An Autobiography: Herbert Spencer - Vol. 2

By Herbert Spencer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LX.
REFLECTIONS [Written Four Years Later.]

IF we pass over that earliest conception of the super- natural which exists among various uncivilized and semi- civilized peoples, who believe in a material resurrection-- who think the dead man reappears in substantial shape, has to be fought over again in battle, as the Fijians believe, or gets up from his grave at night and goes hunting, as is asserted by many savages; and if we begin with the ghost-theory under that modified form in which the double, more or less spiritualized, goes away at death, returning to the body after a shorter or longer period; we see that at the outset the idea of a relation between character and bodily structure is excluded. Along with the notion of duality there grows up the assumption that character inheres in the ghost, and that the body is merely the ghost's house, having no causal relation to it. This is the necessary implication, too, of all the various doctrines of metempsychosis. The soul which, according to some forms of the doctrine, is condemned to be encased in numerous inferior creatures, one after another, is manifestly regarded as independent of its material embodiment, and not as in any sense a product of its material embodiment.

How far back may be traced the belief that there exists

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