dead lost friends to feed, to invoke, or to love may look on such ceremonies as savage or insensate, but to those who have, and who still offer them the food of affection, such actions are but the primitive exhibition of our modern spiritualism in its simple childhood, and they have for us something of the tender and touching charm of infancy, even when the first has now become a sort of second childhood through length of time and lapse of knowledge and loss of memory.
The Peruvians declared that the reason why they buried property with their departed friends was because they had seen those who had long been dead walking adorned with the clothes and jewels which their friends had buried with them. West African Negroes have been so sure of their conscious continuity hereafter that when they were slaves in far-off lands they have killed themselves on purpose to revisit and re-live in their old homes. We have it on the authority of Livingstone that the Manyema tribe of Africans exulted in the assurance that after death the suffering ones would be able to come back when they were set free to return and haunt and torture those who had sold them into slavery during their life on earth. Mariner mentions the case of a young Tongan chief who was pursued by the spirit of a dead woman. She, having fallen in love with him, besought him to die and go to her; and he died accordingly. The Karens hold that the dead are only divided from the living by a thin white veil which their seers can penetrate. The Kaffirs when fighting used to leave open spaces in their line of battle for their dead heroes to step into and stop the gap in fighting for them shoulder to shoulder and side by side.
First of all, there is a class of customs intended to prevent the dead from returning in spirit. The living will do anything in their power by way of propitiation, bribery, and flattery for the dead not to come back. All they needed in this life was supplied to them for the next: food, drink, clothes, horses, weapons, slaves, and wives in abundance. For if the dead were in need of anything it was feared that they might pursue and haunt the living. The Zulu Kaffirs say that diseases are caused by the spirits of the dead to compel the living to supply them with offerings of meat and drink. It was a custom of the Fijians to pour out water after the corpse to hinder the ghost from coming back, water being the element opposed to breath, to spirit or spirits—“a running stream they daurna cross!” The Siamese break an opening through the wall of a house, pass the coffin through, and carry the corpse round the house three times to prevent the spirit from finding its way back. The Hottentots make a hole in the wall of their hut and carry the dead body through it, closely building it up immediately afterwards. We may smile, but until lately we had the relic of a belief as simple. We used to run a stake through the bodies of our suicides, buried at the cross-roads, to pin them to the cross and not allow them to walk or wander as ghosts. This custom of barring the passage back was practised by black men, red men, yellow men, and white men—therefore it was universal. An Australian aborigine will cut the right thumb off the hand of his dead enemy, so that the returning ghost shall not be able to handle a spear or club if he should come back. Many other races purposely maimed their dead. When
Clytemnestra put her husband to death she took the precaution of having him “arm-pitted”—that is, of having his hands cut off and bound fast under his arms, which was a Greek mode of doing an irretrievable injury to the ghost of the dead.
Nor was the feeling of fear limited to those whom they had any reason to dread. On the death of a nursing child the Iroquois take two pieces of cloth, steep them in the milk of its mother, and place them in the hands of the dead little one so that it may not return in spirit from need of food to haunt and trouble the bereaved parent. They also think that the sleeping infant holds intercourse with the spirit world, and it is a custom for the mother to rub the face of the living child with a pinch of ashes at night to protect it from nocturnal spirits. In Lapland the mothers, when committing infanticide, cut out the tongues of the little ones before casting them away in the forest, lest the poor innocents should be heard crying and calling on them in the night. The Chinook Indians declare that the dead wake at night and get up in search of food. The Algonkins bring food to the grave for the nourishment of the shade which remains with the body after death. In doing this they had an object, which was the ghost in reality and not a hallucination to be resolved into nothingness by any philosophy of dreams. The Iroquois maintained that unless these rites of burial were performed the spirits would return to trouble their relatives and friends. In one of the cuneiform texts it is taught that the Manes which are neglected by their relatives on earth succumb to hunger and thirst. As it is said, “He whose body is left forgotten in the fields, his soul has no rest on earth. He whose soul no one cares for, the dregs of the cup, the remains of the repast, that which is thrown among the refuse of the street, that is all he has to nourish him.” (Maspero, Dawn of Civilization, Eng. tr., p. 509.) The necessity that was felt for providing the dead with food will account for the Buddhist doctrine of non-immortality for the man who has no children. In this way; the manes needs provisioning. The proper person to supply them is a son, and he who dies without a son to perform the sacrifice may be left like the poor souls in the Assyrian story who succumb to hunger and thirst and thus die out altogether as neglected starvelings. It is said in the Dattaka-Mimansa, “Heaven awaits not one who is destitute of a son.” The Inoits likewise have a custom of giving a new-born son the name of someone who has lately died, in order “that the departed may have rest in the tomb” (Rink, Eskimo Tales). This is a mode of adopting a son for the service of the dead where the deceased may have had no son to make the offerings. Of all the charitable institutions on the earth’s surface, the most remarkable, surely, is that of the Chinese Taoists called the Yu-Lan-Ui, or “association for feeding the dead,” which collects supplies for the sustenance of the needy spirits who have no relations on earth to offer sacrifices to these paupers of the other world. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead the deceased prays that he may take possession in Amenta of the funeral meals that were and continue to be offered to him by his living friends on earth. “Let me have possession of my funeral meals. Let me have possession of all things which are ritualistically offered for me in the nether world. Let me have possession of the table (of offerings) which was made for me on
earth, the solicitations which were uttered for me that he (I) may feed upon the bread of Seb.” This is the refrain to a kind of litany. (Rit., ch. 68, Renouf.) In the vignettes to the Ritual and other scenes it is noticeable how the female mourners expose their breasts and as it were offer their nipples to the mummy on its way to the dead-house (Papyrus of Ani). This agrees with the scene in a funeral procession of the Badyas, in which the women lean over their dead companions and squeeze their milk into the mouth of the deceased. King Teta in the Pyramid texts exults in Amenta that he is not left to suffer from hunger and thirst as a Manes. He is not like one of those poor starvelings who are forced to eat the excrements and swallow the filth that is, as it were, the sewage of the life on earth. “Hateful to Teta are hunger and thirst,” and from these he does not suffer. He is supplied with pure food and drink in plenty. (Teta, II, 68-9.) Homer describes the spirits as rushing to lap or breathe the blood poured out in sacrifice. When Odysseus entered Hades and the blood was poured out, the shades that drank of it revived and spoke. The Zuni Indians of to-day reverence certain images or fetishes of the ancestral souls or spirits, which images they treat as their representatives of the dead. These are dipped into the blood that is offered in sacrifice. Whilst performing this rite they will say, “My father, this day thou shalt refresh thyself with blood; with blood shalt thou enlarge thy heart!” The Indians of Virginia used to put children to death for a certain class of spirits to suck the blood, as they said, from the left breast. The Mexicans, who would sacrifice 50,000 human beings in one year, held that human blood was the only efficacious offering, and the purest was the most acceptable. Hence the sacrifice of infants and virgins. Offering the blood of the innocent to save the guilty, or those who feared for themselves, would lead to a doctrine of substitution and vicarious atonement which culminated as Christian in the frightful formula, “Without blood there is no remission of sin!” Not merely human blood this time, but the ichor of a divine being who was made flesh on purpose to pour out the blood for the divine vengeance to lap in the person of a gory ghost of God. “My father! This day shalt thou refresh thyself with blood!” That doctrine is but an awful shadow of the past—the shadow, as it were, of our earth in a far-off past that remains to eclipse the light of heaven in the present and darkens the souls of men to-day through this survival of savage spiritualism direfully perverted. The blood first offered as life for the dead was not given for the remission of sin.
The Peruvians spread the funeral feast, “expecting the soul of the deceased” to come and eat and drink. The Bhils, among the hill tribes of India, offer “provision for the spirit.” The North American Indians paid annual visits to the place of the dead, and made a feast to feed the spirits of the departed. The Amazulu prepare the funeral meal and say, “There then is your food, all ye spirits of our tribe; summon one another. I am not going to say, ‘So-and-so, there is your food,’ for you are jealous. But thou, So-and-so, who art making this man ill, call the spirits: come all of you to eat this food.” (Callaway, Amazulu, 175.) There were economical reasons against carrying the worship back too far when worship consisted mainly in
making offerings. A Yao will excuse himself from giving even to his own grandfather. He gives to his father, and says, “O father! I do not know all your relatives. You know them all: invite them to feast with you.” (Duff Macdonald, Africana, vol. I, p. 68.) Thus he makes his offering once for all, and saves expenses.
The funeral custom is almost universal for the mortuary meal to be made to feed the spirits of the departed, and communion with the ancestral spirits was an object of the totemic Eucharist. The sacrifices offered to the dead, the burial rites and funerary ceremonies, generally imply the existence of a living consciousness to which the piteous appeal was made. The fact becomes visible in the mysteries of Amenta. And one of the greatest acts of sacrifice for the dead is shown in the funeral feast. In their funeral ceremonies the Yucatanese fasted for the sake of the dead. Now fasting for the sake of the dead in the most primitive sense was going without food that it might be given to the ghosts or spirit ancestors. The living fasted that the Manes might be fed. And herein lies the true rationale of the funeral fast. This was no doubt the motive for the Haker-festival of the Egyptians, when the provisions were laid upon the altar as an offering to Osiris in his coffin. The word Haker denotes both a festival and a fast; it also signifies starving, and starving with the view of giving the food thus saved to the spirits of the dead would be a really religious sacrifice. This festival that was celebrated by starving or fasting on behalf of the dead comes to its culmination in the season of Lent as a fast of forty days. In this originally the food of the living would be given as a sacrificial offering to the dead, or the ancestral spirits, or to the god who gave his life in food for men and animals. Here the Egyptian Lent or season of fasting for forty days is in the true position, as it followed and did not precede the death of Osiris. To have any real meaning, the fast which was ordained as a sacrifice of food for the dead was naturally celebrated after and not before the death, to constitute a funeral offering and “to make that spirit live.” Going without the food and giving it as a sacrificial offering to the dead assuredly affords the proper explanation of the funeral festival that was celebrated as a solemn fast which finally passed into the Christian Eucharist. The offering of blood to the dead is explained on the ground that the blood is the life; and the more blood shed, the more the life offered, the more precious the sacrifice. Further, the Tahitians thought the gods fed on the spirits of the dead, and therefore frequent sacrifices of human beings were made to supply them with spiritual diet. Blood, the liquid of life, was drink; spirit, the breath of life, was food. This should be compared with the Egyptian legend of Unas, who is fed on the spirits of gods. Also with the account of Horus-Sahu, the wild hunter, of whom it is said that he ate the great gods for his breakfast, the lesser ones for his dinner at noon, and the small ones for his evening meal. The doctrine is identical with that of the Tahitians. Prayers for the dead are continued when the offerings of food have ceased. The fasting survives when the practice has become a meaningless farce. The oblation of blood is still a religious rite. For flagellation that causes the blood to flow is closely akin to the self-gashings, lacerations, amputations, and immo-
lations of primitive mourners who made their personal sacrifice in this way at the grave. Also blood and spirit as an offering to the dead are still represented by the sacramental wine and bread.
Here it may be remarked that when modern ritualists swing their censers heavenwards and fill the church with clouds of incense, the rite, so far as it has any fundamental significance, is an act in the worship of the ancestral spirits. Breath, like blood, is an element of life, and this was represented by the smoke of the fire-offering and by fragrance-breathing incense in the primitive ritual of Inner Africa, that was continued in ancient Egypt and afterwards in Rome. A breath of life is offered in the ascending fumes to give the spirits life, because the breath was once considered to be the soul of life. This was one of the elemental souls. Incense, truly typical and properly compounded in the Christian ritual, ought to include the seven elements in one soul of breathing life as an offering to the spirits of the dead, because the elemental souls were seven in number, and because the seven souls contributed to the making of the one eternal spirit. It has been said that savages believe their weapons to have souls in common with themselves, and therefore when they bury their dead they not only bury their weapons, they also break them, to set free the souls of the weapons to accompany the spirits of the warriors. The supposed reason is purely gratuitous and ignorantly European. The interpreters know nothing of the ancient Sign-language as it was enacted in such typical customs as these. The breaking of the weapons or other things when offered to the dead is done as a sign of sacrifice. The object of the offering is sacrifice, and no sacrifice could be too great, no property too precious, as an offering to the spirits of the dead. When Mtesa, King of Uganda, died, over £10,000 worth of cloth was buried with him as a sacrificial offering (Lionel Décle, Three Years in Savage Africa, p. 446, note).
Herbert Spencer could find no origin for the idea of an after-life save the conclusion which the savage draws from the notion suggested by dreams (Spencer, Facts and Comments, p. 210). But whatsoever dreams the savage had, they would become familiar in the course of time. He would learn that dreams had no power to externalize themselves in apparitions, had there been no ghosts or doubles of the dead. He would also learn readily enough, and the lesson would be perpetually repeated, that howsoever great his success when hunting in his dreams of the night, there was no game caught when he woke next morning. Clearly no reliance could be placed on dreams for establishing the ghost, any more than on the result of other dreams. Moreover, the same savage that is assumed to have panned out on dreams for a false belief also reports that he sees the spirits of the dead by abnormal vision and has the means of communicating with them. But all the credulity of all the savages that ever existed cannot compete or be compared with the credulity involved in this belief or assumption that the ghost itself, together with the customs, the ceremonies, the religious rites of evocation and propitiation, the priceless offerings, the countless testimonies to the veritability of abnormal vision, the universal practices for inducing that vision for the purpose of communicating with spiritual intelligences, had no other than a
subjective basis, and a false belief that the dream-shadow was the sole reality. Now, can one conceive anything more fatal to the claims made on behalf of evolution as a mode of nature’s teaching than this assumption that man has universally been the victim of an illusion derived from a baseless delusion? If primitive men were the victims of a delusion which has been continued for thousands of years in defiance of all experience and observation, what guidance or trust could there be in evolution; or how are we to distinguish between the false product and the true if man dreamed the ghost into being when there was no ghost, if he has been so far the victim of his own Frankenstein as to found the whole body of his religious beliefs and customs on that which never existed? Primitive man was not a hundredth part so likely to be the victim of hallucination or diseased subjectivity as the modern. External Nature is not hallucinative; it is the scene of continuous education in primal or rudimentary and constantly recurring realities. His elemental spirits or forces were real, and not the result of hallucination; why not his ancestral spirits? Primitive or archaic man was not metaphysician enough to play the fool with facts in this way, to say nothing of his manufacturing facts from the phantasies and vanishing stomachic vapours from which dreams are continually made. A dreamer by night who became the condenser of his dreams by day, and then manufactured the ghost that no one ever saw or handled or heard or “smelt out,” which ghost had no existence in verifiable reality, and yet had the power to haunt mankind inside of them for ever after! The aborigines knew better, whereas the agnostics do not know.
It is not the people that see visions who are the visionaries. The true visionaries are the subjective-minded metaphysicians, who do not know a dream of the night from a vision of the day, and who can most easily blend the object and subject in one. The Kurnai distinguish betwixt the imagery of dreams and the spirits seen by open vision. They say that whereas anyone may be able to communicate with “ghosts” during sleep, it is only the spirit mediums or wizards who can do so in waking hours. (Howitt.) A priest of the Fijian god Ndengei, describing his passing into the state of trance, said, “My own mind departs from me, and then, when it is truly gone, my god speaks through me” (Williams, Fiji, p. 228). Unless a profound fanatic, a modern medium would not call the spirit that controlled him God, but the spirit of a person that had once been human and now was one of the ancestral spirits. There is nothing in all nature but the fact that will adequately account for the universal fear of the ghost. It is the fact alone that gives any rational explanation of the inarticulate faith. When once we admit the fact as operative reality the costly customs, the libations of life, the mysteries of belief, the propitiations of fear and proofs of affection, are all duly motived or amply explicated. Modern science has let loose a deluge of destruction that is fatal to the ignorant beliefs and the false faiths derived from misinterpreted mythology, but it will not efface one single fact nor uproot a single reality in nature. Gods and goddesses may defeature and dislimn, to pass away as fading phantoms of the nature powers, but the human ghost remains, and remains to-day as ever, or more than ever, to the civilized as well as to the savage.
And if, as we maintain, these phenomena are a part of nature’s reality, the methods of science once applied to them can but verify the fact and establish its veridical character. There is no possible way of knowing the truth except by interrogation of the phenomena themselves, not merely in the physical domain, but also in the region of intelligence, where you meet with an operator who has to be taken into partnership. The spiritualistic phenomena also confute the assertion of Spinoza to the effect that personality has no foothold in the world outside ourselves, for these intelligences whom we call “spirits” are persons. They appear in the visible, audible, tangible, and palpable forms of personality. Not only as the persons who are called “the dead,” but also as phantoms of the living, eidōlons, recognizable feature by feature, of individuals who were not yet dead. The ghost of the living as a visible reality has been seen out of the body in this life, as Goethe saw his other self, which tends to double the evidence for the existence of the ghost of the dead. The English Society for Psychical Research has collected over a thousand cases of the phantasms of the living.
The “science of religion” with the ghost left out is altogether meaningless. The ghost offers the one unique objective proof of spiritual existence, and the doings and sayings of the ghost, whether it be apparent or concealed, still furnish the data of modern as of ancient spiritualism.
Religion proper commences with and must include the idea of or desire for another life. And the warrant for this is the ghost and the faculties of abnormal seership. It has been urged by some writers that religion began with the worship of death and the apotheosis of the corpse. But ancestor worship in all lands was a worship of the ancestral spirits, not a cultus of the corpse. The spirits were the ancestors; the ancestors were spirits. The awe excited by the dead is caused by the active ghost of the dead, not by the motionless corpse. The sacrifices offered to the dead are made to propitiate the living ghost of the dead, not the corpse. It was the fact that the ghost might return and did return and make itself apparent, with the power to manifest displeasure or revenge, that made the revenant so fearsome in the early stages of “ghost worship.” Dread of the ghost and the desire to placate so uncanny a visitant will account for propitiation of the ghosts.
The truth is that the Christian is the one and only religion in the world that was based upon the corpse instead of the resurrection in spirit. In no other religion is continuity in spirit made dependent on the resurrection of the earthly body. The Christians mistook the risen mummy in Amenta for the corpse that was buried on earth, whereas the Egyptian religion was founded on the rising again of the spirit from the corpse as it was imaged in the resurrection of Amsu-Horus transforming from the mummy-Osiris, and by the human soul emerging alive from the body of dead matter. There is no instance recorded in all the experiences of spiritualists ancient or modern of the corpse coming back from the tomb. And this religion founded on the risen corpse is naturally losing all hold of the world. It has failed because immortality or the continuity of personality could not be based upon a reappearing corpse. The so-called worship of ancestors
depended entirely on the ancestors being considering living, conscious, acting and recipient spirits, and not as corpses mouldering in the earth. This furnished the sole raison-d’être for all the sacrificial offerings, the life, the blood, the food, the choicest and costliest things that could be given to the dead. Those whom we call “the dead” were to them the veritable living in superhuman forms possessing superhuman powers. The Egyptian Amenta is the land of the ever-living. Sacrifices to the dead were not senselessly offered to the senseless corpse, but to the spirit personage that was its late inhabitant, still alive, and supposed to be needing material nourishment from the well-known elements of life. In an Australian funeral ceremony it was customary for the relatives of the deceased to cut themselves until the corpse and burial place were covered with their blood. This was done, they said, to give the dead man strength and enable him to rise in another country. (Brough Smyth, vol. II, p. 274.) By which they meant a survival of the living spirit, not a resurrection of the buried body. The corpse is not, and could not be, the starting point of worship when the sacrifice was eaten quiveringly alive, with the flesh warm and the blood welling forth from every wound. That is when there was no corpse, and neither was there any death. The life was taken and converted into other life, the life of the children, tribe, or clan, and was continued on that line. It was also continued on another line in the spirit life. Again we say there was no death in our modern acceptation of the term. The burial customs, rites, and ceremonies one and all, from the remotest times, were founded in the faith that the departed still lived on in spirit. In the earliest mode of interment known the dead were buried for rebirth. The corpse was bound up in the fœtal likeness of the embryo in utero, and placed in the earth as in the mother’s womb, the type being continued in the womb-shaped burial vase of the potters. This, however, did not denote a resurrection of the body, but was symbolical of rebirth in spirit. Not only were the dead elaborately prepared for the spiritual rebirth; many symbols of reproduction and emblems of the resurrection were likewise buried in the tomb as amulets and fetish figures of protecting power. The corpse and spirit are distinguished in the resurrection scenes of the Egyptian Ritual by the black shade laid out upon the ground and the ka-image of continued life. The corpse and spirit are shown together as the twofold entity when the Chinese, amongst others, kindle candles round the coffin, “to give light to the spirit which remains with the corpse” (Doolittle, Social Life of the Chinese, p. 126). One Egyptian picture shows the ba-soul nestling to the body on the funeral couch in an attitude of the tenderest solicitude, with its hands placed over the non-beating heart of the mummy (Maspero, pp. 198-199). The Australian Kurnai likewise hold that the ghost of the deceased comes back to take a look at its mortal remains. A native speaking of this to Howitt said, “Sometimes the Murup comes back and looks down into the grave, and it may say, “Hallo, there is my old ’possum rug, there are my old bones.” (Howitt, On some Australian Beliefs.) The Fijians practise one of the naïvest customs for preventing a deceased woman from manifesting as an apparition. In life her only garment was the liku or waist-