Animism - The Seed Of Religion
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Animism - The Seed Of Religion

Edward Clodd

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eBook - ePub

Animism - The Seed Of Religion

Edward Clodd

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A brilliant work about animism and its connection to various fields of religion.This ebook is not a cheap scanned version of the original but has been completely revised, including an interactive table-of-contents.CONTENTS: 1. Pre-Human Elements In Religion2. Brain In Animal And Man3. Man In The Making4. Animal And Human Psychology5. Naturalism; Or Conception Of Power Everywhere6. Animism; Or Conception Of Spirit Everywhere7. Theories Of The Nature Of Spirit8. Spirits In Inanimate Things9. Fear - A Constant Element In Animism10. Absence Of Sequence In The Objects Of Worship11. Absentee Gods12. Maleficent Spritis13. Evolution Of Idea Of Benevolent Gods - Earth Mother14. Tree And Animal Worship15. Stone Worship16. Water Worship17 Deification And Worship Of Ancestors

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Animism - The Seed Of Religion
Edward Clodd
1. Pre-Human Elements In Religion
2. Brain In Animal And Man
3. Man In The Making
4. Animal And Human Psychology
5. Naturalism; Or Conception Of Power Everywhere
6. Animism; Or Conception Of Spirit Everywhere
7. Theories Of The Nature Of Spirit
8. Spirits In Inanimate Things
9. Fear – A Constant Element In Animism
10. Absence Of Sequence In The Objects Of Worship
11. Absentee Gods
12. Maleficent Spritis
13. Evolution Of Idea Of Benevolent Gods – Earth Mother
14. Tree And Animal Worship
15. Stone Worship
16. Water Worship
17 Deification And Worship Of Ancestors
Animism - The Seed Of Religion , E. Clodd
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Germany
ISBN: 9783849623678
Cover Design: @ infanta –

1. Pre-Human Elements In Religion

In an article on " Democracy and Reaction," in the Nineteenth Century of April, 1905, Mr. John Morley remarks that "if we want a platitude, there is nothing like a definition. Perhaps most definitions hang between platitude and paradox. There are said to be ten thousand definitions of Religion." One of these is supplied by Parson Thwackum in Tom Jones. " When I mention religion, I mean the Christian religion, and not only the Christian religion, but the Protestant religion, and not only the Protestant religion, but the Church of England." That easy-going cleric expressed what is in the minds of the majority of people when the word " religion " is used. He lived before the birth of the science of comparative theology; those who have applied its methods and profited by its results can pass in larger sympathy from specific creeds to partake of the universal spirit which every creed strives to embody.
To have done this is to have grasped the distinction between Religion and Theology, between what is fundamental and what is accidental, between that which is one in essence and abiding, and that which is manifold and fleeting. For religion was before all theologies, which are but concrete and partial aspects of it. It is before them all, being born of the emotions; and unaffected by them all, being independent of readjustments of creeds and dogmas. In that storehouse of fact and suggestion, Primitive Culture, Dr. Tylor remarks that " no religion lies in utter isolation from the rest, and the thoughts and principles of modem Christianity are attached to intellectual clues which run back through far pre-Christian ages to the very origin of human civilization, perhaps even of human existence." One object of the present brief treatise is to pursue those clues still farther back, even beyond the human to the pre-human in the life-history of our globe. For nearly every book on the Origin of Religion assumes a non-religious stage as preceding a religious stage in man's development, while many of them assume what are now known to be secondary stages as sole and primary. All in vain, so far as approach to solution of the problem goes, because the writers have not travelled beyond the historic period, and have looked for consistency of ideas where only confusion was possible. " I believe," says Mr. Hopkins in his Religions of India, " that all interpretations of religion which start from the assumption that fetishism, animal-worship, nature-worship, or ancestor-worship was a primitive form from which all other forms were derived, are destined to be overthrown. The earliest beliefs were a jumble of ideas, and it was long before the elements of the different kinds of religions were discriminated."

2. Brain In Animal And Man

The inquiry will take us along the lines of continuous organic development, bringing into view the unbroken connection between animal and human psychology The descent of man and his fellow-mammals, as of all living things below these, from a common ancestry, is demonstrated to the satisfaction of every competent authority. But in many minds there lingers the old Adam of bias which would limit that descent to man's bodily structure, and which refuses to admit that the mental differences between him and other animals are differences only of degree, and not of kind. This reluctance will vanish only when preconceived notions of the soul or spirit as a special human endowment are dispelled. And this will follow when knowledge of the fundamentally identical nature of the apparatus of the mind in man and brute is acquired. Let us summarize the facts about that apparatus, with which alone we are here concerned. For we know nothing of mind apart from matter, or of matter apart from mind; and how the passage is effected from the nerve-cells to consciousness in animals and in man remains a mystery. But we know that advance in intelligence proceeds pari passu with increasing complexity of brain-structure. This is traceable along the whole series of animals. In the Invertebrates the brain is a mass of nerve ganglia near the head end of the body (" the brain of an ant is one of the most marvellous atoms of matter in the world, perhaps more so than the brain of a man " ); in the lowest Vertebrate, the fish, it is very small compared with the spinal cord; in reptiles its mass increases, and in birds it is still more marked. In all the lower and smaller forms the surface of the brain is either smooth or evenly rounded, or exhibits a few grooves known as " sulci," which separate the ridges or convolutions of the substance of the brain. " But in the larger mammals these grooves become extremely numerous, and the intermediate convolutions proportionately more complicated, until in the elephant, the porpoise, the higher apes, and man, the cerebral surface appears a perfect labyrinth of tortuous foldings. . . . The surface of the brain of a monkey exhibits a sort of skeleton map of man's, and in the man-like apes the details become more and more filled in until it is only in minor characters that the chimpanzee's or the orang's brain can be structurally distinguished from man's." It follows from this that if any part of the mental apparatus is injured or thrown out of gear, the result is the same in each case — functional upset or suspense. The dog and the horse behave as we behave, nor can this be otherwise, because their sense-organs report, of course with vast differences in result, to their central nervous systems, the messages which are transmitted by the vibrations of the ethereal medium and the air, and, within the limits of their consciousness, they are affected as we are affected, and their actions ruled accordingly. " If there is no ground for believing that a dog thinks, neither is there any for believing that he feels."
Therefore the doctrine of Evolution has no " favoured-nation clause " for man. It admits no break in the psychical chain which links him to the lowest life forms, be these plant or animal. It finds no arrest of continuity between the bark of the dog and the orations of Demosthenes, or between the pulsations of an amoeba and the ecstasies of a saint. " Great is the mystery of heredity "; of the origin and transmission, through numberless generations, of tendencies traceable to remote pre-human ancestors, tendencies which, potent against fundamental changes, are a key to constant elements in human nature. Before such mystery, one among many, the stories of miracles wrought by gods and holy men, of which sacred books and traditions tell, are but travesties of hidden wonders. The verdict of modem psychology is that " the mind of the animal exhibits substantially the same phenomena which the human mind exhibits in its early stages in the child. This means that the animal has as good a right to recognition as a mind-bearing creature, so to speak, as the child; and if we exclude him we should also exclude the child. Further, this also means that the development of the mind in its early stages, and in certain of its directions of progress, is revealed most adequately in the animals." Therefore, to study man apart is to misconceive him; it is to refuse to apply the only key to interpretation of the story of his intellectual and spiritual history. There should be, nowadays, little need to labour this point. The artificial lines drawn between instinct in the animal and reason, as the prerogative of man, have vanished. As Darwin puts it in the Descent of Man: " It is a significant fact that the more the habits of any particular animal are studied by a naturalist, the more he attributes to reason, and the less to unlearned instincts." And the various stages of the reasoning faculty pass into one another by imperceptible gradations. It is only within recent years that we have realized how complex are our mental faculties; what a vast number of sense-conveyed impressions pass unnoted by us to storage in our brains; impressions which explain abnormal workings attributed by spiritualists to external, even supernatural, agencies. We have yet to learn that mind is far wider than consciousness.
What is explicit in man is implicit in the animal. Putting the matter in his usual incisive way, Hobbes says that " the thoughts of man are every one a representation or appearance of some quality or other accident of a body without us which is commonly called an object. The original of them all is that which we call Sense, for there is no conception in a man's mind which hath not at first totally or by part been begotten upon the organs of sense." And the like applies to the animal. Every one who has kept a dog will agree with Hume that " beasts are endowed with thought and reason as well as man." We have the same warrant for this as in the case of our fellows; we cannot get inside the mind of either; but we infer from their actions that like mental processes go on within them. The animal remembers, storing-up sensations in definite areas of the brain; it learns from experience that certain results follow certain events; in a rough sort of way, it puts two and two together, and adapts means to ends. It distinguishes differences in things, seeking the one and avoiding the other, a faculty which is the product of experience, as shown in the stupidity of colts and puppies compared with the sagacity of horses and dogs. If, as there seems no reason to doubt, animals dream, then, as Huxley says: " It must be admitted that ideation goes on in them while they are asleep, and, in that case, there is no reason to doubt that they are conscious of trains of ideas in their waking state." They make approach to the highest mental operations in forming generic ideas of things. " One of the most curious peculiarities of the dog mind is its inherent snobbishness, shown by the regard paid to external respectability. The dog who barks furiously at a beggar will let a well-dressed man pass him without opposition. Has he not then a ' generic idea ' of rags and dirt associated with the idea of aversion, and that of sleek broadcloth associated with the idea of liking? " In this matter, so feeble is his conceptual faculty, the lowest savage of to-day is not on a much higher plane than the most intelligent animals. Upon the slow development of this faculty, Pfleiderer remarks in his Philosophy of Religion: "If we require whole years to develop abstract ideas in the minds of our children, though they have the benefit of all their inheritance from the past, which thought for them, it must have needed centuries, and even millenniums, for primitive man to arrive at the same results." Skirting, and never penetrating, the deep mysteries of consciousness, all that may be said is that " the animals probably do not have a highly organized sense of Self as man does, and the reason doubtless is that such a Self-consciousness is the outcome of life and experience in the very complex social relations in which the human child is brought up, and which he alone is fitted by his inherited gifts to sustain." And these relations could never have become what they are but for those structural changes in man which made articulate speech possible, and, with this, the transmission of ideas and experiences to which the art of writing secured permanence.

3. Man In The Making

Unbroken mental development along the whole organic line being admitted, let us inquire whether there be any point in the series where it can be said: " Here the higher mammals and man show faculties in common wherein the primal elements of religion are present," The word " man " can here have only a vague significance, since the stage of his evolution, which is assumed, lies far behind that which yields the earliest known traces of his presence. At the back of the comparatively recent Neolithic or polished stone-using age there are the prehistoric Palaeolithic or Old Stone Age, with its relics of rudely-fashioned tools and weapons, and of primitive art in scratchings of mammoth and reindeer on bone and slate; and the vastly older Eolithic age, whose artificially-chipped flints have been found in large numbers in the plateau gravel of South-East England. More remote, in a dateless past, must be placed the proto-human, perhaps represented by the calvaria or portion of skull, two molar teeth and thigh-bone, found in an Upper Pliocene deposit in Java in 1892 by Dr. Dubois, to which the name Pithecanthropus erectus, or " upright ape-man," has been given. In these fragments experts in anthropology see " the nearest likeness yet found of the human ancestor at a stage immediately antecedent to the definitely human stage, and yet at the same time in advance of the simian or ape-like stage." We are, therefore, yet an immeasurable distance from Homo sapiens, and in near touch with Homo alalus, semi-erect, big-brained, deft-handed, because of his opposable thumb, communicating with other homines alali by various grunts and groans, supplemented by grimaces, gestures and postures. This is no fancy sketch; there are to this day tribes extant, like the Veddahs of Ceylon, who depend on signs, grimaces and guttural sounds which bear little or no resemblance to articulate speech. Darwin, in citing Captain Cook's comparison of the language of the Fuegians to a man clearing his throat, says that " certainly no Englishman ever cleared his throat with so many hoarse, guttural and clicking sounds," while he adds that the difference between such races and civilized man is " greater than that between a wild and domesticated animal." Bet...

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