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16. Spirit

In the previous section we have already seen that the Tungus recognize the existence of an immaterial substance which actually is the thought, the reaction-idea of the observer produced by physical objects, as it is with the immaterial substance of «animus» which, in Tungus eyes, has an objective existence and which may be thus «exteriorated». The exterioration is merely a logical inference from the first proposition. Yet in the analysis of the functional manifestations of animal beings and particularly man, as physical complexes, the Tungus arrive at the formulation of the idea of other immaterial substances, as «life», «reproductive power», and «soul» as a complex of functions. These immaterial substances also may be exteriorated. However, the opinions of the Tungus in this question are not alike, — some of them do not accept the idea that «life» may be exteriorated and thus it is regarded as mere function which cannot be separated from the physical body. In this case their idea is near to that of some Europeans who consider the life as «condition of the matter». Indeed, these are minor details. But what is essential is that the immaterial substances as they are manifested in the different functions of the animal (and human) organism may be exteriorated and thus returned to the bodies in which they were originally placed, or remain exteriorated for ever, or place themselves for a time in any other physical body. For the convenience of explanation I will call the body, in which the exteriorated immaterial substances of this type may be placed, placing, or loculus[89] When they are in such an exteriorated state and the former loculus is destroyed, e. g. by the decomposition of the body after the death, burning, any mechanical destruction etc. they may choose any other new loculus. In such a state they become a special group of phenomena which have no general name in Tungus languages and which may be called SPIRITS.

We cannot restore the history of this Tungus theory unless we allow ourselves to be carried on by a stream of hypotheses. Since the problem of «origin» of the spirits has already been discussed by a great number of theoreticians, and since these theories are not in our eyes convincing I prefer to leave it without discussion. Indeed, it ought to be pointed out that the «origin», in the sense of the first creation of this idea, may be supported to be very old since the idea of soul was known to the hypothetical ancestors of the present man — Homo Neanderthalensis, who did practise burial. However, Homo Neanderthalensis is not regarded by the anthropologists as an animal of the same species as Homo Sapiens, and thus the idea of soul is going out of the range of Homo Sapiens. We may now go one step further. The Homo Neanderthalensis in Europe possessed the so-called Mousterian cultural complex. However, the Sinanthropus Pekinensis who is somewhat related to the Pithecanthropus Erectus, both of which cannot be directly connected with Homo Sapiens and ought to be regarded no more than hominidae, was using the same type of implements as Homo Neanderthalensis. This shows that the highly differentiated cultural complex of Mousterian type was known to other hominidae as well. On which ground can we suppose that other elements of the cultural complex of Mousterian culture were not known to other hominidae? If it is so, then the origin of the idea of soul and its possible exterioration ought to be brought back to the animals which are now extinct. The scientist is thus in the position of being unable to restore either the complex in which this idea has made its first appearance, or the first forms of these ideas. The scaffolding of the hypotheses will not help the investigator; it may relieve him of the burden of unknown and it may easily become not the truth but a justification and rationalization of the investigator's own ethnographical complex. For this reason I shall not venture to propose any new hypotheses or support any one of those previously proposed [90].

The analysis of the spirits' characters shows first of all that the spirits possess characters in greater or lesser degree similar to these observed in man. Yet these characters may be increased with the elements that result from the further complication of the original conceptions. The spirits are thus supplied with the human characteristics, human desires, human thoughts, human the analysis of different types of spirit bring us to a generalization will, etc. Again as to the nature of spirits. According to the Tungus idea, the spirits are immaterial, they cannot be seen unless they take special form, they may influence physical bodies, they produce various sounds, they will human characters, including feeling of temperature, hunger, anger, gratitude, emotional excitement, and so forth. Thus the spirit is like the human being, only it cannot be perceived with sight, touch, smell and taste. Since the spirits are supplied with all these characters they may be treated in the same way as human beings are treated. on the other hand further observations of the spirits' activity have brought the Tungus to the limitations of the spirits' similarity with man and sometimes to a reduction of their complex to simple manifestations of certain human characters and those created by the Tungus theoretical thought. Since the spirits possess immaterial nature they may assimilate physical phenomena only in their immaterial substance. Owing to this the spirits may consume, e. g. the sacrifice, in its immaterial manifestations. It ought to be noted here that the Tungus regard smell, evaporation, smoke, etc. as immaterial in their nature and thus as «sub-stances» which may be easily assimilated by the spirits. So it is very important to analyse what is regarded by the Tungus as «material» and «immaterial», if one wishes to understand their system.

As soon as the theory of spirits was created many confused questions of nature and relations originating between man and milieus might be easily explained as result of spirits' activity. Many groups of natural phenomena which could not be covered by a naturalistic generalization in this way might be explained too. The theory of spirits in these eases began to act as a scientific hypothesis explaining phenomena of milieu, the Tungus psychology and mentality. In this respect the Tungus did not and do not show great differences as compared with other ethnical groups. In fact, if the Tungus happen to learn something new about the spirits already existing they would not hesitate to increase the spirits' character or their potential activity with a new element. If they learn that some of the characters were wrongly referred to the spirits they would introduce some corrections or they would reject the spirit as a mistake on the part of the earlier producers who might make a mistake. If they should learn about some new spirits previously unknown to them they would accept these as we would accept a hypothesis looking credible and not being in a conflict with the whole of the existing complex.

Therefore the number of spirits is always changing; they increase, decrease, and change their characters. The elasticity of this system permits the Tungus to give up their spirits which are not thus petrified in a fixed system of a relation with its tradition, sacred books, etc.

I will not now enumerate the spirits which will be treated in a detailed manner in the special chapters, for the above remarks regarding spirits will suffice before we reach the Tungus theories based upon the hypotheses of spirits.

89. This term I have already used in my previous publications on this subject. In the original Russian work (1919) I used term vmestilische — the «receptacle».

90. Some authors are now inclined to the idea that there existed at least two «stages» of animistic and pre-animistic complexes (Zelenin and his predecessors). In the Tungus complex we shall see both forms of building up hypotheses and theories which imply the complex of other cultural elements. They are thus, at least now, synchronous. However, their sequence in time cannot be shown unless one postulates several hypotheses. For understanding functional value of the theory of spirits and positive knowledge one must consider them as they are found in the existing complexes and never as an abstraction. Indeed, the theories of Mana and others like it, are still more fantastic than that of the distinction of «animistic» and «pre-animistic stages» .

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