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And even amid these rude races, apparently innocent of all that savours of science and culture, we may find a belief in evil spirits, and some attempts to propitiate them and avert their wrath, or maybe to secure their favour and assistance.This belief in spirits, both good and evil, is commonly associated with one or other of two widespread and primitive forms of religious worship -- and accordingly some modern folklorists and mythologists are led to ascribe its origin either to the personification of the forces of nature -- in which many have found a "key to all the mythologies" -- or else to Animism, or a belief in the powerful activity of the souls of the dead, who were therefore invoked and worshiped.
Some idea of the antiquity of demonology and magical practices might be gathered from notices in the Bible or in classic literature, to say nothing of the argument that might be drawn from the universality of these beliefs and practices.And possibly less interest has been taken in the religious beliefs and practices of the Assyrians themselves.In this question of demonology, however, some of the Assyrian monuments may be said to have a special importance.But still more striking evidence has been brought to light by the decipherment of the cuneiform hieroglyphics which has opened a way to the study of the rich literature of Babylon and Assyria.In consequence of their bearing on the problems of Biblical history, attention has been attracted to the evidence of the monuments in regard to such matters as the cosmology, the tradition of the Deluge, or the relations of Assyria and Babylon with the people of Israel.Here, on the contrary, our chief concern is with the various ethnic, Jewish, and heretical systems of demonology.
These systems are so many that it will be out of the question to deal with them all or to set forth their doctrines with completeness.
This may enable the reader to appreciate the important part played by these ideas in the course of human history and their influence on the religion and morals and social life of the people.
At the same time some attempt may be made to distinguish the scattered elements of truth which may still be found in this vast fabric of falsehood -- truths of natural religion, recorded experience of actual facts, even perhaps remnants of revealed teaching that come from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures or from primitive tradition.
It is a fact that these rude forms of worship are found among primitive peoples.
But the manner in which they began and the motives of the first prehistoric worshippers are and must remain matters of conjecture.
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