Historical Reprints Religion Origin and Growth of Religion

Origin and Growth of Religion

Origin and Growth of Religion
Catalog # SKU3825
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Albert Reville, Philip H. Wicksteed
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$11.95
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Description

Origin and Growth
of Religion


As Illustrated by the
Native Religions
of Mexico and Peru

By
Albert Reville
Translator: Philip H. Wicksteed


The history of religion is not only one of the branches of human knowledge, but a prophecy as well. After having shown us whence we come and the path we have trodden, it shadows forth the way we have yet to go, or at the very least it effects the orientation by which we may know in which direction it lies.

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Excerpt:

I am about to speak to you on a subject little known in general, though it has already been studied very closely by specialists of great merit-I mean the religions professed in Mexico and Peru when, in the sixteenth century, a handful of Spanish adventurers achieved that conquest, almost like a fairy tale, which still remains one of the most extraordinary chapters of history. But I shall perhaps do well at the outset briefly to explain the very special importance of these now vanished religions. The intrinsic interest of all the strange, original, dramatic and even grotesque features that they present to the historian, is in itself sufficiently great; for they possessed beliefs, institutions, and a developed mythology, which would bear comparison with anything known to antiquity in the Old World. But we have another very special and weighty reason for interesting ourselves in these religions of a demi-civilization, brusquely arrested in its development by the European invasion. To render this motive as clear as possible, allow me a supposition.

Suppose, then, that by a miracle of human genius we had found means of transporting ourselves to one of the neighbouring planets, Mars or Venus for example, and had found it to be inhabited, like our earth, by intelligent beings. As soon as we had satisfied the first curiosity excited by those physical and visible novelties which the planetary differences themselves could not fail to produce, we should turn with re-awakened interest to ask a host of such questions as the following: Do these intelligent inhabitants of Mars or Venus reason and feel as we do? Have they history? Have they religion? Have they politics, arts, morals?

And if it should happen that after due examination we found ourselves able to answer all these questions affirmatively, can you not imagine what interest there would be in comparing the history, politics, arts, morals and religion of these beings with our own? And if we found that the same fundamental principles, the same laws of evolution and transformation, the same internal logic, had asserted itself in Mars, in Venus and on the Earth, is it not clear that the fact would constitute a grand confirmation of our theories as to the fundamental identity of spiritual being, the conditions of its individual and collective genesis-in a word, the universal character of the laws of mind?

And now consider this. For the Europeans of the early sixteenth century, America, especially continental America, was absolutely equivalent to another planet upon which, thanks to the presaging genius of Christopher Columbus, the men of the Old World had at last set foot. At first they only found certain islands inhabited by men of another type and another colour than their own, still close upon the savage state. But before long they had reason to suspect that immense regions stretched to the west of the archipelago of the Antilles; they ventured ashore, and returned with a vague notion that there existed in the interior of the unknown continent mighty empires, whose wealth and military organization severed them widely indeed from the poor tribes of St. Domingo or Cuba, whom they had already discovered and had so cruelly oppressed.

It was then that a bold captain conceived the apparently insane project of setting out with a few hundred men to conquer what passed for the richest and most powerful of these empires. His success demanded not only all his courage, but all his cold cruelty and absolute unscrupulousness, together with those favours which fortune sometimes reserves for audacity. At any rate he succeeded, and the rumours that had inflamed his imagination turned out to be true. On his way he came upon great cities, upon admirably cultivated lands, upon a complete social and military organization. He saw an unknown religion display itself before his eyes.

There were temples, sacrifices, magnificent ceremonies. There were priests, there were convents, there were monks and nuns. To his profound amazement, he noticed the cross carved upon a great number of religious edifices, and saw a goddess who bore her infant in her arms. The natives had rites which closely recalled the Christian baptism and the Christian communion. As for our captain, neither he nor his contemporaries could see anything in all this parade of a religion, now so closely approaching, now so utterly remote, from their own, but a gigantic ruse of the devil, who had led these unhappy natives astray in order to secure their worship. But for us, who know that the devil cannot help us to the genesis of ancient mythologies and ancient religions-who know likewise that the social and religious development of Central America was in the strictest sense native and original, and that all attempts to bring it into connection with a supposed earlier intercourse with Asia or Europe have failed-the question presents itself under a very different aspect.

In our Old World, the natural religious development of man has produced myths and mythologies, sacrificial rites and priesthoods, temples, ascetics, gods and goddesses; and on the basis of the Old World's experience we might already feel entitled to say, "Such are the steps and stages of religious evolution; such were the processes of the human spirit before the appearance of the higher religions which are in some sort grafted upon their elder sisters, and have in their turn absorbed or spiritualized them." But there would still be room to ask whether all this development had been natural and spontaneous, whether successive imitations linking one contiguous people to another had not transformed some local and isolated phenomenon into an apparently general and international fact-much as took place with the use of tea or cotton-without our being compelled to recognize any necessary law of human development in it. But what answer is possible to the argument furnished by the discovery of the new planet-I mean to say of America?

How can we resist this evidence that the whole organism of mythologies, gods, goddesses, sacrifices, temples and priesthoods, while varying enormously from race to race and from nation to nation, yet, wherever human beings are found, develops itself under the same laws, the same principles and the same methods of deduction; that, in a word, given human nature anywhere, its religious development is reared on the same identical bases and passes through the same phases?




184 pages - 7 x 8½ softcover - Print size, 14 point font


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