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PRIMAL RELIGIONS

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  1. PRIMAL RELIGIONS • The religions we hear of today are only the tip of the iceberg and are relatively new compared to the 3 million or so years of primal (tribal, oral) religions

  2. This mode of religiosity continues today in Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Siberia, and among the Indians of North & South America Remnants of this mode survive as psychic traces in our deep unconscious (Carl Jung) We can learn from them about the nature and purpose of life in our “limiting” urban, industrial, “civilized” ways

  3. Aboriginal Religion • Australia is the only continent that didn’t undergo the Neolithic period, which elsewhere began about 10,000 B.C. and witnessed the invention of farming and technically advanced stone implements. • The Dreaming - mythic world (as real as now) in which they participate in re-enacting the lives of the Ancestors (RITUAL)

  4. No gods or priests - only conformance to the Dreaming; Ancestors are named for their relation to every-day events in life (hunting, gathering, love, war, birthing, etc.) • The people don’t worship, but instead IDENTIFY with these archetypal Ancestors

  5. ORALITY • Myth is living and active and cannot be reduced to “pen and paper” - memory is stronger in them than in us who put everything in writing • Telling a story makes it come alive - diction, rhythm, intonations, pauses, accentuations, body movements, noises, etc. • Children are educated by listening and watching • Broadens channels of revelation • Helps weed out all the extraneous info. that writing tends to display

  6. Place vs. Space • Two stories about everything being sacred and connected to us (Smith, p. 371) • Primal religion is embedded in place (concrete), not space (abstract) • Sacred sites are common to all religs., but primal people IDENTIFY with place in a different, more intense way

  7. ETERNAL TIME • Western religs. - time is linear (messianically forward-looking) • Asian religs. - cyclical • Primal religs. - eternal now - past, present, future are one; focus is on getting closer to the originating Source of things (rites of renewal); children and old people are closer to the Source (Black Elk playing with toddlers)

  8. The Primal World • No independent identity apart from their tribe and nature (to be separated from their tribe would be death psychologically and physically; like loss of an organ in the body) • Totemism - human tribe is joined to an animal species as one “flesh;” the animal is their mate, friend, guardian, helper & they will respect it & not injure it unless in dire distress • Rituals sustain confidence in the processes of nature, whose Source is spiritual, and renew hope for the future • Division between animal, human, & vegetable does not exist

  9. Distinctions are seen as bridges rather than barriers • All beings, all elements (even rocks) are brothers and sisters - EVERYTHING IS ALIVE and dependent on each other • Primal people are not embedded in nature. Rather, nature seeks itself and extends deeply into them, “infusing them in order to be fathomed by them” (Smith, p. 376) • No separation between sacred and profane (everything is religion and art); hunting is a sacramental act

  10. In historical religions, the world is often de-valued (Smith, p. 377) • In primal religions, the world is seen as a womb that sustains them; they have no desire to challenge, defy, change, or escape it (even after death, one is in a shadowy place in the womb - no goal of salvation) • Primal peoples are focused on maintaining personal, social, and cosmic harmony & with attaining things like rain, harvest, children, health

  11. The Symbolic Mind & “God(s)” • Primal religions are not necessarily polytheistic; they sense a “Supreme Being” but do not name or personify it because it is Unknowable (“The Unknown Power”) • This Unknown Power is worshiped through its creation for it is everything in its creation (pan-monotheism) • The holy / sacred need not be attached to a distinguishable Supreme Being - this way ordinary things are made sacred

  12. Symbolist Vision • The things of the world are transparent to their divine source; there is a connection between material things and their metaphysical, spiritual roots • Every created object is holy • “The Indian humbles himself before the whole of creation because all visible things were created before him and, being older than he, deserve respect.” (friend of Black Elk) • Mysticism and symbolic meaning is attached to all of the activities of primal peoples

  13. Shamans • Go through severe physical / emotional traumas in their early years • Able to heal themselves and reintegrate their lives in ways that place psychic (even cosmic) powers at their disposal • Able to engage with good and evil spirits; battles the evil with the good • Healers; able to foretell future and find lost objects

  14. From Holocaust to Romanticizing • Primitive peoples were slaughtered all over the globe because they were different; others tried to make them “civilized” • Now they are more idealized to an extreme because we are so devoid of myth and ritual and so disconnected from nature in our technological societies • It is our responsibility to listen to them, respect them, and learn from them

  15. 4 Primal Religions in Textbook • Australian Aborigines • African Religion of the Yoruba • North American Plains Indians - Lakota • Mesoamerican Religion - Aztecs • Myth, Doctrine, Ritual of Primal Religions

  16. WE ARE ONE