Animism And Eschatology

The psychological side of animism has already been dealt with; almost equally important in primitive creeds is the eschatological aspect. In many parts of the world it is held that the human body is the seat of more than one soul; in the island of Nias four are distinguished, the shadow and the intelligence, which die with the body, a tutelary spirit, termed begoe, and a second which is carried on the head. Similar ideas are found among the Euahlayi of S.E. Australia, the Dakotas and many other tribes. Just as in Europe the ghost of a dead person is held to haunt the churchyard or the place of death, although more orthodox ideas may be held and enunciated by the same person as to the nature of a future life, so the savage, more consistently, assigns different abodes to the multiple souls with which he credits man. Of the four souls of a Dakota, one is held to stay with the corpse, another in the village, a third goes into the air, while the fourth goes to the land of souls, where its lot may depend on its rank in this life, its sex, mode of death or sepulture, on the due observance of funeral ritual, or many other points (see ESCHATOLOGY). From the belief in the survival of the dead arose the practice of offering food, lighting fires, etc., at the grave, at first, maybe, as an act of friendship or filial piety, later as an act of worship (see ANCESTOR WORSHIP). The simple offering of food or shedding of blood at the grave develops into an elaborate system of sacrifice; even where ancestor-worship is not found, the desire to provide the dead with comforts in the future life may lead to the sacrifice of wives, slaves, animals, etc., to the breaking or burning of objects at the grave or to the provision of the ferryman's toll, a coin put in the mouth of the corpse to pay the travelling expenses of the soul.

But all is not finished with the passage of the soul to the land of the dead; the soul may return to avenge its death by helping to discover the murderer, or to wreak vengeance for itself; there is a widespread belief that those who die a violent death become malignant spirits and endanger the lives of those who come near the haunted spot; the woman who dies in child-birth becomes a pontianak, and threatens the life of human beings; and man resorts to magical or religious means of repelling his spiritual dangers.

Development Of Animism

If the phenomena of dreams were, as suggested above, of great importance for the development of animism, the belief, which must originally have been a doctrine of human psychology, cannot have failed to expand speedily into a general philosophy of nature. Not only human beings but animals and objects are seen in dreams; and the conclusion would be that they too have souls; the same conclusion may have been reached by another line of argument; primitive psychology posited a spirit in a man to account, amongst other things, for his actions; a natural explanation of the changes in the external world would be that they are due to the operations and volitions of spirits.