ANIMISM THE SEED OF RELIGION

BRAIN IN ANIMAL AND MAN

as preceding a religious stage in man's development, while many of them assume what are now known to be secondary stages as sole and primary.
All in vain, so far as approach to solution of the problem goes, because the writers have not travelled beyond the historic period, and have looked for consistency of ideas where only confusion was possible. " I believe," says Mr. Hopkins in his Religions of India, " that all interpretations of religion which start from the assumption that fetishism, animal-worship, nature-worship, or ancestor-worship was a primitive form from which all other forms were derived, are destined to be overthrown. The earliest beliefs were a jumble of ideas, and it was long before the elements of the different kinds of religions were discriminated."

2. The inquiry will take us along the continuous organic development, bringing into view the unbroken connection between animal and human psychology The descent of man and his fellow-mammals, as of all hving things below these, from a common ancestry, is demonstrated to the satisfaction of every competent authority. But in many minds there Ungers the old Adam of bias which would

II

limit that descent to man's bodily structure, and which refuses to admit that the mental differences between him and other animals are differences only of degree, and not of kind. This reluctance will vanish only when preconceived notions of the soul or spirit as a special human endowment are dispelled. And this will follow when knowledge of the fundamentally identical nature of the apparatus of the mind in man and brute is acquired.

Let us summarize the facts about that apparatus, with which alone we are here concerned.

For we know nothing of mind apart from matter, or of matter apart from mind; and how the passage is effected from the nerve cells to consciousness in animals and in man remains a mystery. But we know that advance in intelligence proceeds pari passu with increasing complexity of brain-structure. This is traceable along the whole series of animals. In the Invertebrates the brain is a mass of nerve ganglia near the head end of the body ("the brain of an ant is one of the most marvellous atoms of matter in the world, perhaps more so than the brain of a
man") ; in the lowest Vertebrate, the fish, it is

2. Darwin's Descent of Man, p. 64.

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very small compared with the spinal cord; in reptiles its mass increases, and in birds it is still more marked. In all the lower and smaller forms the surface of the brain is either smooth or evenly rounded, or exhibits a few grooves known as
"sulci," which separate the ridges or convolutions of the substance of the brain. "

But in the larger mammals these grooves become extremely numerous, and the intermediate convolutions proportionately more complicated, until in the elephant, the porpoise, the higher apes, and man, the cerebral surface appears a perfect labyrinth of tortuous foldings. . . . The surface of the brain of a monkey exhibits a sort of skeleton map of man's, and in the man-like apes the details become more and more filled in until it is only in minor characters that the chimpanzee's or the orang's brain can be structurally distinguished from man's.

3 It follows from this that if any part of the mental apparatus is injured or thrown out of gear, the result is the same in each case - functional upset or suspense. The dog and the horse behave as we behave, nor can this be otherwise,
because their sense-organs report, of course

3. Huxley's Man's Place in Nature, p. 90.

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with vast differences in result, to their central nervous systems, the messages which are transmitted by the vibrations of the ethereal medium and the air, and, within the limits of their consciousness, they are affected as we are affected, and their actions ruled accordingly. " If there is no ground for believing that a dog thinks, neither is there any for believing that he feels."

Therefore the doctrine of Evolution has no "favoured-nation clause" for man. It admits no break in the psychical chain which Hnks him to the lowest Ufe forms, be these plant or animal.
It finds no arrest of continuity between the bark of the dog and the orations of Demosthenes, or between the pulsations of an amoeba and the ecstasies of a saint. " Great is the mystery of heredity "; of the origin and transmission, through numberless generations, of tendencies traceable to remote prehuman ancestors, tendencies which, potent against fundamental changes, are a key to constant elements in human nature. Before such mystery, one among many, the stories of miracles wrought by gods and holy men, of which sacred books and traditions tell, are but travesties of hidden wonders. The verdict of modem psychology is that " the mind of

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the animal exhibits substantially the same phenomena which the human mind exhibits in its early stages in the child. This means that the animal has as good a right to recognition as a mindbearing creature, so to speak, as the child; and if we exclude him we should also exclude the child.

Further, this also means that the development of the mind in its early stages, and in certain of its directions of progress, is revealed most adequately in the animals."

4 Therefore, to study man apart is to misconceive him; it is to refuse to apply the only key to interpretation of the
story of his intellectual and spiritual history. There should be, nowadays, little need to labour this point. The artificial lines drawn between instinct in the animal and reason, as the prerogative of man, have vanished. As Darwin puts it in the Descent of Man:

It is a significant fact that the more the habits of any particular animal are studied by a naturalist, the more he attributes to reason, and the less to unlearned instincts." 5  And the various stages of the reasoning faculty pass into one another by imperceptible gradations. It is only within recent

• Prof. Baldwin's Story of the Mind, p. 35. « p. 75.

years that we have realized how complex are our mental faculites; what a vast number of sense conveyed
impressions pass unnoted by us to storage in our brains; impressions which explain abnormal workings attributed by spiritualists to external, even supernatural, agencies. We have yet to learn that mind is far wider than consciousness.

What is explicit in man is implicit in the animal. Putting the matter in his usual incisive way, Hobbes says that "the thoughts of man are every one a representation or appearance of some quality or other accident of a body without us which is commonly called an object.

The original of them all is that which we call Sense, for there is no conception in a man's mind which hath not at first totally or by part been begotten upon the organs of sense.

And the like applies to the animal. Every one who has kept a dog will agree with Hume that "beasts are endowed with thought and reason as well as man." We have the same warrant for this as in the case of our fellows; we cannot get inside the mind of either; but we infer from their actions that Uke mental processes go on within

• Leviathan, chap. 1, part 1.

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them. The animal remembers, storing-up sensations in definite areas of the brain; it learns from experience that certain results follow certain events; in a rough sort of way, it puts two and two together, and adapts means to ends. It distinguishes differences in things, seeking the one and avoiding the other, a faculty which is the product of experience, as shown in the stupidity of colts and puppies compared with the sagacity of horses and dogs. If, as there seems no reason to doubt, animals dream, then, as Huxley says: " It must be admitted that ideation goes on in them while they are asleep, and, in that case, there is no reason to doubt that they are conscious of trains of ideas in their waking state." 'They make approach to the highest mental operations in forming generic ideas of things. "

One of the most curious peculiarities of the dog mind is its inherent snobbishness, shown by the regard paid to external respectabiUty. The dog who barks furiously at a beggar will let a well-dressed man pass him without opposition. Has he not then a 'generic idea' of rags and dirt associated with the idea of aversion, and that of sleek broadcloth associated with the idea of liking ? " In

7 C ollected Essays, vol. vi. p. 124.

                                                                   17                                                                 B

this matter, so feeble is his conceptual faculty, the lowest savage of to-day is not on a much higher plane than the most intelligent animals. Upon the slow development of this faculty, Pfleiderer remarks in his Philosophy of Religion:

"If we require whole years to develop abstract ideas in the minds of our children, though they have the benefit of all their inheritance from the past, which thought for them, it must have needed centuries, and even millenniums, for primitive man to arrive at the same results. 8
Skirting, and never penetrating, the deep mysteries of consciousness, aU that may be said is that "the animals probably do not have a highly organized sense of Self as man does, and the reason doubtless is that such a Self-consciousness
is the outcome of life and experience in the very complex social relations in which the human child is brought up, and which he alone is fitted by his inherited gifts to sustain." 9 And these relations could never have become what they are
but for those structural changes in man which made articulate speech possible, and, with this, the transmission of ideas and experiences to which the art of writing secured permanence.
8 Vol. iii. p. 4.    9 Baldwin, p. 55.

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Animism - The Seed of Religion

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