place between heaven and hell, reserved for those souls whose good works exactly counterbalance their sins, and where they remain in a stationary state till the final resurrection5.

The Polynesians on the Immortality of the Soul.

I have chosen the Haidas, the aborigines of the North-west coast of America, as a race that could not possibly have been touched by one single ray of that civilisation which had its seat in Mesopotamia, or in Persia, or in Egypt or Greece. Their thoughts on the immortality of the soul, and of the fate which awaits the soul after death, are clearly of independent growth, and if on certain important points they agree with the views of the Upanishads, the Zendavesta, or Plato, that agreement, though it does not prove their truth, proves at all events what I call their naturalness, their conformity with the hopes and fears of the human heart.

I shall now take another race, equally beyond the reach of Mesopotamian, Persian, Egyptian, and Greek thought, and as far removed as possible from the inhabitants of North-western America, I mean the races inhabiting the Polynesian Islands. I choose them because they give us a measure of what amount of similarity is possible on religious or philosophical topics without our having to admit either a common historical origin, or an actual borrowing at a later time. I choose them for another reason also, namely, because they are one of the few races of whom we possess scholarlike and trustworthy accounts from the pen of a missionary who has thoroughly mastered the language and thoughts of the people, and who has proved himself free from the prejudices arising from theological or scientific partisanship. I mean the Rev. W. Wyatt Gill. Speaking more particularly of the islands of the Hervey group, he says:

‘Each island had some variety of custom in relation to the dead. Perhaps the chiefs of Atiu were the most outrageous in mourning. I knew one to mourn for seven years for an only child, living all that time in a hut in the vicinity of the grave, and allowing his hair and nails to grow, and his body to remain unwashed. This was the wonder of all the islanders. In general, all mourning ceremonies were over in a year.’

But what did these islanders think about the life to come? It is seldom that we can get a clear account of the ideas of savages concerning the fate of their departed friends. Many avoid the subject altogether, and even those who are ready to communicate their thoughts freely to white men, often fail to be understood by their questioners. Mr. Gill is in this respect a favourable exception, and this is what he tells us about the conception of the spirit-world, as entertained by his Polynesian friends:

‘Spirit-land proper is underneath, where the sun-god Rā reposes when his daily task is done.’ This reminds us of Yama, the son of Vivasvat (the sun), who by the Vedic Indians was believed to dwell in the world of the Fathers and to be the ruler of the spirits of the departed. This spirit-world ‘is variously termed Po (Night), Avaiki, Hawai'i, Hawaiki, or home of the ancestors. Still, all warrior spirits, i.e. those who have died a violent death, are said to ascend to their happy homes in the ten heavens above. Popularly, death in any form is referred to as “going into night,” in contrast with day (ao), i.e. life. Above, and beneath are numerous countries and a variety of inhabitants—invisible to mortal eye; but these are but a facsimile of what we see around us now.

‘The Samoan heaven was designated Pulotu or Purotu, and was supposed to be under the sea. The Mangaian warrior hoped to “leap into the expanse,” “to dance the warrior's dance in Tairi” (above), “to inhabit Speck-land (Poêpoê)” in perfect happiness. The Rarotongan warrior looked forward to a place in the house of Tiki, in which are assembled the brave of past ages, who spend their time in eating, drinking, dancing, or sleeping. The Aitutakian brave went to a good land (Iva) under the guardianship of the benevolent Tukaitaua, to chew sugar-cane for ever with uncloyed appetite. Tahitians had an elysium named “Miru.” Society Islanders looked forward to “Rohutu noanoa,” i.e. “sweet-scented Rohutu,” full of fruit and flowers.

‘At Mangaia the spirits of those who ignobly “died on a pillow”6 wandered about disconsolately over the rocks near the margin of the ocean, until the day appointed by their leader comes (once a year), when they follow the sun-god Rā over the ocean and descend in his train to the under-world. As a rule, these ghosts were well disposed to their own living relatives; but often became vindictive if a pet child was ill-treated by a step-mother or other relatives, &c. But the esoteric teaching of the priests ran thus: Unhappy7 ghosts travel over the pointed rocks round the island until they reach the extreme edge of the cliff facing the setting sun, when a large wave approaches to the base, and at the same moment a gigantic “bua” tree (Fagraea berteriana), covered with fragrant blossoms, springs up from Avaiki to receive these disconsolate human spirits. Even at this last moment, with feet almost touching the fatal tree, a friendly voice may send the spirit-traveller back to life and health. Otherwise, he is mysteriously impelled to climb the particular branch reserved for his own tribe, and conveniently brought nearest to him. Immediately the human soul is safely lodged upon this gigantic “bua,” the deceitful tree goes down with its living burden to the nether-world. Akaanga and his assistants catch the luckless ghost in a net, half drown it in a lake of fresh water, and then usher it into the presence of dread Miru, mistress of the nether-world, where it is made to drink of her intoxicating bowl. The drunken ghost is borne off to the ever-burning oven, cooked, and devoured by Miru, her son, and four peerless daughters. The refuse is thrown to her servants, Akaanga and others. So that, at Mangaia, the end of the coward is annihilation, or, at all events, digestion.

‘At Rarotonga the luckless spirit-traveller who had no present for Tiki was compelled to stay outside the house where the brave of past ages are assembled, in rain and darkness for ever, shivering with cold and hunger. Another view is, that the grand rendezvous of ghosts was on a ridge of rocks facing the setting sun. One tribe skirted the sea margin until it reached the fatal spot. Another (the tribe of Tangiia, on the eastern part of Rarotonga) traversed the mountain range forming the backbone of the island until the same point of departure was attained. Members of the former tribe clambered on an ancient “bua” tree (still standing). Should the branch chance to break, the ghost is immediately caught in the net of “Muru.” But it sometimes happens that a lively ghost tears the meshes and escapes for a while, passing on by a resistless inward impulse towards the outer edge of the reef, in the hope of traversing the ocean. But in a straight line from the shore is a round hollow, where Akaanga's net is concealed. In this the very few who escape out of the hands of Muru are caught without fail. The delighted demons (taae) take the captive ghost out of the net, dash his brains out on the sharp coral, and carry him off in triumph to the shades to eat.

‘For the tribe of Tangiia an iron-wood tree was reserved. The ghosts that trod on the green branches of this tree came back to life, whilst those who had the misfortune to crawl on the dead branches were at once caught in the net of Muru or Akaanga, brained, cooked, and devoured!

‘Ghosts of cowards, and those who were impious at Aitutaki, were doomed likewise to furnish a feast to the inexpressibly ugly Miru8 and her followers.

‘The ancient faith of the Hervey Islanders was substantially the same. Nor did it materially differ from that of the Tahitian and Society Islanders, the variations being such as we might expect when portions of the same great family had been separated from each other for ages.’

We see in these Polynesian legends a startling mixture of coarse and exalted ideas as to the fate of the soul after death.

Mr. Gill says that there is no trace of transmigration of human souls in the Eastern Pacific. Yet he tells us that the spirits of the dead are fabled to have assumed, temporarily, and for a specific purpose, the form of an insect, bird, fish, or cloud. He adds that gods, specially the spirits of deified men, were believed permanently to reside in, or to be incarnate in, sharks, sword-fish, &c., eels, the octopus, the yellow and black-spotted lizards, several kinds of birds and insects. The idea of souls dwelling in animal bodies cannot therefore be said to have been unknown to the inhabitants of the Polynesian Islands.

If it is asked, what we gain from a comparison of the opinions on the fate of the soul after death as entertained not only by highly civilised nations, such as the Hindus, the Persians, and the Greeks, but likewise by tribes on a very low level of social life, such as the Haidas and Polynesians, my answer is that we learn from it, that a belief in a soul and in the immortality of the soul is not simply the dream of a few philosophical poets or poetical philosophers, but the spontaneous outcome of the human mind, when brought face to face with the mystery of death.

The last result of Physical Religion.

The last result of what I called Physical Religion and Anthropological Religion is this very belief that the human soul will after death enter the realm of light, and stand before the throne of God, whatever name may have been assigned to him. This seems indeed the highest point that has been reached by natural religion. But we shall see that one religion at least, that of the Vedânta, made a decided step beyond.