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Agenda Recap A Brief Overview of the History of the Anthropology of Religion 19 th Century setting Tylor and Animism RR Marett and Animatism George Frazer and Magic. Anthropological Perspectives on Religion. Holistically Objectively Relativistically Comparatively
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Agenda • Recap • A Brief Overview of the History of the Anthropology of Religion • 19th Century setting • Tylor and Animism • RR Marett and Animatism • George Frazer and Magic
Anthropological Perspectives on Religion • Holistically • Objectively • Relativistically • Comparatively • Interdisciplinary • Focus on Ethnography • Methodologically and theoretically diverse.
Explanations for the Universality of Religion Functional Interpretative Psychological Sociological Intellectual Emotional
History of the Anthropology of Religion 1) The study origin • Evolutionism 2) The study of function • Functionalism (psychological and sociological) 3) The study of meaning • Phenomenology, interpretative, symbolist approach
1850 inventions/discoveries • first cast iron bridge • first submarine • First electronic (telegraphic) transmission of an image (FAX) • measurement of speed of light to within 1% of true speed • Theory of continental drift first proposed • first delivery of piped water under pressure • first description of ion exchange • first use of a thermometer to measure a patients temperature • discovery that anthrax caused by a bacterium • first public health organization (in USA) • 2nd law of thermodynamics formulated • theory of primary numbers formulated • speed of nervous impulses determined • refrigeration to -30C • first cast iron railway bridge • first submarine telegraph cable • first flash photograph • first typewriter with a ribbon and keyboard • first daily weather maps (in USA) • first rubber hoses • steam hammer invented • first photographic paper (replacing glass)
Charles Darwin • The Origin of Species (1859 "Much light will be shed on the origin of man and his history. p. 459" • Led to the interest in social evolution (1809-1882)
There is in England at this moment an intellectual interest in religion, a craving for real theological knowledge, such as seldom has been known before...the more educated part of the religious world are becoming less and less satisfied with old opinions' (Tylor 1868).
Second half of the 19th century • Are there peoples without religion? • Religion often treated as • an illusion • an absurd • an intellectual aberration • used against Christianity
E. B. Tylor 1832-1917 • a Quaker by religion, and deeply anti-Catholic • Primitive Culture(1871)
“ancient savage “philosophers” - impressed by two groups of biological problems: • “what is it that makes the difference between a living body and a dead one and what causes sleep, trance, disease, death?”
a spirit or soul, derived from the experience of human souls or spirits in `dreams and waking hallucinations' is thought to `animate' lifeless objects such as sticks or stones, trees, mountains, rivers, etc.
Tylor’s minimal definition of religion “belief in spiritual beings” = animism • primitive man was a rationalist and a scientific philosopher • the notion of spirits was not the outcome of irrational thinking • preliterate religious beliefs and practices were not “ridiculous” or a “rubbish heap of miscellaneous folly” • they were essentially consistent and logical, based on rational thinking and empirical knowledge.
Evolutionary scheme • 1) animism • in preliterate cultures - animals, plants, and inanimate objects are endowed with “souls” • 2) polytheism • the idea of multiple spiritual beings to explain natural events and phenomena • 3) monotheism • “animism of civilized man” continuance doctrine of life after death replaced by the retribution doctrine
Critiques The idea of “primitive monotheism” • Andrew Lang The Making of Religion (1898 • the conception of “high God” evident in many tribal communities. Eg. Great Manitou • Father Wilhelm Schmidt • The Origin and Growth of Religion (1912) • monotheism evident among the most “archaic” peoples (the Tasmanian and the Andaman Islanders) • such beliefs had later become overlaid with polytheistic conceptions
Robert Marett • the notion of animism was not the most basic religious conception • the origins of religion were to be found in the idea of an impersonal supernatural force or a magico-religious conception of sacred power • orenda among the Iroquois • mana in Melanesia • = preanimistic stage of religion. • Savage religion was `something not so much thought out as danced out'
This member of the Iban tribe of Malaysia believes that the skull held here possesses mana.
Sir James Frazer (1854-1951) THE GOLDEN BOUGH: A STUDY IN COMPARATIVE RELIGIONtraced the evolution of human behavior, ancient and primitive myth, magic, religion, ritual, and taboo. The study appeared first in two volumes in 1890 and finally in 12 volumes in 1911-15. It was named after the golden bough in the sacred grove at Nemi, near Rome.
Frazer • Magic > religion > science • Magic is logically more primitive than religion because • the conception of personal agents (religion) is more complex than the similarity or contiguity of ideas (magic). • Australian aborigines > the most primitive -only magic
Contagious Magic,proceeds upon the notion that things which have once been conjoined must remain ever afterwards, even when quite dissevered from each other, in such a sympathetic relation that whatever is done to the one must similarly affect the other. Thus the logical basis of Contagious Magic,…is a mistaken association of ideas; its physical basis, if we may speak of such a thing, … is assumed to unite distant objects and to convey impressions from one to the other. The most familiar example of Contagious Magic is the magical sympathy which is supposed to exist between a man and any severed portion of his person, as his hair or nails; so that whoever gets possession of human hair or nails may work his will, at any distance, upon the person from whom they were cut. This superstition is world-wide;
"If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion."(Durkheim 1912: Elementary Forms of the Religious Life)
Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912) • Primary purpose: to describe and explain the most primitive religion known. • Secondary purpose: to understand how things are categorized and how are these ideas related to religion .
Defining Religion • Religion can be divided into two parts: • Beliefs • All religious beliefs presuppose a classification of all the things, real and ideal, into two classes or opposed groups: the sacredand theprofane • Rites • rules of conduct which prescribe how one should behave in the presence of sacred things A religion.Constitutes the union of beliefs and rites Problem: this definition includes a body of facts ordinarily distinguished from religion -- i.e., magic
Any definition of religion must therefore exclude magic • For Durkheim • Religion • was a public, social, beneficent institution • The really religious beliefs are always common to a determined group or `Church' • Church makes a profession of adhering to beliefs and practicing the rites connected with them • The individuals which compose it feel themselves united to each other by the simple fact that they have a common faith • Magic • Is private, selfish, and at least potentially maleficent • The belief in magic does not result in binding together those who adhere to it, nor in uniting them into a group leading a common life..
" A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden -- beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them."
Totemism and the Australian Aborigines • Baldwin Spencer and F.J. Gillen's Native Tribes of Central Australia (1899) -- a study of totemic clans • their type of societal organization was the most rudimentary known • Therefore Durkheim assumed their religion was the simplest • members of each clan consider themselves bound together by a special kind of kinship, based not on blood, but on the mere fact that they share the same name. • name, however is taken from an animal (usually) – the totem - with which the clan members are assumed to enjoy the same relations of kinship. • But this "totem" is not simply a name; it is also an emblem
Clanspeople of the crow believe they are descended form the Dreamtime's crow spirit who became a man.
Durkheim’s Explanation of Totemic Beliefs • Images, animals, and clan members are all sacred in the same way; • Thus, their sacred character is not due to the special properties of one or the other, but rather is derived from some common principle shared by all. • Totemism, is really about an anonymous, impersonal force, immanent in the world and diffused among its various material objects. • I.e. Society • Society Divinized
Spencer (I) • Principles of Sociology(1876-96) • A large section devoted to a discussion of religion and religious beliefs of preliterate people • assumption of the cultural and intellectual inferiority of preliterate people • essential arguments • “primitive” people are not irrational • they make inferences that are in their own context valid and reasonable
Spencer • the genesis of supernatural beliefs • Observation of the phenomena of nature, e.g. • death and dream experiences • temporary insensibility • ecstatic states • reflections in the water • Led to the idea of duality - distinction between the body and the soul or spirit
Spencer • “belief in ghosts” the basis of the earliest supernatural ideas. • The idea of ghosts developed into that of gods • the ghosts of important ancestors => divinities • “ancestor worship is the root of every religion.” • a belief in the spirit of the deadwas universal • totemic beliefs are an aberrant form of ancestor worship. • polytheism => monotheism
Roots of evolutionary approach to religion • Auguste Comte - positivist sociology • three stages in the development of human thought • 1) Theological stage • explanations took form of myths concerning spirits and supernatural beings • 2) Metaphysical stage • explanations of the world in terms of and “essences”, in the manner of Greek idealist philosophers (transitional stage); • 3) Positivist stage • understanding through observation and experiment.
Roots of evolutionary approach to religion • Darwin, Comte, Hegel, Engels • Friedrich Max Müller • Herbert Spencer • Sir Edward B. Tylor • Sir James Frazer • Emile Durkheim
In the pre-Buddhist religion such as animism, tree worship was widespread among indigenous races of Myanmar. Tree god was revered as benefactor friend. Other natural phenomena such as mountain, lake, river, rain etc were also respected and paid homage not only because of their utility for human beings, but also because of their sacredness as they were believed to be the abodes of benevolent spirits.
These spirits can be communicated with. • Spirits “feel” and therefore, can be harmed, flattered, offended and can also hurt or help.