Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Notes: Theories of Primitive Religion by E. E. Evans-Pritchard

p. 15 – "…the optimistic convictions of the eighteenth-century rationalist philosophers that people are stupid and bad only because they have bad institutions only because they are ignorant and superstitious, and they are ignorant and superstitious only because they have been exploited in the name of religion by cunning and avaricious priests and the unscrupulous classes who have supported them."

p. 16 – Andrew Lang, "…the theorist who believes in ancestor-worship [as the rootbed of all religion] will see in Jehovah a developed ancestral ghost…. The exclusive admirer of the hypothesis of Totemism will find evidence for his belief in the worship of the golden calf and the bulls. The partisan of nature-worship will insist on Jehovah's connection with storm, thunder, and the fire of Sinai." (The Making of Religion, 1989, p. 294.)

p. 17 "He is not, qua anthropologist, with the truth or falsity of religious thought. As I understand the matter, there is no possibility of his knowing whether the spiritual beings of primitive religions or of any others have any existence or not, and since that is the case he cannot take the question into consideration. The beliefs are for him sociological facts, not theological facts, and his sole concern is with their relation to each other and to other social facts. His problems are scientific, not metaphysical or theological."

p. 18 – "There is no a priori reason why these theories purporting to explain primitive religion in terms respectively of rationication, emotion, and social function should not all be correct, each supplementing the others, though I do not believe that they are. Interpretation can be on different levels. Likewise there is no reason why several different explanations of the same type, or on the same level, should not all be right so long as they do not contradict each other, for each may explain different features of the same phenomenon."

p. 21 – The nature-myth school, predominantly German, eg., Max Müller: "nihil in fide quod non ante fuerit in sensu." "The nomina became numina." p. 22 – " a disease of language"

p. 24 – Euhemerism: superior beings became divinities; Herbert Spencer: "ancestor-worship is the root of all religion." (The Principles of Sociology, 1882, i., p. 440.); E-P calls this a case of the introspectionist "if I were a horse" fallacy

p. 25 – "…a logical construction of the scholar's mind is posited on primitive man…. a just-so story…."

p. 26 – "Tylor wished to show that primitive religion was rational [although erroneous]…. a crude natural philosophy."

p. 27 – Sir James Frazer posited three (intellectualist) stages of intellectual development: from magic to religion then to science.

p. 28 – Frazer's psychological thesis opposed "magic and science to religion, the first two postulating a world subject to invariable natural laws… and the last a world in which events depend on the caprice of spirits. Consequently, while the magician and the scientists, strange bedfellows, perform their operations with quiet confidence, the priest performs his in fear and trembling. So psychological science and magic are alike, though one happens to be false and the other true. … both are techniques…."

p. 32 – Andrew Lang "was an animist in that he agreed with Tylor that belief in souls, and subsequently in spirits, might well have arisen from physical phenomena…, but he was not prepared to accept the idea that the idea of God arose as a late development from the notions of souls, ghosts, and spirits. He pointed out that the conception of a creative, moral , fatherly, omnipotent, and omniscient God is found among the most primitive people of the globe, and is probably to be accounted for by what used to be known as the argument from design…. Lang clearly thought that monotheism was prior, and was corrupted and degraded by later animistic ideas."

p. 33 – Marett totally challenged the rationalist, intellectualist approach of Müller, Frazer, Lang, et al. "Primitive man… was not at all like the philosopher manqué he had been made out to be. … [it is] action which gives rise to ideas: 'savage religion is something not so much thought out as danced out.'" (The Threshold of Religion, 2nd. ed., 1914, p. xxxi.)

p. 34 – Marett cited the relief of existential tension as the source of magic and, in turn, religion. "[Primitive man] does not, as Tylor made out, mistake an ideal connexion for a real one; and hence also there is no true analogy, as Frazer held, between magic and science, for the savage is well aware of the difference between magical and mechanical causation…. So magic is a substitute activity in situations in which practical means to attain an end are lacking…." (Hasting's Encyclopedia of Religion, 1915, vol. viii.)

p. 35 Marett: "The end and result of primitive religion is, in a word, the consecration of life, the stimulation of the will to live and do." ("Religion (Primitive Religion)", Encyc. Brit., 11th ed., xix., 105.)

p. 36 – A. E. Crawley: "All living religious conceptions spring from more or less constant functional origins, physiological and psychological." (The Idea of the Soul, 1909, p. 78.)

p. 39 – re: Malinowski: "Where magic differs from religion is that religious rites have no ulterior purpose, the objective being attained in the rites themselves, as in natal, puberty, and mortuary ceremonies, whereas in magic the end is indeed believed to attained by the rites, but not in them…. the function of both is cathartic."

p. 41 – Freud noted the "method of magic" (or, autisme) at the base of religion; a neurotic "over-emphasis on thought": die Allmacht der Gedanken. "…a parallelism between ontogenic and phylogenic development: the individual passes through three libidinous phases, narcissism, object finding, which is characterized by dependence on the parents, and the state of maturity…; and these stages correspond psychologically to the three stages in the intellectual development of man, the animistic…, the religious, and the scientific."

p. 42 – "So magic is wish-fulfilment by which man experiences gratification through motor hallucination." … "Freud tells us a just-so story which only a genius could have ventured to compose, for no evidence was, or could be, adduced in support of it, though I suppose, it could be claimed to be psychologically, or virtually, true in the sense that a myth may be said to be true in spite of being literally and historically unacceptable. … It may be regarded as an aetiological myth, providing a background to the drama enacted in those Viennese families of whose troubles Freud made clinical analyses…."

p. 44 – "What is this awe which some… say is characteristic of the sacred? … how does one know whether a person experiences awe or thrill or whatever it may be? How does one recognize it, and how does one measure it? … Only chaos would result were anthropologists to classify social phenomena by emotions which are supposed to accompany them…. If religion is characterized by the emotion of fear, then a man fleeing a buffalo might be said to be performing a religious act; and if magic is characterized by its cathartic function, then a medical practitioner who relives a patient's anxiety, on entirely clinical grounds, might be said to be performing a magical one."

p. 45 – "It could with pertinence be said that primitive man performs his rites because he has faith in their efficacy, so that there is no great cause for frustration…. Rather than saying that magic releases tension, we might say that the possession of it prevents tension arising."

p. 46 – TO BE CONTINUED… … …

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