LECTURE I. Primitive Beliefs and Rites. Natural Religion.THE history of the Japanese has been studied sufficiently for our purpose. Work enough remains to tax the resources of scholarship for years, but the outlines are clear before us. For we do not deal with an antiquity which is lost in the dimness of millenniums, but with a development from primitive times within the compass of fifteen hundred years at the longest, and for twelve hundred years we have written records. For the beginning is well down in the Christian centuries, when the Japanese were "primitive," a word used not of absolute beginnings but only of "the earliest of a given race or tribe" of which we have "trusty information.". "It has reference to a state of culture rather than to time," so that primitive men may be our contemporaries. "They are far from being the earliest men or resembling them. Hundreds of generations have toiled to produce even their low estate of culture.". Whence the Japanese came we do not certainly know, nor when they reached their land, nor what strains of blood have mingled to produce them. All their migrations had passed from memory long before the times when they had reached the state of culture which is the earliest scholarship as yet reveals. But even in this earliest stage it is possible to detect, as we should expect, foreign elements, the result of contacts long forgotten with other peoples.
In the third or fourth century of our era, then, we may imagine ourselves in the land which in the future was to be called Japan. Excepting the natural features of the landscape, there was little which we should recognise. There were neither cities, nor temples, nor art. The people lived in huts, collected in tiny hamlets for the most part by the banks of rivers and on the sea-coast Only the centre of the main island, with portions of the west and south-west, had been subdued, the remainder being still in the possession of the aborigines, with whom was carried on constant warfare. Around the villages were the signs of rude agriculture with rice as the principal crop, hunting and fishing being the chief occupations. Commerce was unknown, and money unmentioned; iron instruments were in use, and clothing was varied and ornamented.. The community was just emerging from the condition named by sociologists the "horde," and the most important combinations were through community of warfare or of occupation. For the family was only partially organised. Marriage was neither by capture nor by purchase, nor was the consent of the parents regarded as necessary. It was simply the open acknowledgment of a relationship already secretly existing, nor for ages was the distinction between marriage and concubinage made definite. A husband might have such wives as he pleased, with families in different places, as sailors have been known to have their establishments in various ports. Thus in an early legend the goddess says to her husband: Thou, my dear Master of the Great Land, indeed, being a man, probably hast on the various island headlands that thou seest, and on every beach headland that thou lookest on, a wife like the young herbs. But as for me, alas! I have no man except thee!. In such a society family lines were not closely regarded, so that marriage with half-sisters, sometimes even with full sisters in the divine age, were common and regarded as proper, and a man might marry his aunt or his niece.. The matriarchal state of society was just passing away, and among the legends are stories showing why the man should have the precedence, and indicating clearly the knowledge of a different condition of things. Thus on the memorable occasion when the two deities who begat the islands of the Empire went a-courting, the goddess Izanami spoke first, and the result was disaster. So the courtship was begun anew and when the two met again the second time, Izanagi, the god, spoke first and all was well. The legendary history recounts the high position of woman long after, for the great deity of the heavens, the Sun, is a goddess and she invested her descendants with the government of Japan, and later, the Empress Jingo holds high place in the story. Indeed the succession to the throne was far from orderly down to the time of the writing of our sources. Preferably the elder son succeeded, but often the younger supplanted him, and occasionally neither cared for the dignity.. Sisters, too, were eligible, and nephews, and struggles for the throne indicate that the still more remote claimants were not unknown.. For the family had not attained consistency and without a name its self-consciousness was not clearly established.
As was the family so was the state, it had neither unity nor self-consciousness. Tribe fought against tribe and group against group, and individual against individual, the law of the stronger and the more ambitious prevailing. The rule of none was thoroughly established, and there are traces of conferences where matters of importance were discussed.. Certain families or groups, formed by kindred interests and occupations, were more or less in control, and the people were in subjection. The common man could call nothing his own, and servants were sometimes entombed with their dead masters.. At a far later period the complaint was heard that there were men in every village and district who acknowledged no authority but their own and who resisted all centralised power.. Names derived from occupations and offices and of a quasi-patriarchal character were applied to various groups or ranks. For, as we have noticed, in the development of the society from the horde, other combinations precede the family, combinations which correspond roughly to the guilds and societies of civilised men..
The ethical standards were of course primitive and ill-defined. As the lines of the organism were far from rigid, the conscience could not well distinguish between mine and thine, nor, without long-established usage, were the rules of propriety rigid. In speech there was a naïveté which in more sophisticated times would be "shocking obscenity," and in like manner much went without notice or rebuke which in developed communities would be considered abhorrently criminal.. Long after, when Chinese notions were introduced, crimes are enumerated which belong to the most savage communities.. Punishments were arbitrary and cruel, for justice was not yet born, and retribution was wrath excited by personal offences. But we cannot dwell on this subject, for our purpose is not to describe ancient Japan excepting in so far as is necessary to determine its social status.
Knowledge was correspondingly rude. Only the immediate vicinity was known, the little circle of earth with the blue plain of Heaven above and Hades not far beneath. The distances were small, as Heaven had been reached by an arrow which, shot from the earth, made a hole in its bottom, and objects which fell from it are still found upon the earth. In the Divine Age the two were connected by a bridge which, alas! has fallen down, and any one may see its fragments still in the province of Tango, and measure their length. The way to Hades could be pointed out, though the entrance was blocked by a mighty rock, for the three form a part of the same world, all alike natural, or supernatural, as you please. Heaven is like the earth, and the gods, like men, gather in the dry beds of the river for consultation; and Hades, though here the legends are conflicting, may also appear like the earth, with cottages and palaces, and meadows and rivers. Nor is the sea itself essentially different, for in its depths, too, are plains and fields and pleasant abodes, if one only could find, as happy individuals have found, the means of access.
Nor within these narrow limits are there fixed categories. As Heaven, earth, Hades, and the world beneath the sea are all of a kind, and one may abide indifferently in any, so is there no real difference in their inhabitants, but gods, men, and demons differ not at all; thus the ruler of Heaven is not different in virtue nor in nature from the great deity of Hades. In neither is there permanence, but just as on earth the rulersbip fluctuates, so is it above and beneath, the stories, like the earthly relationships, being vague, uncertain, and contradictory. Indeed, anything might be anything else as well as itself. Fishes, beasts, birds, and serpents acted and spake as men. Nothing was unnatural, for nothing was natural. A god picked up a woman, stuck her in his hair, where she became his comb, and then, taking her out again, she resumed her natural form, without any question being raised as to her self-consciousness during the metamorphosis.. Crocodiles or sea monsters became women,, and men became birds, a rock fled before a man, the sun was at once the orb of day and a goddess who could be enticed from retiracy by an appeal to her vanity, while the moon and the storm were beings who acted like men. It was a fairy world taken as matter of fact, with all distinctions between the possible and the impossible wanting.
Even the distinction between mind and matter was unobserved, as we have noticed in the instances given. Man was kin to all things in feelings, powers, and substance, if we may be permitted so abstract a word. He recognised no differences in himself, and he was not bipartite. When he died, he simply disappeared, or, if he went to Hades, it was bodily and in as understandable a fashion as a trip to any remote shore. When Izanami-no-Mikami died, after giving birth to fire, she went to Hades, whither her husband followed her, he living, she dead. Finding her, against her earnest protest he looks upon her and sees her to be a mass of corruption, but still conscious and capable of anger and vengeance. For she orders the ugly female of Hades to pursue him; but fleeing, he casts down his head-dress, which turns to grapes, which tempt her and she stops to eat. As she again pursues, he throws down his comb, which turns into bamboo shoots, and she stops again to pull and eat them. Then the wife sends forth thunder-gods, which she had begotten in her filth; but he threatens them with his sword and defeats them by pelting them with peaches. Finally Izanami arouses herself and comes after him, catching him just as he passes the Even Pass of Hades, which he blocks with a great rock. When over it, safe from farther pursuit, he divorces her, and after mutual challenges they separate, he to purify himself and she to become the great deity of Hades..
But Hades is not always this place of terror, for it has its pleasant abodes and peaceful plains.. Nor do all who die go thither, but some seem simply to disappear, men and deities alike. Man is accustomed to seeing familiar objects disappear, and it is only something extraordinary which provokes the query, What has become of it? So is it with deities and men; they may depart, and no curiosity be aroused, save when some marvel arouses the imagination. However, the funeral rites indicate a belief in a continued existence after death for some at least, and the offerings show a purpose to provide for wants as material as those of earth. Evidently there was a vague belief that the dead were in a measure dependent on the living, and that, if neglected, the living might suffer from their vengeance.
Akin to his powers of observation are primitive man's powers of reasoning. The faculty is there, but untrained, like the child's. As his undiscriminating observations of the world around him are the beginnings of descriptive science, so are his questionings the beginnings of philosophy. Whence come all things, the seas, the plains, the hills, the fertile soil, the sun, the moon, the stars, the winds, the thunder, and the myriads of beings by which we are surrounded - whence and what are they? To these queries the answers are on the surface, for man ever explains the unknown by the known. As things around us swarm and sprout and are begotten, so came all things into existence. Thus, when once the earth was like floating oil, something sprouted from which came the first deities, Umashi-ashi-kabi-hiko-jino-kami and Ame-no-toko-tachi-no-kami.. Or as flies swarm in filth, so did gods appear from the filth which Izanagi washed from his face and body when he came from Hades, and from the blood which dripped from his sword when he slew his son, through whose birth his wife died.. And thus maggots and thunder-gods were born alike in the corruption of Izanami's decaying body. As lowly forms of life continue and multiply by division, so may gods be formed. Or, once more, as men and animals beget their offspring, so are the islands and deities begotten.. The method of creation does not effect the rank or kind of the creature. Thus the islands of the Empire are begotten by their divine parents, but the Sun-goddess, who is mightiest of the host of Heaven, and the ancestress of the Imperial line, and the founder of the Empire, was washed from the filth which filled Izanagi's right eye when he fled from Hades. So was the moon born from the left eye, and the mischievous deity, Take-haya-susa-no-o-Mikoto, from the nose.
With these questions as to the beginnings of gods and things are joined other queries: Why, for example, are the offspring of the Imperial line so short-lived? Because, once upon a time, a deity, who was also an emperor, met and loved a beautiful maiden, Blossomingbrilliantly-like-the-flowers-of-the-trees by name, whom he wished to marry. But her father consented only on condition that he should take likewise her sister, Princess-enduring-as-the-rocks; but though the emperor agreed, he could not abide the ill looks of Princess-en- during-as-the-rocks, and so his offspring are all as fragile as the flowers.. The phenomena of nature - storm and earthquake, mountains and seas - suggest questions and find ready answers. But nothing is so prolific in arousing curiosity as words and names. Why is the place called Suga? Because when the god Susa-no-ono-Mikoto was seeking rest, he came hither and cried "Sugasugashi" (I am refreshed), and therefore the name of that place is called Suga until this day.. Or again, in still more trivial fashion, why has the Beche-de-Mer so strange a mouth?. The ancient books contain scores of these instances, proving that it is the strange or unusual or marvellous which excites primitive man's curiosity, and leads to the question Why?, and that any answer to the question will suffice. Quick to question, he is quickly satisfied, and shows no desire to pursue the inquiry. Best of all is it if a question can be answered with a story, and thus mythology grows up, the wonders we see explained by wonders. Such mythology springs not from a single root; it is not formed solely from a desire to explain the processes of nature, giving nature myths, nor from a misunderstanding of names and words, nor from any single source, for it is offspring of the restless curiosity of man and his ready contentment with a tale of the wonderful. Thus all theories fail, save this only that mythology is the primitive manifestation of man's inquisitive response to the world around, the beginning of the knowledge which shall ultimately become his philosophy and science.
With all this are dimly remembered tales of the past and snatches of verse, war cries and love songs. Dead heroes gather to themselves varied stories of brave men and of great deeds, the legends growing more and more wonderful in the repetition, until perhaps they mingle with the nature myths and none can separate thenceforth the diverse elements. Such is the story of Yamato-dake, conqueror of the East. A younger son, he begins his career by murdering his elder brother, and then, sent by his father who was alarmed by his ferocity and who desired to be rid of him, he slays two mighty men by a stratagem, and afterwards a third. His father bestows on him a commission to subdue the East, and he starts forth aided by potent charms bestowed by his aunt and accompanied by his wife, who quiets the stormy sea by casting herself overboard, an offering to the angry sea-god. At last, his purpose accomplished, after many adventures he returns, but stricken with a fatal disease he dies and is transformed into a white bird, which receives divine honours. Or again, the Empress Jingo conquers Korea, and different accounts ascribe her victory to her own prowess, or to the might of her unborn son whom she carries in her womb till the conquest is completed. In after years the son becomes the God of War, and continues such to this day with temples innumerable in his honour. Thus history begins, strange stories of the dim past, mingled with nature myths, originating none knows whence nor how, and aimlessly repeated and amplified, - aimlessly save that primitive man, like his enlightened descendants, delighted in good stories. Nor is the tale worse liked if it contain an element of horror, as children make the flesh creep with ghostly stories in the dark. In a world which as yet knew no distinction between man and beast, or man and God, where matter and spirit were not separate categories, how should one distinguish between history and romance? Indeed who cared for prosaic matter of fact, or why should it be remembered? As the marvellous in nature excites curiosity, so the marvellous in men's deeds is remembered and recounted, and all the rest sinks speedily into an undistinguished and forgotten past. Only with the stories are the beginnings too of poetry, the simple songs of love and war which are readily remembered.
But in all this where pray do we find religion? The beginnings of history and of romance, of poetry, of science, of philosophy, all these we have discussed, but, save in certain titles used, there has been no hint of theology or religion. Indeed if by theology we mean definite doctrine there is none of it. There is nothing of a creator, not the faintest trace of monotheism, and surely nothing of its opposite pantheism, nor any mention of a future state of rewards and punishments, nor the thought of sin or of redemption, nor so much as the notion of a soul. More remarkable still, there is the absence of myths common to the greater portion of the race - of a deluge, of the soul going into the West, of the stately drama of the heavens which is fresh every morning and new every evening, though it is true one is reminded of other mythologies on every page. But as these greater themes of mythology are wanting, so are the greater themes of religious literature, for there is no wrestling with the problem of evil, and no consciousness of sin, and no felt need of redemption. There is as yet no ancestor worship, notwithstanding the assertions of certain writers upon the primitive religion of the Japanese. How indeed could there be any ancestor worship when the family was only in the forming and when family names were unknown? We need not add that there was no priest and only the beginning of priestcraft in a knowledge of the magic arts which control nature, and this again, as the beginning not of religion but of practical science. Manifestly the religion, as all else at the beginning, is primitive and our categories may be interchanged and all be religion or religion be not at all; and yet we may not miss the object of our search, for all which we have reviewed may be placed under our category.
The term "god" meets us everywhere, in almost every name and title. The men are as divine as are the heavenly rulers, and the powers of nature are as human as the men, for, to repeat, here are none of the ordinary distinctions. Thus, too, we may take the term "kami," god, for illustration, as defined by the greatest Japanese writer on Shinto. He writes, it is true, in the nineteenth century, twelve hundred years after the composition of our sources, and is engaged in the impossible task of turning history back upon itself. But with all allowances for an apologetic writer, born a thousand years too late, we may accept his definition as fairly summing up the case. "The word 'kami' is applied to all the kami of heaven and earth who are mentioned in the ancient records, as well as to their spirits which reside in the temples where they are worshipped." In passing we may note that this distinction between the kami and their spirits is not found in our sources for the earliest period, save in one doubtful instance, and that it is the outcome of later reflection. In primitive Japan, the distinction, as we have seen, was not found. But to resume the quotation:
"Further, not only human beings, but also birds, beasts, plants and trees, seas and mountains, and all other things whatsoever which possess powers of an extraordinary and eminent character, or deserve to be revered and worshipped and dreaded, are called kami. Eminent does not mean solely worthy of honour, good, or distinguished by great deeds, but is applied also to the kami who are to be dreaded on account of their evil character or miraculous nature. Among human beings who are at the same time kami are the successive Mikados, who in ancient poetry are called distant gods on account of their being far removed from ordinary men, as well as many other men, some who are revered by the whole empire, and those whose sphere is limited to a single province, department, village, or family. The kami of the Divine Age were mostly human beings . yet resembled kami, and that is why we give that name to the period in which they existed. Besides human beings, the thunder is called 'sounding god.' The dragons, goblins, and the fox are also kami, for they are eminently miraculous and dreadful creatures."While further our author goes on to say that the same title was applied to the wolf, the tiger, to peaches, jewels, rocks, stamps, trees, and leaves of plants.
"It was not a spirit which was meant, but the term was used directly of the particular sea or mountain; of the sea on account of its depth and the difficulty of crossing it, of the mountain because of its loftiness.".
How far is "kami" from the meaning we ascribe to God, and how little does that which was attributed to Him belong to it! "Kami" is simply that which is above us, so that the word may even now be applied to the Government and to all superior objects which excite the feelings of awe and reverence. No matter what it is nor why these feelings arise within us, if only man bows before it and regards it as high above him, it is kami. A Japanese verse, written long after these primitive times, contains the essence of early religion:
"Not knowing what it is Grateful tears he weeps."It is apparent why all in these sources is religious. They record only the marvellous in nature and in man, in fact and in legend, and all call forth the same emotion, and all are connected with the same sacred tie. As in science we look with respect upon man's first questionings, so here with these simple folks we find the beginnings of religion which, by and by, shall rear splendid temples, organise great priesthoods, and search after the infinite and the eternal if, happily, it may be found.
The objects of worship, then, in the beginning, are the marvels of nature, its processes, its powers, its fertility, its ways of reproduction, its awe-inspiring mountains and seas and heavenly bodies and sky, the trees, beasts, birds, great fishes, reptiles, and the reproductive powers of man, all alike mysterious, wonderful, connected with our weal or woe, divine. Much later are added heroes and kings. Thus man worships no ghostly world, but the nature of which he is a part. Of this he speaks and sings, and to it he offers gifts. When he begins to formulate his thought and to commit it to writing, it is still the centre of his religion, consciously and formally. He needs no idol, for his gods are before and with him. Or if some god withdraw his presence, then he may have a memento, like the mirror, which is symbol of the Sungoddess, and which he worships "as if it were herself."The record of the early gods gives overwhelming testimony to the nature of the worship, for they represent nature, with scarcely a human being among them all, and thus we can sum it up in the statement that all that is wonderful is God, and the divine embraces in its category all that impresses the untrained imagination and excites it to reverence or fear.
But fear is secondary. Man is in sympathy with the divine world, and rejoices in the emotions it calls forth. The gods are not opposed to him, and he finds joy in their presence and seeks it. For the religious emotions are at once desirable and ennobling. Thus civilised man gazes upon the sublime in nature, art, and character, and counts labour and cost not too great that he may stand in its presence, taking infinite pains in music, art, and architecture, that he may arouse these great emotions. So, as Homer says, does primitive man "yearn after the gods," nor does the fact that some gods are terrible change this yearning into its opposite, for, after all, the evil powers are exceptional, and, besides, man longs for the mystery of danger.
Manifestly there are yet no moral distinctions. As gods constitute the wonderful in nature, ethical discernment does not apply to them. Does not nature bring forth tigers and venomous serpents? Do not earthquakes and storms come equally with sunshine and quietness and fertility? Are not good men and bad born into the world, and have we not to deal with them all alike? How, then, should it be different with the gods? Even when the incipient social organisation brings with it the knowledge of good and evil, these categories are not applied to the gods, for the "superior," the "marvellous," the "awe-inspiring," are far above our common analogies, and are not subject to our judgments. The thought that God is holy, just, and good, belongs to the far future, and as yet religion exists in its innocence, embracing all alike. Nor need there be wisdom, for gods like Susa-no-o-noMikoto may be foolish as well as mischievous, and dragons are deceived by the simplest stratagems.. It is not even required that the deities possess intelligence, but they may be seas and hills, and they may be devoid of beauty, for the hideous, too, excites awe. Nor is it essential that they give material aid, for many of the deities are not addressed in prayer at all. It is only at this stage that they so impress man's feelings that he wonders and adores.
He chiefly adores power, for this appeals to all and to its claims all answer, not daring nor seeking to escape. As men even in our age are hero-worshippers, and all, except the tiny minority, accept force as the final tribunal from which there is no appeal, as in the presence of the overwhelming forces of nature we are silent, feeling our insignificance, so with primitive man. The superiority which he recognises in his gods is of strength, as legend and myth and worship bear witness. The stupendous deeds of Yamato and of Jimmu; the power of Izanagi and Izanami, who form the liquid brine into the solid earth; the conquests of Jingo, achieved by the miraculous babe she carries, are the tales he loves, and the thunder, mountains, seas, and sun are the objects before which he bows. For man does not worship "mere nature," but a magic nature, filled with power and doing wonders. The veriest fetish is instinct with it, and when it disappears man no longer worships rock, or stick, or tree, or sky, for that which is thus "mere" object is less than man, and in the nature of things he bows only to that which is above him. Hence, the proof of the divinity is its power, and if this fail, as fail it may, the wor ship is transferred to that which is truly godlike. Is it impossible that this primitive worship so long survived in Japan because the mountains smoked and burst forth with fury, and the earth, stirring with life, quaked and trembled? Or is it without significance that still the objects of the peasants' worship are volcanoes, yet living or extinct only within historic times?.
We may dwell upon this feeling of sacred reverence because we are sometimes told that religion comes from fear, or at least from the sense of dependence. But, intimately as these are associated with religion, and often as they seem to constitute it, yet they do not form its primary element. Even though man neither feared nor begged, yet would he adore, and perfect religion casts out fear, while heightening adoration and completing love. To the object of his adoration man surrenders himself, sometimes with complete self-sacrifice, and glories in his absorption in its being.
But undeniably closely connected with adoration is dependence, and the two may well combine in the same object. For, as man adores power, so does he turn to power for aid. Nor need the two be separate, for in a single act he may worship and stretch out his hand in supplication. To pray is instinctive in times of peril and of need, for how else should man act when realising his helplessness? Thus we have the beginnings of formal worship in adoration and dependence. When once we have felt the impress of marvellous power, we return for renewed experience, and the place becomes holy ground; and as we have escaped peril, we repeat our prayers when danger comes. We relate, too, our story to our fellows, and would share with them the experience of worship and salvation. Primitive religion is not solitary, but social, and in our sources there is only a trace of religious retiracy. The community is present, acting, watching, speaking as a whole or in its representatives.
Prayers affect our hearts and the gods by their solemnity. Words are high in the list of wonders and mysterious phrases repeated slowly acquire a sacred power. Nor is it necessary that they be understood, for in their unintelligibility is their wonder. Especially is this true in a language like the Japanese, where brevity is synonymous with discourtesy, and the length of word and phrase increases with the rank of the person addressed. Hence arise rituals, through repetition and remoteness from the customary speech.. Even to civilised men, the most common word becomes strange and unmeaning if often repeated, and to the unintelligent the great names of the gods produce the effect of wonder akin to that aroused by the dimness of caverns and the shadows of great hills.
But the real substance of primitive prayers is as simple as their form is mysterious. It is for goods, for happiness, for escape from evil, for deliverance from danger. Primitive man's prayers are like his gods - purely natural. Not yet does he seek wisdom, or purity, or holiness, nor even a happy entrance into bliss beyond the grave. The present, with its dangers and its goods, occupies his thoughts, leaving room for nothing else.
With simple prayers are childlike offerings, the fruits of the field, the spoils of the chase, the leaves of trees, the works of one's hands, pieces of cloth, intoxicating liquors, or, in greater stress of danger, the most cherished possessions, the horse, the sword, the wife. Thus, when the seas threatened Yamato-dake, his wife cast herself into the waves, and there was a great calm. What one offers to his chief he offers to the gods, nor does he question what becomes of his gifts, and they are made even to trees and hills..
So, too, what pleases man pleases the gods. Thus when the great Sun-goddess, Ame-terasu-no-Mikoto, hid herself in a cave and left the world in darkness, Ame-no-uzumi-no-Mikoto danced licentiously before its entrance until the assembled gods roared with laughter, and the jealous goddess looked forth and the world was bright again..
Allied to prayers and gifts and dances are charms, the early attempt at the control of nature - man's first essays in practical science. Mystery is controllable by mystery. Man does not understand why nor how good luck and evil come to him, and he jumps at possible explanations and possible means of protection. Charms the world over have a remarkable similarity. Coincidence, strangeness of appearance, and suggestive association in name or idea produce them. Japan has nothing peculiar or strange to offer, its magic and charms in their analogies proving little of actual contact with other peoples, but much of the unity of man's mind. Jewels make tides ebb and flow and hold the power of life and death; swords work miracles; to proceed face to the sun, or, in a variant, with back to it, brings evil; strange birds are good omens, and curses are efficient causes..
Sympathetic magic, also, is used in many instances. The mental attitude is illustrated by the story of the younger prince who lost the fish-hook of his elder brother. The latter would not be placated, nor would he accept a multitude of others in its stead. By the help of the Sea-god the hook is recovered, but its efficiency is destroyed by a formula and a charm. Then the Sea-god says: "When your brother uses the hook, say, 'A big hook, an eager hook, a poor hook, a silly hook,' spit three times, and raise the wind - now the wind is raised by whistling.".
First of religious rites, and by far the most important, is purification by water. When Izanagi-noMikoto returns from his visit to Hades, he exclaims, "Hideous! I have come to a hideous and a polluted land!" and he washes himself with repeated washings, seeking different parts of the stream that he may find pure water, and finally using successively the bottom, the middle, and the surface of the ocean. As he washes, the deities are born from his person, the sun, the moon, and the god which, by the best conjecture, is the rain-storm.. Thus, in ordinary life, too, there is purification, the young mother being unclean, and obliged to remain apart and invisible,. while the dead body so defiles that, after the demise of the ruler, the village is destroyed and a new place found for the living. What is this but the instinctive shrinking from objects which defile, and the consequent consciousness that one is unclean and unworthy of companionship? As the feeling of a mysterious presence calls forth adoration with its acts of praise and worship, so does this consciousness of uncommon and repulsive filthiness cause a shrinking, whence come the ceremonials of purification. In the beginning, it is not moral or spiritual but bodily filth which defiles, and religious holiness is of the flesh and not of the spirit. In more developed nature religions this ceremonial defilement, which is the origin of tabu, is carried into great complexities, but in primitive Japan this too is in its beginnings.
The word from the gods, revelation, is also primitive, without trace of a common revelation, neither flood, nor garden of Eden, nor fall of man, nor hell, nor heaven. More remarkable still, there is no expectation of a coming deliverer, nor dream of a golden age of promise. Revelation comes through dreams, which are as real as our waking experiences and even as material. For a sword in one instance comes in a dream and remains on earth.. So, too, important matters may be decided by dreams, even the succession to the throne, while gods appear to sleepers and reveal information of the most mundane nature. Besides the dreams, there are also other inspirations, especially of girls, who are taken by the divinities as means for their expression; and not only human beings but animals, reptiles, and birds are the medium of divine communications.. Besides this, is divination to which the gods themselves appeal for help in their perplexities. Thus when Izanagi and Izanami are disappointed in their offspring, they refer the matter to the supreme heavenly deities who by divination by a deer's shoulder discovered that it was because the goddess spoke first upon meeting with her husband..
These phenomena, world-wide and persistent, which in our modern days are variously explained - second sight, crystal reading, the revelations of our sleeping hours, subconscious activities breaking through into the field of attention, the mysteries of sleep-walking, of complex personality, and of induced hypnotism, - show their presence unmistakably. But neither in Japan nor elsewhere are they the sources or the stay of religion. They readily attach themselves to it and heighten certain of its features. Sometimes indeed they are thrust for the time into prominence, as if they constituted the substance of it, but only for the time or, if they continue, religion becomes superstitious and debased.
The substance of revelation is practical, and the myths are not set forth nor narrated by the gods. The ancient books claim for themselves no supernatural authority, as indeed how could they, since the distinction between supernatural and natural was not yet. The myths are the beginnings of science and of religion: of science, because they are man's first questions as to the origin of things and their causes; of religion, because this is the realm of mystery and of wonder. Hence, the causes are divine, of man, and life, and nature. Farther man cannot go, and he peers into the past as into the mouth of some deep cavern whence issues the vast stream of unexplored existence. Whence does it all come? From the gods; and the gods are the strange, the mysterious, the adorable.
When finally we attempt to reproduce primitive man's religious consciousness as represented in the story of the ancient Japanese, we must appeal to ordinary experience. They are like children sitting in the dark and relating stories which affright and yet charm, or like one awed by the vastness and solitude of the forest, or like the peasant who stands mouth open in unthinking wonder before a marvel, or like ourselves when, forgetting our science, we give our feelings sway and find ourselves filled with emotions inexpressible in the presence of a cataract or mountain peak. We too uncover our heads, we too hush the careless and irreverent word, we too feel, somehow, we know not how, that this is holy ground. Modern man, sophisticated and critical, distinguishes his emotions when he checks the flow of his feelings, but primitive man, child of nature, worships and adores. And close at hand is need. The sky darkens, the wind rises, the night comes. Strange beasts creep forth from their homes and danger is on every hand. The individual is so weak and so conscious of his weakness, and the possibilities are so incalculable. He lifts his hands and prays. Around his prayers gather memories, coincidences, and acts of devotion. Repetition gives solemnity, and omission causes uneasiness as habit fixes conduct Primitive religious consciousness, producing particular rites, remains in boys who knock wood, and in adults who are uneasy if they see the moon over the left shoulder, and in farmers who fasten a horseshoe over the stable door. All is dim, mystical, uncritical, but powerful as any element in man's nature.
It is not superstition, nor is it mere custom, nor is it simply the arousing of the æsthetic nature. It is the beginning of religion, adoration and dependence, praise and prayer, faith and rite; "not knowing what it is," but only that in the soul there is a sense of a greater than self which we joy to worship, a more powerful than self on which we must depend.