Popular Science Monthly/Volume 36/December 1889/Israelite and Indian: A Parallel in Planes of Culture II
|ISRAELITE AND INDIAN: A PARALLEL IN PLANES OF CULTURE.|||
PARALLEL MYTHS.—The early religious opinions and practices of all peoples appear in myth and by myths are explained. When a religion has endured among a people for a long time after the use of writing has become general, its myths are collected and collated and formed into a system. This system generates dogmas which require support from glosses on the text of the original myths; indeed, these texts are often buried under a mass of homilies and predications, or, when still used in their purity, are interpreted ad libitum. Such is the history of the myths and the religion of Israel.
The Indians have myths and legends which explain their religious opinions and practices; but, as they did not acquire the art of writing, they did not formulate articles of faith. Their beliefs must be ascertained, therefore, by the collection and study of the myths themselves as now reduced to writing and translated. The comparison of the myths of the Indians with the myths of the Israelites displays striking similarity and exhibits more clearly than a mere statement of doctrines the likeness of the religions of the two peoples. The likeness of the two collections of myths to one another, and their comparison with similar collections from other peoples, indicates that when the same events are represented as occurring everywhere, they really occurred nowhere, but were the mental conceptions of men in the same stage of intellectual culture.
It is not necessary to mention deluge legends common in all countries where inundations have occurred, and only a general interest attaches to the mythical culture hero. He was sometimes an inspired man, and sometimes a benevolent god in shape of man, but in his more archaic forms he was a beast with human metamorphoses. He taught all that is known of hunting, fishing, the properties of plants, picture-writing, and indeed of every art, and founded institutions and established religions. After his achievements he generally disappeared with mystery, his actual death being seldom established, leaving a hope of his return as a triumphant benefactor. The legends relating to Michabo, Ioskeha, Hiawatha, and Manabosho will occur to all special students as showing their analogues in the biography of Moses. But the point of peculiar interest is that the myths referred to are not only similar generically, but that they are strikingly identical in their minute details with those of the Israelites. A few of them will be noticed.
It will be understood that in all instances presented scrupulous care has been taken to eliminate European influence and to obtain assurance of the aboriginal and ancient origin of the legends.
An Ojibwa tradition tells the adventures of eight, ten, and sometimes twelve brothers, the youngest of whom is the wisest and the most beloved of their father and especially favored by the high powers. He delivers his brothers from many difficulties which were brought about by their folly and disobedience. Particularly, he supplies them with corn. A variant statue of Lot's wife who, after escaping from the destruction of her village, was turned into stone instead of salt, is still shown near the Mississippi River. The Chahta have an elaborate story of their migrations in which they were guided by a pole leaning in the direction which they should take, and remaining vertical at each place where they should encamp. A still closer resemblance to the guidance of the Israelites in the desert by a pillar of fire is found in the legendary migrations of the Tusayan, when indication was made by the movement and the halting of a star. The Pai Utes were sustained in a great march through the desert by water which continually filled the magic cup given to the Sokus Waiunats in a dream, until all were satisfied; and a similarly miraculous supply of food to the starving multitude is reported by the same people. In the genesis myth of the Tusayan, the culture-hero was enabled to pass dry shod through lakes and rivers by throwing a staff upon the waters, which were at once divided as by walls.
Among the Ojibwa traditions there is a variant of the conception that man could not look upon the form of a divine being and live. According to these traditions the divine beings were obliged to wear veils, and when one of them unintentionally let his eyes fall upon the form of a man the man fell dead as if struck by lightning.
The Midéwiwin rite was granted to the Ojibwa at a time of great trouble, through the intercession of Minabozho, their universal uncle, and at the same time rules of life were given to them, which are still represented in hieroglyphics on birch-bark. They have a resemblance in motive to the Biblical legends and laws. At the time of a great pestilence, which came "when the earth was new," the Ojibwa were saved by one of their number to whom a spirit, in the shape of a serpent, revealed a root which to this day they name the "snake-root," and songs and rites pertaining to the serpent are incorporated in the Midéwiwin.
Mr. W. W. Warren, in his "History of the Ojibwa Nation," tells that he sometimes translated parts of Bible history to the old Ojibwa men, and their expression invariably was, "The book must be true, for our ancestors have told us similar stories generation after generation since the earth was new." Only last year a well-informed representative in Washington of the Muskoki answered questions about the myths and legends of his people by the simple remark: "They are all in the Old Testament. Read them there, without the trouble of taking them down from our people."
Sociology.—The golden age of the Israelites, as recorded in the Old Testament according to modified tradition, was the age ending with the Judges. The people lived in a state nearest to their ideal under a supposed theocracy, which really was not instituted until the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. The exploits of Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson are pictures of antiquity equal in grandeur and like in import to those of the Homeric heroes. If the Indians could have written about their own past, they would have portrayed a similar golden age, which, indeed, is mirrored in their traditions and myths.
But it must always be borne in mind that the Indians were not nomads, and were never in the true pastoral stage; hence their tales of the good old times were more archaic than those presented to us in the Israelite records.
Nomadic life requires the possession of either domesticated animals for sustenance or of burden-bearing animals by whose aid fresh, game areas may be readily occupied. The persistent nomads—e.g., the Arabs—have possessed both kinds of animals. The Indians had neither. The large majority of the historic Indians never saw a horse until centuries after the Columbian discovery. The Dakota, Comanche, and some other tribes became nomads adventitiously, and only after the introduction of the horse by Europeans. The means of subsistence of these tribes in a nomadic life were afterward increased by their obtaining firearms.
The pastoral stage also depended upon the possession of some of the animals mentioned. It expedited the transition of the Israelites from savagery to barbarism, but it was not experienced by the Indians. Therefore, supposing that the two peoples were at one time equally advanced in culture, it might well have required three thousand years longer for the Indians to reach the stage in which they were discovered than for the Israelites to attain to the culture shown in the days of the Judges.
At the time taken for proper comparison between the two peoples, which has before been designated, both were living under the clan or totemic system, which was formerly called the gentile system.
A clan is a body of kindred in which kinship is established by laws now long disused, and so strange to our present ideas as to be comprehended with difficulty. Some of the more salient features of the system appear in the division of the people into tribes which are interpermeated by clans, with special rules of government, adoption, punishment, protection, property, and marriage.
The totemic stage was first intelligently noticed among the aborigines of America and Australia, and typical representations of it are still found among them. In Australia it is called kobong. An animal or a plant, or sometimes a heavenly body, is connected with all persons of a certain stock, who believe that it is their totem, their protecting daimon. They regard themselves as descendants of the totem, and they bear its name. The line of descent is normally female. When a clan becomes dominant, its totem daimon prevails together with it, and commands the worship of all the clans or tribes in the group, the daimons of other clans and tribes becoming subordinate.
The clan system, lately found in actual force in two large geographic divisions of the world, has preserved a clew to the moldered maze of man's early institutions. What is now known of the clans, tribes, and league of the Iroquois explains what was formerly mystical about the tribes of Israel.
Each clan or tribe took as a badge or objective totem the representation of the totemic daimon from which it was named. It was generally an animal—e.g., an eagle, a panther, a buffalo, a bear, a deer, a raccoon, a tortoise, a snake, or a fish, but sometimes one of the winds, a celestial body, or other impressive object or phenomenon.
The Israelites had such badges or totems which have been called standards. The blessings of Jacob and of Moses, which mention several of them, were not merely metaphoric. In the blessing of Jacob, Judah is named as a lion, Issachar as an ass, Dan as a serpent, Naphtali as a hind, Benjamin as a wolf, Joseph as a bough. In that of Moses, four such names occur—Ephraim as a bullock, Manasseh as a bison, Gad as a lion, and Dan as a lion's whelp. From all the evidence on the subject there is reason to believe that these were the leading totems in the tribes mentioned, and the discrepancies in the lists may be accounted for by the fact that the head clans in some tribes had changed in the interval.
David seems to have belonged to the serpent stock. The most prominent among his ancestors bore a serpent name. Some passages in his life show his connection with a serpent totem.
Critics have doubted whether Moses was as much opposed to idolatry as is asserted in the records, for a brazen serpent, perhaps an ancient idol of Jahveh, said to have been set up by him, was in existence until the reign of Hezekiah, who broke it into pieces. True, it may have been an idol of Jahveh, or perhaps it was worshiped as a teraph; but it may have been simply a totem. The lifting up of the brazen serpent by Moses in the wilderness may be more consistently explained by totemism than by idolatry in its usual sense.
Government.—The Israelites in their normal condition were governed by a number of their elders who were presumed to have the greatest wisdom and experience. Special powers were conferred in emergencies upon one man and were intended to be of short duration, but while they lasted they were dictatorial. The judges were despots without a standing army or an organized government. Their selection was due neither to inheritance, to suffrage, nor to violence, but to personal superiority in strength, wisdom, and courage. The usual result was, that the power gained by a ruler was held during his life, and it was sometimes contended for by one of his sons with temporary success. The government of the Indians was substantially the same.
The alliance of the tribes was loose. They seldom hesitated to make war upon one another. Even after nationality had been initiated, the genius of David and the magnificence of Solomon could not permanently weld them together; and doubtless without the later and cohesive establishment of Jahvism they would have often, though perhaps but temporarily, fallen back into an incoherent state. The Indians did not gain such, a conservative bond, and the alliances of their tribes were more loose and transient.
The characteristics of the Israelite and of the Indian, as of the Homeric Achæans and of the extant Bedouins, were predatory. The tribe and its clans, with their occasional allies, went forth against the rest of the world.
In the investigation of totemism among the Israelites it is important to observe its continued existence in Arabia, because the state of society there still remains more primitive than that prevalent in the land of Israel even at the time of imposing antiquity when the Old Testament was written.
A large number of tribes having animal names are still found among the Arabs. Some of these tribal names are Lion, Wolf, Ibex, She-fox, Dog, Bull, Ass, Hyena, and Lizard. The origin of all these names is referred by the people to an ancestor who bore the tribal or gentile name. The animal names given in the tribal genealogies are also often found belonging to sub-tribes, the same animal name sometimes occurring in subdivisions of different tribes. These particulars correspond with the Indian clan system.
The tribes of the southern and eastern parts of Canaan had affinities both to Israel and to the Arabs. The Arab princes of Midian were The Raven and The Wolf—heads of tribes of the same names. More than one third of the Horites, the descendants of Seir the He-goat, bear animal names; so do the clans of the Edomites. The real name of Moses's father-in-law is in dispute, but he had some connection with the Kenites. The list in Genesis xxxvi is a count of tribal or local divisions and not a literal genealogy. It is full of animal names. The Antelope stock was divided over the nation in a way only to be explained on the totemic and not on a genealogic system. The same names of totem tribes that appear in Arabia, reach through Edom, Midian, and Moab into Canaan, where they show local distribution, which is intelligible only on the assumption that the totemic system prevailed there also when the first books of the Old Testament were written.
Prof. Robertson Smith gives a select list of about thirty persons and towns in point, bearing names derived from animals and plants. Dr. Joseph Jacobs has expanded that list into a hundred and sixty such names, though he considers their importance to be lessened by the frequency of such names in England, forgetting, apparently, that the clan system also existed among the ancestors of the English people.
The twenty-sixth chapter of Numbers gives the clans of the Israelite tribes. Altogether seventy-two clans are mentioned, and of these at least ten occur in two tribes, among which the Arodites or Wild Ass clan, found both in Gad and in Benjamin, should be noted. Other clans also have animal names: the Shillimites or Fox clan, of Naphtali; the Shuhamites or Serpent clan, of Benjamin; the Bachrites or Camel clan, of Ephraim and Benjamin; the Elonites or Oak clan, of Zebulon; the Tolaites or Worm clan, of Issachar; and the Arelets or Lion clan, of Gad.
A special suggestion comes from the tribe of Simeon. In the blessing of Jacob, Simeon is coupled with Levi as a tribe scattered in Israel. Some Simeonites lived in the south of the territory of Judah, but they do not appear there as an independent local tribe. It would seem that Simeon remained as a divided stock, having representatives through the female line in the different local groups. When the old system was transformed, Simeon lost importance and ultimately dropped from the list of tribes. The name of the tribe was lost but not the people, as has been noticed also in careful statistical examination of the Indians.
The tribe of Judah received the powerful accession of the Dog tribe, the Calebites (to be again mentioned), among whom there were many animal names.
In view of the above, and the additional fact that the early Israelites freely intermarried with the surrounding nations, it becomes highly probable that the totemic system of those neighbors existed in all Israel, as was obviously the case in Judah.
Punishment.—In the stage of barbarism man belongs not to himself, but to his clan and tribe. In civilization crime is the act of an individual for which he is responsible to the whole community, and there can be no crime without a malicious intent. In the totemic stage the clan was responsible to all its members and to all other clans for the offense of any of its own members, and the act itself, not its intent, constituted the offense. Hence the rules respecting obedience, punishment, and protection differ from those of civilized man.
Punishments among the Indians were chiefly death or expulsion from the tribe—the latter, from the unprotected state of the offender, being tantamount to death. The code consisted in the application of the lex talionis. The vengeance of blood for homicide was exacted as a clan duty. It was executed by the clan of the person killed, generally by the nearest of clan kinship, and it was required even if the death were by accident, unless the killing was condoned by payment. Among the Israelites the lex talionis was likewise the fundamental law, and the duty of blood revenge also devolved on the kin by the mother's side—i.e., the kindred according to the normal clan system.
Sanctuary.—The doctrine that no crime could be individual, but might be committed against a clan by a clan through one of its members, rendered it necessary to have some special provision to restrict vengeance and maintain peace. Hence the right of sanctuary, which appeared later as a prerogative of religion, was in its origin sociologic.
The avenger of blood among the Indians generally had the right to slay the criminal if found within a specified time, for instance, two days after the act; but if he should escape beyond such period, the avenger could no longer pursue, and was himself liable if he should persevere. The clan or clans concerned interfered at that stage in prescribed modes. Among some tribes localities (called by Adair the "cities of refuge") were designated, in which the accused could remain in safety until the general settlement of accounts at the next annual festival. Compare Numbers xxxv, 12: "And they shall be with you cities of refuge from the avenger; that the man-slayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment."
The functions of the avenger of blood are only referred to in the Pentateuch, but were well known in ordinary cases. The law treats of the exceptional circumstances of an accidental homicide. There is a trace, in Deuteronomy xxiii, of the general communal sanctuary in Israel. It enacts that any town or village shall be an asylum for an escaped slave. In Exodus xxi, the altar (presumably any one of the numerous village altars) is mentioned as a refuge. In the cities of refuge the sanctuary was used only for the mitigation of the revenge of blood.
A mode of bringing to notice the barbarian stage of the Israelites at the time under consideration is to translate into English familiar personal names from the Old Testament, such as the Dog, the Dove, the Hyena, the Lion's Whelp, the Strong Ass, the Adder, and the Running Hind. This brings into immediate connection the English translation of Indian names, such as Big Bear, White Buffalo, Wolf, Red Cloud, Black Hawk, Fox, Crow, and Turtle. Such Israelite names were probably of Gentile origin, that is, from the clan or gens, for the Israelites were surely Gentiles in the true sense, although later they abjured the charge. But individuals among them may also have adopted such names because they could be represented objectively. Such selection is made by some Indians apart from their totemic designation. Indians possess very few names that can not be represented in pictographs; and the very large topic of tattooing is connected with this device antecedent to writing. The compilers of the Old Testament probably desired to break down a former practice, as is shown in Leviticus xix, 28: "Ye shall not print any marks upon you." And there are other similar indications.
Adoption.—The early history after the exodus shows many cases of adoption from among the neighboring tribes in which the captive or the stranger adopted became a member of one of the clans. This was an essential part of the totemic system as is noticed universally among the Indians. Without membership in a clan there could be no status in the tribe.
Caleb is first known as the son of Jephunneh, the Kenezite. Next he appears as a chief of the tribe of Judah; finally, in the book of Chronicles, his foreign descent is lost. He becomes Caleb, the son of Hezron, the son of Judah. This is an instance of adoption and is not contradictory. He is first described in accordance with his actual descent, but when adopted with his family and followers, who probably formed a sub-clan, he would be called by the name of the family that adopted him.
The whole population of the country which, according to Deuteronomy, was doomed to be exterminated, slowly became amalgamated with the invaders. In this way alone their rapid increase can be accounted for.
The doctrine that no quarter should be shown to the enemy and no alliance should be made with the Goim (a word meaning the "nations," with the implication of "heathen") was not established until the late prophetic influence. The use of the word Goim dates from the ninth century b.c. It is gratifying to be convinced that the stories of the wholesale extermination and cruel outrages injected into the historical narrative were afterthoughts intended to be examples for the future, and that they never actually occurred. If the stories are true, the brutality of the Israelites to the conquered was more horrible than that of the Indians, among whom captivity was tempered by adoption.
An interesting custom of the Indians connected both with the rite of sanctuary and that of adoption is that called by English writers "running the gantlet." When captives had successfully run through a line of tormentors to a post near the council-house, they were for the time free from further molestation. In the northeastern tribes this was in the nature of an ordeal to test whether or not the captive was vigorous and brave enough to be adopted into the tribe; but among other tribes it appears in a different shape. Any enemy, whether a captive or not, could secure immunity from present danger if he could reach a central post, or, if there were no post, the hut of the chief. A similar custom existed among the Arikara, who kept a special pipe in a "bird-box." If a criminal or enemy succeeded in smoking the pipe contained in the box, he could not be hurt. This corresponds with the safety found in laying hold of the horns of the Israelite altar.
Land.—In the earlier history of the Israelites there could be no individual property in land—it belonged to the clan, as it did among the Indians. After arriving at sedentary and national life the Israelites found it expedient to permit a compromise between the permanent possession of land by the clan and a right of individual occupancy for periods sufficient to offer a proper stimulus for improvements. This was done by the institution of the Sabbatical year or the year of jubilee. The Indians, not having reached the true sedentary stage (except in rare instances), were not obliged to invent that device. Thus it holds true among both peoples that no man could acquire an absolute property in land. The estate was not in him but in his clan.
Forbidden Food.—The Indians long observed a prohibition against killing or eating any part of the animal connected with their totem. For instance, most of the southern Indians abstained from killing the wolf; the Navajo do not kill bears; the Osage never killed the beaver until the skins became valuable for sale. Afterward some of the animals previously held sacred were killed; but apologies were made to them at the time, and in almost all cases a particular ceremony was observed with regard to certain parts of those animals which were not to be used for food on the principle of synecdoche, the temptation to use the food being too strong to permit entire abstinence. The Cheroki forbade the use of the tongues of the deer and bear for food. They cut these members out and cast them into the fire sacramentally. A practice reported this year as still existing among the Ojibwa is in point, though with instructive variation. There is a formal restriction against members of the bear clan eating the animal, yet by a subdivision within the same clan an arrangement is made so that sub-clans may among them eat the whole animal. When a bear is killed, the head and paws are eaten by those who form one branch of the bear totem, and the remainder is reserved for the others. Other Indians have invented a differentiation in which some clansmen may eat the ham and not the shoulder of certain animals, and others the shoulder and not the ham.
The Egyptians did not allow the eating of animals that bore wool. This prohibition has been attributed to the sacred character of the sphinx, and it has other religious connections. It is supposed by some writers that the legislation of Moses with reference to forbidden food was aimed to antagonize social union with the Egyptians by prohibiting to the Israelites edibles generally used by the Egyptians, and vice versa. It is true that some kinds of food forbidden to one of these nations were allowed to the other, but the rule was not general, and in particular the abstinence of both peoples from swine is inconsistent with the hypothesis. A more conclusive criticism is that the legislation so interpreted would have been too late for application. The Israelites had left Egypt before even the alleged time of its promulgation.
The survival of totemism may be inferred from the lists of forbidden food in Leviticus xi and Deuteronomy xiv. It would appear that about the time of the exodus the Israelites were organized on the basis of families or clans tracing through female lines, and named Hezir (swine), Achbor (mouse), Aiah (kite), Arod (wild ass), Shaphan (coney), and so on. Each of the clans refrained from eating the totem animal, or only ate it sacramentally. As the totemic organization declined, the origin of the abstinence would be lost, but the custom lasted, and when the legislation was codified it was incorporated in the code. The hypothesis would explain certain anomalies in the list—e.g., coney, or rock badger, for which no other explanation deserving attention has been given. The division into clean and unclean food by the two tests of cloven foot and rumination was a later induction from the animals regarded as tabu. This is confirmed by the want of any systemization in the list of birds given in Leviticus.
It would accord with other examples in totemism that animal names connected with the animal worship before mentioned should be adopted by clans, and by individual men among the Israelites. There is some evidence that men, bearing a common animal stock name, though in different tribes or nations, recognized a unity of stock. Our most definite information on the subject is derived from Ezekiel viii, which indicates that the head of each house acted as priest, the family or clan images, which are the objects of idolatry, being those of "unclean" reptiles or quadrupeds—i.e., those which are prohibited from use as food. Although the whole inference of Prof. Smith on this subject is not admitted by Dr. Jacobs, his objection is to the survival, not to the early existence, of the cult.
No satisfactory explanation of the Israelite division between clean and unclean animals, apart from that afforded by the totemic system, has hitherto been made. No rational motive can be assigned for the avoidance of certain animals, in themselves hygienically good. The explanation that swine's flesh was liable to bring disease, and therefore was prohibited for a sanitary reason only, covers but a small part of the subject and is not in itself satisfactory. The meat of the hog is, in fact, as wholesome in Syria as it is in Cincinnati, and the discovery of trichinosis had certainly not been made in the times under consideration. The avoidance of all meat, indeed of all food, for purposes of fasting and producing ecstasy, is in a different category and has already been mentioned.
Marriage.—The laws of marriage in the stage of barbarism are intricate, but attention may be directed to a few points which strongly distinguish them from the marriage laws of civilization. Their most general characteristic is the regulation of marriage within strict limits of conventional kinship.
The levirate, named from the word levir, a husband's brother, is in brief the customary right and obligation combined of a brother—normally the eldest surviving brother—to marry the widow of his deceased brother. Prof. E. B. Tylor reports that this law appears among one hundred and twenty peoples—i.e., in about one in three of the distinct peoples of the world. It was almost universal among the Indians, sometimes with additional duties and privileges. A widow, as a rule, could not marry any one but her deceased husband's brother except on his refusing to marry her, nor until after a long time of mourning, or more properly of ordeal, after which she could be freed from the tabu.
In several tribes marrying an elder sister gave to the husband rights over all the other sisters of the wife. Sometimes the son-in-law, especially when he married the eldest daughter, became entitled to all the younger sisters of his wife at his option. Other men could not take them except with his formal consent. This right of the son-in-law to all the unmarried younger sisters sometimes continued after the death of the first wife. Not unfrequently a man married a widow and her daughters at the same time.
Among the Israelites it was common to have several wives of equal status, who often were sisters. A widow had a right to appeal to her brother-in-law, or some member of her husband's family, to provide her with a second husband, and an evasion of the duty in personam was a gross offense. Deuteronomy xxv shows the degrading terms of the formality by which alone the brother-in-law could be freed from the obligations of marriage and the widow be allowed to marry another man. Judah admitted that Tamar's conduct was perfectly correct. It was but a legitimate extension of the levirate law.
There is the clear statement in Leviticus that the Egyptians and the Canaanites formed such marriages as were in accordance with the totemic system, but which were made incestuous by the Israelite law. The laws of incest given in Leviticus are probably later than the code of Deuteronomy, in which the prohibition is directed against marriage by a man with his father's wife. That precept denounces the practice in Arabia by which the son inherited his father's wife.
In the framework of the Deuteronomic code there were three incestuous prohibitions, viz., father's wife, sister, and wife's mother. To these offenses Ezekiel adds marriage with a daughter-in-law. According to the prophets, all those forms of quasi-incest were practiced in Jerusalem; and the history indicates that all at some time were recognized customs. The taking in marriage of a father's wife was not wholly obsolete in the time of David.
As regards the Israelite system of descent in the female line, it may be noticed that the children of Nahor by Milkah were distinguished from his children by his other wives. Rebekak's descent is practically valued as descent from Milkah,and the family or clan connection is traced entirely through Milkah and Sarah. Their rules of kinship regarding what we now call incest are partly indicated by the following instances: Moses' father married his father's sister; Nahor married his brother's daughter; Abraham married Sarah, the daughter of his father but not of his mother.
A passage in Judges relates to exogamy, recording that Ibzan had thirty sons, and also thirty daughters whom he sent abroad, and took thirty daughters from abroad for his sons. But exogamy could not be kept up after the Israelites had become mainly an agricultural people, and in the times of the kings only survivals of it remained.
Mr. John Fenton, in "Early Hebrew Life," makes some acute remarks upon the story of Lot's daughters, but he did not exhaust the subject. According to the clan system, it was not only proper for Lot to marry his daughters, but under the circumstances it was obligatory upon him to do so. The logical propriety of the marriage of a father to his daughters, on the ground that they did not belong to the same clan, is clear, and the practice exists to-day among a number of the tribes of Indians not much affected by European intercourse. A father was not of kin to his own children. They belonged to the mother's clan, and not to his. An interesting example of this clan law is furnished by Dr. George M. Dawson as still existing among tribes of British Columbia. A certain rich Indian would have nothing to do with the search for his aged father, who was lost and starving in the mountains. He did not count his father as a relative, and said, "Let his people go in search of him." Yet that son was regarded as a particularly good Indian.
There are other instances in which the son would fight against the father to the death. Such cases would occur where, according to the obligations of clan law, a son married a woman of a clan other than that of his father and went to live with her people; and when there was warfare between her clan and that of his father, the son was by association expected to fight against his father. The real tie of blood gave no reason why he should not be alien and antagonistic to his father and his father's clan.
But it is true that, in many tribes of Indians, since they have been observed by Europeans, the marriage of father and daughter has been very rare. It may be suggested as a reason that a gradual change has occurred from the mother-right to the father-right, in which the attitude is reversed; but practically the fact that, by treating the daughter as an object of value or merchandise, either the father or mother could secure presents from the suitor, naturally tended to break down this part of the clan marriage system before any other, and, the custom ceasing, the practice became wrong. So it is true to-day among Indians, as it was in a much more marked degree among the Israelites at the time of the compilation of the existing version of the Old Testament, that the marriage of a father and daughter is reprobated. In this connection it is instructive to notice that the Navajo have a myth, undoubtedly genuine, that in the old time one of their race took his daughter to wife, and their offspring became the ancestor of the Utes, the hereditary enemies of the Navajo. This is a parallel with the stigma inflicted upon the Moabites and Ammonites, who were the descendants of Lot and the enemies of the Israelites who wrote the history, but yet were recognized by the latter as of the same stock.
The part of the story of Lot as it appears in our version, which tends strongly to show its later manipulation, is that the authors of that version, having at that time the idea of a horrible incest, explained that the man, specially designated by tradition as eminently good, was guilty only because he was betrayed through intoxication. They were obliged, in accordance with one tradition, to make him the ancestor of Moab and Ammon. By another tradition he was left without any sons and no wife, the two daughters being all of his family who survived the destruction of Sodom. They reconciled their data, therefore, by the excuse of intoxication, but there was no occasion for such excuse. In the age to which the tradition related the transaction was perfectly proper, did not involve sexual passion, and was required by law to keep up the stock. The clan rules had been forgotten when the book of Genesis was written.
In the stage of barbarism the marriage of brother and sister was common all over the world. Where polygamy existed, as was the case among the Israelites, and probably among all the Indians, a man, according to the rules of the totemic system, could not marry into his own clan. If he took several wives, they would sometimes be of different clans, not only from his own, but from one another. In such cases, the child of the wife of clan A was not of the same clan as the child of the wife of clan B, and they could marry. The marriage of uterine brothers and sisters was not consistent with the clan rules.
Writers on the clan system have extolled it as a system showing profound physiological insight respecting the supposed evils of inbreeding; but the best and latest physiologists doubt whether inbreeding is bad, unless there is a taint of blood which should prohibit the marriage of either party to any one. A true understanding of the clan system would have shown that inasmuch as it certainly permitted marriage between a man and his half-sister, and between a man and his aunt, his father's sister, if not the more violent case of marriage between father and daughter, it did not accomplish that for which it has been so highly praised.
The late prohibition of a man's marriage to his deceased wife's sister can not be successfully defended on any principle of physiology or sociology. It is a blunder that perhaps arose in the transition stage from the matriarchate to the patriarchate method.
Conclusions.—The Indians have been characterized as peculiar among the races of men. One school of writers has pronounced them to be feræ naturæ, and wholly incapable of receiving civilization. Others have held the opposite view, that they were eminently spiritualistic, as was proved by their having preserved the pure pristine faith to a degree beyond all other secluded peoples. Both of these assertions are disproved. When Indians have been allowed reasonable opportunities, they have advanced in civilization, and have thriven under it. While their religion may in one sense be pristine, it does not differ materially from that found in many other regions.
The peculiarity of the Semites, and especially of that branch of them lately styled the Syro-Aramæans (which is only an ethnographic name including the Israelites), has been accepted as an axiom. It was pronounced that they were specially adapted to a spiritual religion; that whether through an exclusive revelation, or because their racial constitution was exceptionally receptive to such revelation, their idiosyncrasy disposed them readily to spiritual ideas, which to modern minds means monotheism. This is not the record of the historical books of the Old Testament, even after their manipulation. The prophets of Israel declared the exact contrary; they denounced their own people as rejecting spiritual truth, and as not deserving the favor of Jahveh.
The historical books of Israel which we possess are not historical records, but are historic legends reduced to writing by writers who had sometimes political and sometimes religious ends in view. The argument of those tales is that all the people habitually worshiped Jahveh, and him alone, during which normal period they were prosperous, but that sometimes under evil influence they abandoned him and fell into disaster, until, after sufficient chastisement, they returned to the true worship. The historic truth is that the old Israelites, when disasters came, as they always do come, gave up the worship of their national god as not a success, and tried the gods of their neighbors. They returned to Jahveh because the other gods did not satisfy them any better. In fact, the people had no fixed or distinct faith, and it is not correct to accuse them of backsliding when they were only vacillating.
The prophets tried to pull the Israelites too rapidly through the zoötheistic and physitheistic stages into monotheism, and spasmodically succeeded; but the body of the people never reached the stage of monotheism until after the Babylonian captivity. Most writers have explained this on the theory that the terrible chastisement of that captivity finally brought them to submission; but it is more probable that their forced relations with their more cultured conquerors gave them new ideas never before entertained, which infused modifications into their religion. The resulting combination produced those characteristics of that religion which have been regarded as the most admirable.
The general account of the Israelite lapses is not unlike that given in modern times by missionaries, who also have been impetuous in attempting the instantaneous transport of Indians through stages that are marked by ages. Tribes of Indians have been converted, and they were reported and recorded as being in that permanent condition. A few years later, from some dissatisfaction, they returned to their shaman and their dreams, which return was then reported as a lapse. It was not, in fact, a lapse, but the claim that they had been converted was premature. There is, however, this distinction between the Israelites and the Indians: that the former were allowed to return to Palestine and carry out their old ideas with improvements; while the Indians, remaining under the same foreign influences and continually growing weaker, were forced to abandon all their faith and to accept that of their conquerors without composition.
The stories of the conversion of Indians by thousands would seem false to one who did not know that they were ready to believe any new thing because they before had no fixed belief. The record of the Israelites is not so clear, because old; but they surely adopted the Satanic doctrine and the "Mosaic cosmology," and continued adopting foreign beliefs until a late date in their history.
The most judicious remarks ever made by missionaries were those of the Rev. Messrs. D. Lee and J. H. Frost, who, after ten years in Oregon of what has been considered successful work, announced their abandonment of their former tenet that if the heathen were converted to Christianity civilization followed of course. They confessed that civilization must begin before Christianity could even be understood. Acute travelers throughout the world have perceived the same fact; and it is not a too violent simile to say that Christianity, belonging to the plane of civilization and to that only, sits on a savage or barbarian as a bishop's mitre would on a naked Hottentot.
The Israelites were not suddenly lifted from their barbarian condition. It was not possible. As regards the culture strata we may take a lesson from geology. Coal is not found in the Silurian formation, therefore wise miners do not look there for coal. The higher mammals are not found earlier than the Cenozoic, though their precursors are in the Jurassic. Man in the savage stage may be examined in the same spirit as the Jurassic stage is studied to trace what may afterward appear in the barbarian and Cenozoic, and is developed in the present epoch; but to search for the complete ideas of civilization in the period of barbarism would be as judicious as to dig for manuscripts among the workshops of flint arrow-heads.
The beliefs and practices of both the Israelites and the Indians were substantially the same as those of other bodies of people in the same stage of culture. They were neither of them a "peculiar" people.
There is, racially, no peculiar people in the sense intended. Mankind is homogeneous in nature, though its divisions at any one time are found in differing and advancing grades of culture. Such advancement has been from causes known to be still in continuous operation. What is called blood in a racial sense may be likened unto the water of the earth: as the water comes from the clouds it is chemically the same, and it is subjected, wherever it is, to the same laws. The early course of a rill may be turned by a pebble, and from the elevations and depressions met it may become a lake, or a river, or a stagnant marsh. From the character of soil encountered it may be clear or muddy, alkaline, chalybeate, or sulphurous. In one sense, which belongs to modern and not to ancient history, the Jews are a peculiar people, from the fact that for many centuries, until lately, they proclaimed themselves to be such, and observed religiously the doctrine about the Goim, and therefore did not intermarry with other peoples; but that should not be a reason for their boasting. Persecution made them pariahs and other peoples would not intermarry with them. During recent centuries the so-styled purity of their race has been kept up by isolation, but the assumption of great purity in the stock at the Christian era is not tenable. Now that their prejudices and those of the Goim against them are dissolving, it is probable that what has been improperly called the Jewish race will disappear by absorption as the Indians are now disappearing. To renew the simile, both Israelite and Indian will be lost in the homogeneous ocean which all mankind seems destined to swell.
It will be noticed that this presentation of views practically ignores the scholastic divisions of mankind into distinct races. The result of my own studies on the subject is a conviction that all attempts at the classification of races have failed. The best statement of the condition of scientific opinion regarding such classification may be taken from the address of Prof. W. H. Flower to the Section of Anthropology of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. He says: "I am compelled to use the word race vaguely for any considerable group of men who resemble each other in certain common characters transmitted from generation to generation." Some satisfactory solution of the problem may be made in the future, but for the present the most useful direction of the work of anthropologists is not in attempts to establish racial divisions, but in the determination of the several planes of culture with recognition of specific environments.
A rabbinical legend tells that Lot was the first to argue the existence of one god ruling the universe, from the irregular phenomena observed on land and sea and among the heavenly bodies. "If these had power of their own," he said, "they would have had regular motions, but as they had no regularity they were subservient to the occasional exercise of a higher will." In times of greater scientific knowledge these supposed irregular motions are found to be in accordance with laws considered to be permanent, if not immutable, and the recognition of such tremendous laws gives a higher conception of their maker. The notion that such laws are or can be suspended or violated suggests irresolution and caprice, shocks human reason, and clouds the glory of divinity.
The doctrine attributed to Lot is instructive, because the conception of nature implied in it permeated all the early philosophy. We now define a miracle specifically as a deviation from the laws of nature. But to those for whom nature had no laws, the prime definition as "the wonderful" was alone correct. A supernatural being could do anything whatever in accordance with his arbitrary will, and was expected to act in that manner. Men who were inspired or empowered by the supernatural were also expected, indeed were required, to work wonders. It would hardly be a paradox to assert that only the supernatural was natural, and that only the irregular was regular.
That both the Indians and the Israelites were in this stage of philosophy has been conclusively shown. It is also evident that the principle of ancientism was potent in their religion.
Ancientism, which still has surviving influence, declares the old thought, that of the ancient men, to be always the best. This is false, unless the theory is true that all knowledge comes from revelation, which was given only to the ancient men, who therefore had it in its pure condition. To cling to the old merely because it is old is bad; in fact, is the crudest superstition. Some advocates of the old reject all new thoughts, but the more intelligent of its praisers seek to force a reconciliation between the old thought and the new. What they now believe must be right. What they are not accustomed to is shocking, and therefore wrong. So the old, which was always right, must be distorted so as to comprehend in it the new, which is also right, and whatever there is of the old that can not be managed otherwise must be explained away.
There is an apparent exception in favor of the old thoughts and teachings where there has been a general degradation in culture; then a return to the results of the former and forgotten culture is most desirable. This is illustrated in the revival of the old learning after the dark ages in Europe, when the classic writings as discovered brought fresh illumination to the world. But this was simply a resumption of advance after a check; and the wisdom of the ancients, which has appeared marvelous, owes much of its splendor to the intervening darkness. The process of development, not chronology, makes a proper criterion. Though antiqaitas sæculi juventus mundi, the archaic is that which relates to the earliest steps of human advance. We have the history of the Israelites for forty centuries; we have that of the Indians for little more than three centuries; and, though the Israelites in recorded times advanced beyond the plane of the Indians, who shall say which of the two peoples is in years the older?
The points before mentioned—that neither the Israelites nor the Indians had any formulated and established faith, and in particular did not believe in a single god, and that they did not have any system of rewards and punishments after death—had important consequences. They were never persecutors for religious opinion. With regard to the Indians that assertion will at once be admitted; with regard to the Israelites it will be disputed by those who take the statements of the compilers of the Old Testament as literally historical.
I have before mentioned one reason, that of the amalgamation of the Israelites with the inhabitants of Canaan, why there could not have been any such fanatic massacre as is narrated. There are other potent reasons. This plane of culture of the Israelites being established, it is proper theoretically to make the deductions belonging to that plane. The Indians carefully concealed their special mystery-daimons. As a matter of fact, the Israelites were generally in accord with their neighbors in religious opinions and practices, so there could have been no antagonism from religious motives. If while worshiping Jahveh they made war for any reason, Jahveh was their reliance, and he conquered or was defeated with them; but they did not make war to force the worship of Jahveh upon others. They would have regarded that as the worst possible policy, as it would have allowed their enemies to pirate upon their divine monopoly which was the essential part of their military equipment.
When men live in the midst of many religions, which imply many revelations, they are charitable to all of them. It is only the isolated and ignorant who are bigoted. A still higher degree of light gained by those who have come out of the caves of superstition will induce them to imitate the decision of the witty sage with regard to ghosts—he had seen so many that he could not believe in any.
When a future state of rewards and punishments, depending upon belief in a particular dogma, has been established, the attitude of believers becomes antagonistic. They maintain that a denial of their belief is disrespect to their god, and they angrily stigmatize such denial as blasphemy or skepticism, or use some other term of vituperation, and they say that their anger is righteous. But it is simply egotistic. The true ground of their hostility to any dissentient opinion is the cloud cast on their title to future happiness. This must be fought as titles are contested in courts of law, or by the last resort of war, or by such persecution as silences the objectors to the title. But as the Israelites claimed no such title, they were not sensitive about its disparagement. In the religious stage described, neither the Indians nor the Israelites sought to make religious proselytes. The noble motive of missionaries is to save souls; but the peoples now compared could not have had, indeed could not have understood, that motive.
At the commencement of this address the rule was laid down that it was essential to omit all reference to revelation as deciding the points discussed. Many points, however, have been touched upon which properly bring to notice the order of the development of revelation in general, without discussion of its decisive authority. This procedure may be submitted to students of anthropology as applicable to all revelations save those which each one individually credits.
It is evident that some practice existed early for which a natural explanation may be given. This practice became a formal custom which, after a time, was considered to be obligatory under the vague but compelling idea that it was "bad luck" not to observe it. Bad luck is necessarily connected with the supernatural. Hence the custom or the congeries of customs became a religion, and that was always supported and explained at a later time by a myth. That was not necessarily an explanation made by imposture or with intent to deceive, but grew from the curiosity of men and their hurry to account for everything. All such myths are declared to be obtained, through revelation, from a power higher than man. The result is, therefore, that revelation, which is the last step in the evolution of religion, is enounced, by antedating, to be the first step. When supposed revelation is once regnant, men cling to it as a refuge from the doubt which must always result from reasoning on subjects which do not admit of demonstration. Such clinging becomes fanatical with most men because they dread as the greatest calamity to be cast into the hands of Giant Doubting, who to them is but another name for Giant Despair. But the path of Doubt leads to the portal of Truth.
It has been no part of my purpose in this address to impugn the character of the books of the Old Testament. On the contrary, I regard that noble work as the most important anthropologic record possessed by man—a work which richly repays the most diligent study. I gladly accept it as a genuine record, and believe that, though it has been colored by time and by the work of designing men, it was never invented. It is sometimes said that persons who are absorbed in scientific studies fear or pretend to scorn the Bible. I neither fear nor scorn it. I admire it, and study it, and gain much from it; but no intelligent person takes as of the same authority all its versions, or, indeed, all the contents of the books which are arbitrarily styled canonical, and about the very names and numbers of which scholars, churches, and sects dispute.
The Hexateuch contains that intrinsic evidence of truth which so impressed the Ojibwa elders, before mentioned, who said that the work was true because they and their fathers "had heard the same stories since the world was new." To those who can read it understandingly it is a true story of a plane of culture.
"Now as to myself I have so described these matters as I have found them and read them; but, if any one is inclined to another opinion about them, let him enjoy his different sentiments without any blame from me."
- Address of the Vice-President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Section H, Anthropology, delivered at the Toronto meeting, August, 1889.