Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/271

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257
PRAYER


of cult. Thus the Zulu says to the ancestral ghost, “ Help me or you will feed on nettles ”; whilst the still more primitive Australian exclairns to the “ dead hand ” that he carries about with him as a kind of divining-rod, “ Guide me aright, or I throw you to the dogs.”

So far we have dealt with forms of address explicitly directed towards a power that, one might naturally conclude, has personality, since it is apparently expected to hear and answer. At the primitive stage, however, the degree of personihcation is, probably, often far slighter than the words used would seem to suggest. The verbal employment of vocatives and of the second person may have little or no personifying force, serving primarily but to make the speaker's wish and idea intelligible to himself. When the rustic talks in the vernacular to his horse he is not much concerned to know whether he is heard and understood; still less when he mutters threats against an absent rival, or kicks the stool that has tripped him up with a vicious “ Take that I”

These considerations may help towards the understanding of a second class of cases, namely forms of implicit address shading off into unaddressed formulas. Wishings, blessings, cursings, oaths, vows, exorcisms, and so on, are uttered aloud, doubtless partly that they may be heard by the human parties to the rite, but likewise in many cases that they may be heard, or at least overheard, by a con sentient deity, perhaps represented visibly by an idol or other cult-object. The ease with which explicit invocations attach themselves to many of these apparently self-contained forms proves that there is not necessarily any perceived difference of kind, and that implicit address as towards a “ something not-ourselves ” is often the true designation of the latter. On the other hand, there is reason to believe that the magical spell proper is a self-contained and selfsuthcient form of utterance, and that it lies at the root of much that has become address, and even prayer in the fullest sense.

From Spell to Prayer.-Of course to address and entreat a fellow-being. is a faculty as old as that of speech, and, as soon as it occurred to man to treat sacred powers as fellow-beings, assuredly there was a beginning of prayer. We do not know, and are not likely to know, how religion first arose, and the probability is that many springs went to feed that immense river. Thus care for the dead may well have been one amongst such separate sources. It is natural for sorrow to cry to the newly dead “ Come back! ” and for bereavement to add “ Come back and helpl” Another source is mythologic fancy, which, in answer to childlike questions; “Who made the world?" “Who made our laws?" and so on, creates “magnified non natural men, ” who presently made their appearance in ritual (for to think a thing the savage must dance it);whereupon personal intercourse becomes possible between such a being and the tribesmen, the more so because the supporters of law and order, the elders, will wish to associate themselves as closely as possible with the supreme law-giver. From Australia, where we have the best chance of studying rudimentary religion in some bulk, comes a certain amount of evidence showing that in the two ways just mentioned some inchoate prayer is being evolved. On the other hand, it is remarkable how conspicuous, on the whole, is the absence of prayer from the magico-religious ritual of the Australians. Uttered formulas abound; yet they are not forms of address, but rather the self-sufficient pronouncements of the magician's]iat. Viewed analytically in its developed nature, magic is a wonder-working recognized as such, the core of the mystery consisting in the supposed transformation of suggested idea into accomplished fact by means of that suggestion itself. To the magician, endowed in the opinion of his fellows (and doubtless of himself) with this wonderful power of effective suggestion, the output of such power naturally represents itself as a kind of unconditional willing. When he cries “ Rain, rain, ” or otherwise makes vivid to himself and his bearers the idea of rain, expecting that the rain will thereby be forced to come, it is as if he had said “ Rain, now you must come, ” or simply “Rain, come!" and we find as a fact that xxu. 9

magical formulas mostly assume the tone of an actual or virtual imperative, “ As I do this, so let the like happen, ” “ I do this in order that the like may happen, ” and so on. Now it is easy to “ call spirits from the vasty deep, ” but disappointed experience shows that they will not always come. Hence such imperatives have a tendency to dwindle into optatives. “ Let the demon of small-pox depart I” is replaced by the more humble “ Grandfather Smallpox, go aWay!” where the affectionate appellative (employed, however, in all likelihood merely to cajole) signalizes an approach to the genuine spirit of prayer. Again, the magician conscious of his limitations will seek to supplement his influence »his mana, as it is termed in the Pacific-by tapping, so to speak, whatever sources 'of similar power lie round about him; and these the “ magomorphism ” of primitive society perceives on every hand. A notable method of borrowing power from another magic-wielding agency is simply to breathe its name in connexion with the spell that stands in need of reinforcement; as the name suggests its owner, so it comes to stand for his real presence. It is noticeable that even the more highly developed forms of liturgical prayer tend, in the recitation of divine titles, attributes and the like, to present a survival of this magical use of potent names.

Prayer as a Part of Ritual.-An exactly converse process must now be glanced at, whereby, instead of growing out of it, prayer actually generates spell. In advanced religion, indeed, prayer is the .chosen vehicle of the free spirit of worship. Its mechanism is not unduly rigid, and it is largely autonomous, being rid of subservience to other ritual factors. In more primitive ritual, however, set forms of prayer are the rule, and their function is mainly to accompany and support a ceremony the nerve of which consists in action rather than speech. Hence, suppose genuine prayer to have come into being, it is exceedingly apt to degenerate into a mere piece of formalism; and yet, whereas its intrinsic meaning is dulled by repetition according to a well-known pyschological law, its virtue is thereby hardly lessened for the undeveloped religious consciousness, which holds the saving grace to lie mainly in the repetition itself. But a formula that depends for its efficacy on being uttered rather than on being heard is virtually indistinguishable from the self sufficient spell of the magician, though its origin is different. A good example of a degenerated prayer-ritual comes from the Todas (see W. H. R. Rivers, The Todas, ch. x.). The prayer itself tends to be slurred over, or even omitted. On the other hand, great stress is laid on a preliminary citation of names of power followed by the word idith., This at one time seems to have meant “ for the sake of, ” carrying with it some idea of supplication; but it has now lost this connotation, seeing that it can be used not merely after the name of a god, but after that of any sacred object or incident held capable of imparting magic efficacy to the formula. Even the higher religions have to fight against the tendency to “ vain repetitions ” (often embodying a certain sacred number, e. g. three), as Well as to the use of prayers as amulets, medicinal charms, and so on. Thus, Buddhism offers the striking case of the praying-wheel. It remains to add that throughout we must carefully distinguish in theory, however hard this may be to do in practice, between legitimate ritual understood as such, whether integral to prayer, such as its verbal forms, or accessory, such as gestures, postures, incense, oil or what not, and the formalism of religious decay, such as generally betrays itself by its meaninglessness, by its gibberish phrases, sing-song intonation and so forth.,

Silent Prayer.-A small point in the history of prayer, but one that has an interesting bearing on the subject of its relation to magic, is concerned with the custom of praying silently. Charms and words of power being supposed to possess efficacy in themselves are guarded with great secrecy by their owners, and hence, in so far as prayer verges on spell, there will be a disposition to mutter or otherwise conceal the sacred formula. Thus the prayers of the Todas already alluded to are in all cases uttered “ in the throat, ” although these are public prayers, each village having a form of its own. At a later stage, when the distinction between magic and religion is more clearly recognized rr