Serial Lesson 133
From Course XII-2, Natural Alchemy
Part 2: Evolution of Religion
Original Copyright 1949, Elbert Benjamine (a.k.a. C. C. Zain)
Copyright 2011, The Church of Light
The Truth Alone Can Make Men Free Naturism Animism Fetishism Totemism Hero Cult Phallic Worship
Hopi Indian Snake Dance Living in Two Worlds Drawing by Mildred Schuler Slaying an evil spirit in ancient Mesopotamia
The Foundations of Religion
Slaying an evil spirit in ancient Mesopotamia
PRIMARILY the drive of all life is to attain significance. Attached to each life form through psychokinesis is a soul moving through its Cycle of Necessity. To attain significance it must express its potentialities. To express its potentialities through a physical form it must secure nutrition and protection for that form. And to provide opportunity for other souls to express their potentialities through a physical form, it must exercise the drive for reproduction.
Every step in evolution on this earth has been in response to one or more of these drives: the drive for nutrition, the drive for reproduction, or the drive for significance. And every step in evolution has been in the direction of attaining greater success in the fulfillment of one or more of these three drives.
In response to these drives the protozoa developed from some simpler form of life, then the sponges developed, then the jellyfishes, then the flatworms, then the roundworms, then the wheel worms, then the bryozoa, then the starfishes, then the worms, then the crayfish, then the oysters, then the vertebrate animals, and finally man. It took over 1,700 million years of struggle to move thus upward and develop the form of man, but every step on the way was in the direction of significance through greater freedom of expression.
Furthermore, every step of progress made by man also has been in response to these three drives, and has found more ample expression for one or more of them. The adaptations made by man, instead of being modifications of his body, have been through the use of intelligence. Since he developed from an early type of Propliopithecus, the ancestor he had in common with the anthropoids some 30 million years ago, he has directed his intelligence to solving the problem of survival and providing for his offspring and of more ample expression. And he has moved forward extraordinarily in the successful expression of all three drives in so far as the physical span of life is concerned.
But even as now university scientists have demonstrated that man possesses extrasensory perception by which he can gain information of the past, present and future not accessible to the physical senses and reason, so by this faculty primitive man sensed Deity. And by this faculty he also sensed the inner-plane environment and recognized that it, as well as the outer-plane environment, exercised a profound influence over his life.
And even as now university scientists have demonstrated that man possesses the faculty of psychokinesis, by which physical objects can be moved by the nonphysical power of the mind, so primitive man also recognized this faculty, and tried to employ it for his own benefit. The use of what is now recognized as psychokinesis in the past has been called magic.
Scientists experimenting with psychic phenomena, and collecting data on their spontaneous occurrence, have during the past 67 years produced ample evidence that the personality of man lives beyond the tomb, and that those who have died sometimes appear to those yet in physical bodies, and on other occasions communicate with those still in the flesh. And primitive man, clairvoyantly seeing a relative or a friend who had died, or telepathically getting some warning or other message from someone long dead, quite logically concluded that some part of man lived after the dissolution of his physical body.
Anyone today who will learn to erect a birth chart and work progressed aspects can demonstrate to himself that the inner-plane weather mapped by astrology profoundly influences his life. And, while he did not possess the ability to erect a birth chart, primitive man sensed, and quite correctly, that the positions of the heavenly bodies have an influence over humanity and its affairs.
As all life is struggling for survival so that it can continue to express, and for the means of more ample expression, and primitive man was convinced through his deceased relatives visiting him that there was some kind of survival beyond the physical, it was quite natural that he should try to find the way to live on earth which would assure him continued life after he had left the physical. And that he should seek means by which in that afterlife he could realize the drive for nutrition, the drive for reproduction and the drive for significance which have been the moving power behind all progress of life on earth. The effort more adequately to adapt himself to life on earth through understanding and employing inner-plane energies, and to continue to find satisfaction for the three irrepressible drives after physical dissolution, came in later times to be called his religion.
Instead of some foggy notion as to what religion is, all should recognize that today and at all times in the past it consists of the effort to employ nonphysical means to find on earth more ample satisfaction for the drive for nutrition, the drive for reproduction and the drive for significance, and to continue to find satisfaction for these three drives for as long a period as possible on the inner plane. In their expanded form, the drive for nutrition embraces all means of survival, the drive for reproduction embraces mental creation as well as physical progeny, and the drive for significance embraces the various means of expression.
Primitive man had little understanding of either the physical world or the inner-plane world. Knowledge is derived from experience. And to be of much value experience must be correctly interpreted. Primitive man gradually acquired information about both the outer-plane environment and the inner-plane environment, and this information was handed down from one generation to another by word of mouth. But not only was the interpretation often erroneous, but the amount of information that could be handed down from generation to generation orally was limited. It was limited by the experiences and interpretations of individuals who sought to make it the property of the tribe; and it was limited by the ability of members of the tribe to remember what they had been told.
When through the accumulation and application of knowledge gradually gained over millenniums ancient civilizations finally came into existence, the crude pictographs by which more primitive people had sought to convey ideas and refresh their memories gradually were developed into writing by which records could be permanently made.
This tremendously aided man in the acquisition of knowledge; for he was no longer dependent upon anyone’s memory to give him access to information based upon the experiences of generations upon generations of the past. To the extent these were recorded, those having access to the records could greatly expand what they knew.
But what was thus recorded often was sadly limited and frequently distorted, even when the experiences and the opinions were highly valuable and quite sound. Often it has been the case that if the people were given the facts, these facts would cause them to interfere with the plans and ambitions of certain powerful persons. These individuals then, as now, therefore, did all in their power either to suppress the facts, or to distort them in a way favorable to themselves, and thus information that otherwise would have been recorded and made available to others was never at their disposal.
This has been true relative to information about the physical plane; and scientists—as explained in Chapter 1 (Serial Lesson 125), Course XX-I, Natural Alchemy: Evolution of Life—often have been unable to get discoveries before the public because it would deprive some powerful individual or group of means of gaining additional power or wealth. In our own day, for example, there are many known instances in which great monopolies have purchased some invention and withheld it from the public because if it were used it would outmode and make unsaleable their products, for the production and promotion of which they had spent vast sums of money, and on which they depended to gain great wealth.
And throughout the past new and valuable information about the inner plane often has been suppressed or distorted because it would discredit the medicine man, or priest, or other religious authority, and deprive him either of his livelihood or his significance as the mouthpiece of God.
Living in Two Worlds
Yet, as man must depend not upon new mutations of his body, but upon additional knowledge for all further progress toward greater nutrition, greater benefits for offspring, and greater significance through more ample expression, both relative to the physical plane and the inner plane his only hope of bettering his condition either here or hereafter is through increasing and using knowledge of these two environments and the laws operating in each.
Thus to increase his knowledge, not only must the experiences of people be collected and analyzed and given sound interpretation, but there at all times must be additional research. And this applies with equal force to both planes; for man desires to find expression for the three irrepressible drives not merely during his physical life, but also after life on earth is done.
But in addition to acquiring new information relative to both planes, and giving it sound interpretation, if mankind is to benefit by this knowledge it must have ready access to it, and the facilities for using the knowledge thus acquired. This means that ways must be devised by which those with whose special privileges it would interfere to have people know the facts of both planes, whatever they may be, cannot suppress or distort the facts.
All should be made to recognize that neither science nor religion should remain static. Each should continue to develop and progress indefinitely. The aim of religion, whether so recognized by those who embrace it or not, is to afford optimum living for those who adhere to it. And to attain optimum living, effort must be made energetically and persistently to acquire as many new and significant facts as possible about the physical world and about the inner-plane world. As fast as such new and significant facts are discovered they should be included in religion in their proper relation to all facts about both planes already known.
It is not because it possesses all knowledge now, but because it strives energetically thus to gain new and important facts relative to both planes, and to incorporate them properly into its teachings as soon as they are adequately verified, and thus moves progressively ever in the direction of more perfectly teaching mankind optimum living, that The Religion of the Stars is the world religion of the future.
The Truth Alone Can Make Men Free
While experience and extrasensory perception taught types of life lower in the scale of evolution than man methods of solving the problems with which they were faced, frequently the only avenue for the survival of their progeny lay in some quite drastic change of form. Scales had to be changed into fur or feather when the climate became icy; and herbivorous animals had to change the structure of their teeth when forced to graze on the tough grass of the plains instead of the tender browse of succulent shrubs and trees to which they had become accustomed before increasing aridity eliminated such food. But with the advent of man, whatever adaptation is necessary, not only to realize the drive for nutrition and reproduction, but also to realize the drive for significance, can far better be accomplished through the use of knowledge. Whatever man seeks to accomplish, in this life or the next, can be done to better advantage if he guides his efforts by adequate information.
Creatures lower in the scale of life than man, not having had the experience of their ancestors, or of other living members of the species, accessible to them through oral or written language, have had to rely largely upon instinct to guide their behavior. Instinct derives from the information perceived by the unconscious mind. In the case of animals lower than man, as reason has not been developed, the exercise of instinct is largely confined to such conditions as have habitually confronted the race. Under usual conditions instinct is quite efficient; but as the unconscious of animals has had little experience meeting other than certain kinds of problems, when unusual problems are presented instinct often leads the animal astray. In spite of extrasensory perception which may prompt different behavior, the habitual method of meeting conditions is so strong that other promptings are overruled.
The instinctive method of meeting a particular situation is brought about through the habitual emotional reaction to the situation. In regions inhabited by man, deer have learned that the sound of a breaking stick often indicates the presence of a hunter. In such regions, whether a man is or is not present, the sound of a breaking stick arouses the emotion of fear in deer, and as a result the habitual reaction is to run from the sound of a breaking stick without investigating its cause.
The ancestors of the best-known European lemming (Lemmus lemmus), a rodent about six inches long which inhabits the mountainous regions of Sweden and Norway, had found it advantageous at certain periods at the approach of winter to migrate in great number. At some ancient date the persistence and determination with which such migration was carried out probably prevented their extinction by taking them to a region where new food and other conditions were highly favorable. And thus also the religious instinct which impels people today to follow with equal persistence and determination the way to salvation believed in by their forefathers may have benefited their ancestors.
But conditions in the world have now changed, and that which served the ancestors of the lemmings so well, and that which served the ancestors of man the best that religion could then afford, now lead both to disaster. The lemmings still migrate in vast multitudes, and people still follow the doctrine of vicarious atonement in great hoards. Both move in a straight line. The lemmings move in parallel columns, and nothing will induce them to deviate from the direct course they are taking. As a consequence of their stubborn resistance to new conditions that have arisen since their ancestors developed the emotional reaction to which they continue to respond, the vast migration when it reaches the last of the land—and it is inevitable that moving far enough in a straight line it must reach the last of the land—moves into the sea and all are drowned.
There is no intention here to disparage the usefulness of emotions. It is the way men feel, as well as the way the lemmings feel, that determines their behavior. Emotions are merely the release of tensions created by desires that are strong enough to develop a profound and widespread disturbance of the nerve currents. Desire is energy in a potential state, straining to be released and given activity. And both desire and emotion are due to the conditioning of certain thought-cell groups within the soul, or unconscious mind. Every activity of the mind and body, great or small, is due to the discharge of the energy which while stored and straining is called desire. Therefore, whatever the behavior of a man or an animal may be, it is due to desire; and as emotion is the release of a desire so powerful that it liberates hormones from the endocrine glands into the blood stream and thus affects the nervous system, including the brain, and often various physical functions, emotion is one of the most useful tools any man can employ.
It is the tool which he must use to get what he wants; for it directs his actions. And it must be employed in gaining spirituality, as spirituality depends upon the dominant vibratory rate, and this is chiefly determined by the individual’s habitual emotional states. But if he is to use it to get what he wants, instead of permitting it to impel him to march across the mountains and into the sea to be drowned, he must guide it by that which makes man superior to other animals. Instead of permitting it to drive him blindly into unreasonable courses of conduct, or into unreasonable beliefs, he must condition his emotions to conform to knowledge.
Within us all are stored the desires of our animal ancestors. Civilization, in great extent, may be measured by the degree in which certain of these bestial desires have been sublimated, have been channeled to express in behavior beneficial to society. And within us all are stored other desires which we acquired from our parents and associates during the highly impressionable years of our childhood. But if the desires thus acquired, which express as emotional reaction, tend to prejudice us toward facts and make us unwilling, or unable, to give a fair and logical appraisal of the significance of facts which are brought to our attention, we are reacting to emotion in the manner the lemmings do. And if we continue such unreasonable reaction our ultimate fate will parallel theirs.
The success of every undertaking in which man engages depends upon two things; the extent of his knowledge and the extent to which he follows the actions indicated by knowledge instead of those dictated by blind belief or prompted by irrational emotion. This applies to his health, his business career, his family life, his social success, his happiness, his spirituality, and to all other departments of his physical life. And it applies with equal validity to gaining what he wants in the life beyond the tomb. It is no more sensible for him to think that blind belief in some ancient or modern propaganda will give him happiness in the next life than it is for him to believe that blind belief in some present-day nonfactual propaganda will get him what he wants here. And most have had experience enough to have learned that if they put their trust in nonfactual sales talks here, they will lose their shirts. Those who rely on such propaganda in business are known in the vernacular as suckers.
Those in politics and those in religion, however, who want to make converts to some belief not based on logic and facts, commonly use one or all of three methods. As explained Chapter 1 (Serial Lesson 125), Course XX-I, Natural Alchemy: Evolution of Life, they employ fear—fear of persecution in this life or of torture or misery in the life to come, whether that life is on another plane or reincarnated on earth—and other means to prevent the prospective convert from gaining the facts. Or they give an inversive twist to the facts and disseminate lies. Or they use the habitual emotional reactions of the prospective convert to override his reason and cause him to believe and act as the propagandist desires. Just how this is accomplished is explained in detail in Chapter 6 (Serial Lesson 188), Course XVIII, Imponderable Forces.
Here it is enough to point out that early in life most people have been so conditioned that they respond emotionally in a specific manner to certain phrases, certain words, and certain ideas. And the clever propagandist associates the ideas which he wants his prospective convert to believe with phrases, words and ideas which commonly bring a strong and favorable emotional reaction; and he associates the ideas he wishes to disparage with phrases, words and ideas which commonly bring a strong emotional revulsion.
We must realize in our effort to establish a sound religion and a higher civilization that the vast majority of people have not as yet evolved sufficiently above other animals not to be more powerfully influenced by their habitual emotional reactions—which have been thus conditioned early in life before reasoning powers were much developed—than by facts and logic. Therefore it is a major part of the task of all Stellarians to educate those they contact to consider facts, whatever they may be, unemotionally, and to weigh all facts without emotional prejudice, and to arrive at conclusions through logical consideration of all available facts. When the evidence is all in and a just and reasonable verdict reached is when emotion should be released to insure actions based upon that verdict.
Truth is the conformity of cognition to reality. Only if we are aware of reality can we act in the proper manner. And this applies to politics, to religion, to business and to every department of life. But we cannot learn the truth if facts are suppressed, if facts are distorted, if we believe in falsehoods, or if through early conditioning our emotions will not permit us to consider facts which are presented to us, or if these emotions censor or distort logical conclusions arrived at from a consideration of all the available facts.
It is a sad commentary on the evolutionary level of our civilization when public opinion condemns certain people for presenting facts that seem favorable to any political or religious movement. Anything conceivable warrants having all the facts about it known and given thorough discussion. If it is something inimical, the facts logically handled will prove it inimical. If it is something beneficial, the facts logically handled will prove it beneficial. But if, as most things have, it has some good points and some bad points, when all the facts are brought out and given full public discussion, each will be revealed, and thus people will be able to reject the detrimental factors and adopt those beneficial.
There is only one logical reason why those in political authority or those in religious authority should try to prevent all the facts being made available and given thorough public discussion. That reason is that they fear the facts and the logical conclusions drawn from them will interfere with their own special privileges.
People can only be free from want when they have the truth and act upon it; they can only be free from fear when they have the truth and act upon it; and they can only have freedom of expression when they have the truth and act upon it. It is the truth alone which can make men free. And people can learn the truth, and thus be able to act upon it, only when there is freedom of information, and freedom to discuss before the public the logical conclusions to be derived from such information.
Such freedom of information, and freedom publicly to discuss the logical implications derived from all available facts, is even more important where religion is concerned; for religion should consider freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom of expression not merely on the physical plane, but how best they can be acquired also when life on earth is done.
To this end religion should acquire as many significant facts as possible about both planes, and advocate the type of life that in greatest measure will insure these freedoms both here and hereafter. It is because this is what The Religion of the Stars does that it is the world religion of the future.
Now that we have discussed just what religion is, and exactly what an adequate religion should do, let us consider the various steps by which religion has reached the stage of its development common in the world today. To do this we should start with the belief called Naturism, which as man developed from his nonhuman ancestors it is assumed was his first religion. It is the belief that various things usually considered by us as having no life are alive and act much as living creatures do. As man developed self consciousness and moved to a state slightly higher than the more intelligent nonhuman animals, it is assumed he came gradually, and at first dimly, to distinguish the difference between himself and other objects.
At this stage it is assumed that if a tree moved in the wind, or a rock rolled down a mountain, or a log floated down a stream, he had the vague notion that it moved by its own self power even as he moved by his. At this time, which is considered as that of transition to the human stage, he is supposed to have had no conception that his body and mind were different, no ideas about an after life, or that things were either natural or supernatural, and no thoughts concerning spirits. Like other animals he was supposed to be conscious of forces which he did not understand, and regarded these forces as other entities not wholly unlike himself. And because he did not understand, he feared them.
The classical example of the process by which Naturism, a religion so primitive that no people in the world today have not advanced above it, is an experiment by Mr. Romanes with one of his Skye Terriers (Evolutional Ethics and Animal Psychology, p. 355):
“He used to play with dry bones by tossing them in the air, throwing them to a distance, and generally giving them an appearance of animation, in order to give himself the ideal pleasure of worrying them. On one occasion I tied a long and fine thread to a dry bone and gave him the latter to play with. After he had tossed it about for a short time, I took the opportunity, when it had fallen at a distance from him and while he was following it up, of gently drawing it away from him by means of the long, invisible thread. Instantly his whole demeanor changed. The bone, which he had previously pretended to be alive, began to look as if it were really alive, and his astonishment knew no bounds. He first approached it with nervous caution, but, as the slow receding motion continued and he became quite certain that the movement could not be accounted for by any residuum of forces which he had himself communicated, his astonishment developed into dread, and he ran to conceal himself under some articles of furniture, there to behold at a distance the ‘uncanny’ spectacle of a dry bone coming to life.”
While Naturism is a hypothetical stage which is assumed to bridge the gap between the intelligence of higher nonhuman animals and the religion termed Animism, we are not compelled to observe the savages to find behavior which in many respects parallels that of the Skye Terrier. Many people today in the presence of extrasensory perception or witnessing psychokinetic phenomena, or called upon to examine either, or to test out astrology for themselves, like the Skye Terrier, retreat to what they believe to be a place of safety. Instead of boldly investigating the inner-plane faculties and conditions, including astrology, and trying to find out how they occur and how they can be made to operate for human benefit, they fearfully state that all such things should be left alone, or if they are religiously inclined they piously state that all such things are the work of the devil.
Yet even in the hypothetical religion of Naturism there is, as in all religions, an element of truth. Professor Chunder Bose, D.Sc., a native of India educated in England, some years ago conducted a long line of experiments which he published in a book, Response in the Living and the Non-Living, that prove conclusively that any form of matter may be alive, intelligent and sensitive, and that the difference between a man and a metal, or a man and a vegetable is more one of degree than of kind. He demonstrated the results of his investigations before the leading scientists of London, and they were accepted as correct. The startling fact derived from these experiments is that all metals, and to an extent all substances, exhibit in some degree, the same kind of sensitiveness observed in the human nervous system.
The Skye Terrier overestimated the power of life in the bone, and no doubt the savage overestimates the power of life in various other things. For such exaggerated views we are warranted in calling either the Skye Terrier or the savage superstitious. But what are we to call the citizens of civilized society who equally underestimate the life and sensitivity of minerals, plants and animals, and who ignorantly refuse to recognize phenomena which are manifestations of inner-plane forces?
From Naturism to Animism is but a step. In Naturism there is no notion of spirit. But in animism man has arrived at the conception that he is a spirit occupying a body. Having arrived at the belief that man has a spirit he takes another step and concludes that birds and beasts and plants and insects and even stones also have invisible doubles. And the fact that they actually do is being verified by scientific psychical researchers today. If the ghosts of dogs and horses manifest to civilized people, instances of which are given in Chapter 7 (Serial Lesson 131), Course XII-I, Natural Alchemy: Evolution of Life, why should not the ghosts of other animals be seen by uncivilized people?
Animism is the religion that behind the various material and visible objects are invisible and perhaps intelligent forces that use these objects for expression. Furthermore, as usually believed in, it peoples the world with spirits of various kinds that, though unseen, nevertheless, under certain circumstances, may exert an influence upon human life.
It is ranked as the lowest religion of known savages today. And Mr. Risley in 1901 reported his belief that Animism existed in its lowest form as the religion of the jungle dwellers in Chota Nagpur, India. He reported that the various spirits which are there believed in and propitiated are indeterminate in nature and represented by no symbol. All over Chota Nagpur, he reported, there were sacred groves where these spirits, which have not yet been given individual attributes, are supposed to dwell. He concludes that this hazy belief represents a transition from an impersonal religion toward well-defined Animism.
Undoubtedly savages draw wrong inferences from what they see, as does more civilized man. But there is a vast amount of carefully collected documentary evidence proving that the spirits of the dead return and are seen and communicate with those yet living. There is also a large amount of carefully collected documentary evidence that there are spirits other than human beings that cause material objects to move and various other violent phenomena to take place. Instances of both human and nonhuman hauntings are given in detail in Haunted Houses, by Camile Flammarion, and the whole subject is thoroughly discussed in Chapters 5, 6 and 7 (Serial Lessons 43-45), Course I, Laws of Occultism.
Nonhuman spirits (astral entities) are at the present day called “poltergeists.” They are also called “elementals.” There is no reason to believe that materializations, etherealizations, table-tipping, and such phenomena are confined to present-day civilization. On the contrary, the evidence indicates that all manner of supernormal phenomena take place more frequently among primitive peoples than among those who have been educated to believe such things are impossible. Nevertheless, thousands of people, many of whom are educated and highly cultured, are at the present day willing to swear that they have talked to loved ones who have passed from the physical body. Among these are some of the world’s greatest scientists who have taken every precaution not to be deluded.
Primitive man believed not only in the existence of the spirits of his ancestors, but also in elemental spirits. If, as related in Haunted Houses, Chapter XI, noises like a thunderclap are produced on the roof of the house, stones are dropped through the roof without there being an opening in it, stones are thrown from a distance through windowpanes with unbelievable marksmanship, chairs and tables overthrown, and other manifestations take place without any discoverable human agency, why should not the savage believe in elemental spirits?
Among his people there would be some, just as there are clairvoyants at the present time, who would be able to see these elemental spirits. No doubt the savage would at times overestimate the importance of the part played in natural phenomena by these elementals. But as to this we cannot be certain, because modern man has not investigated how little or how great a part is played by elementals in wind and lightning and such physical forces.
But as to the efficacy of prayer to invoke psychokinetic power that influences such forces of nature considerable evidence has been collected. Mr. Rawson, a man of considerable attainment in commercial and scientific lines, wrote a booklet, “Protection for Garden and Farm,” through prayer. And I have been told by three witnesses of the event—two witnesses being encountered a dozen years later than the other and in widely separated districts, and one at least having no incentive for prevarication as he was antagonistic to the Mormon faith—of a time of great drought that was broken by a venerable Mormon Bishop through prayer. The Bishop, who was a very old and holy man, went with the people of the town to a nearby hill and commenced to pray in an earnest and quavering voice. In a little while a cloud no bigger in appearance than one’s hand formed overhead and began to grow in size. Before long it began to sprinkle and then the people disbanded and went home in the rain, the drought completely broken.
Hopi Indian Snake Dance
The American Hopi Indian snake dance (picture page ) described in the reference book, Astrological Lore of All Ages, is to enable the Indians to contact their friends on the inner plane, and procure help, among other things, in warding off drought. Frequently the spectators of this impressive ceremony of an arid region are drenched with rain before they reach home.
Just how psychokinesis operates to produce or protect from natural phenomena, or to what extent it has power over them, awaits further investigation. But it explains why those believing in Animism propitiate elemental powers which some of their members see, and which they witness bring events of consequence to pass.
The conditions governing poltergeist phenomena are so little understood today that it is probable savages also fail to grasp fully the means by which elementals are able to produce physical results. No doubt their prayers and oblations to the elemental spirits, which they conceive to be behind natural happenings, often fail to bring about results. But also it is quite possible, especially when persons are involved who have considerable natural psychokinetic ability, that occasionally actual results follow the propitiation of elemental spirits. There are plenty of people today who believe that through earnest prayer they can be protected from injury by storm or flood. Some of these people cite very convincing instances to support their belief. Therefore, until evidence is collected about the power of psychokinesis to render such protection, we must not accuse the savage of having an altogether vicious superstition.
To give a list of the peoples of the world whose religion is largely that of Animism would be to name most of the uncivilized tribes, and many of the people who possess a civilized culture. Let us then take the next step, which is to consider fetishism.
Fetishism is the belief that certain material objects, either in their natural state, or when prepared according to a special ritual by a priest, have the power of bringing the fulfillment of a hope.
In World War II innumerable soldiers wore St. Christopher medals in the belief the medal would protect them from danger and deliver them from death. The person who hangs a horseshoe over his door to bring luck is practicing fetishism. To pick up a pin, as some people do, instigated by the adage, “See a pin and pick it up, all the day you will have good luck,” is fetishism. Wearing a rabbit’s foot to keep evil influences at a distance is fetishism. The belief that good luck will follow looking at the New Moon over the right shoulder is fetishism.
Professor E. Washburn Hopkins, of Yale, in his History of Religion, states in regard to the word fetish that: “Many writers use the word loosely to indicate any material object from which, like a mascot, the savage expects good luck; but properly a fetish is portable and is unlike a mascot in that it possesses power and will to bless. Hence it is coddled, abused, prayed to and stormed at, exactly as one would treat a recalcitrant spirit who may or may not aid.” He also says that a fetish is a spiritual power; and does not contain a spirit.
In those places where fetishism is most prevalent, it seems to me very difficult to draw the line between true fetishism, as Professor Hopkins defines it, and allied beliefs. Thus it is a common belief, not merely among savages, but among some civilized peoples, that a curse, placed by a person dying a violent death, upon some coveted object, has an evil spirit thus attached to it that will bring bad luck to all possessors of the object afterwards. At the present day we would not call it an evil spirit, but a thought force of evil psychokinetic power thus attached to the object.
One who will look carefully into the history of famous jewels, such as the Hope Diamond, will find a strange verification of the belief that evil befalls the owner of certain gems. Certain mummies taken from Egyptian tombs, and now in the British Museum, also have had an uncanny history of tragedy overtaking anyone possessing or handling them. These influences, by those who believe in them, are thought to be caused by elemental spirits that were attached to the objects by curses.
In The Jungle Folk of Africa, Robert H. Milligan, who lived among them as a missionary says of the Fang tribe of West Africa: “Ancestor worship is the highest form of African fetishism, and it is only called fetishism because the ancestor’s skull or other part of the body is the medium of communication. ... The usual fetish of ancestor worship is the skull of the father, which the son keeps in a box. The father occasionally speaks to the son in dreams and frequently communicates with him by omens. He helps him in all his enterprises, good and evil, and secures his success in hunting and in war.”
Side by side with fetishism, though not dependent upon it, is to be found another belief called Totemism. Totemism is a widespread belief among the dark-skinned races of the world, throughout aboriginal America, Polynesia, Australia, India, and Africa except the northern part. A totem is a class of material objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect, believing there exists between him and every member of the class an intimate and altogether special relationship. It differs from a fetish in that it embraces a whole class of objects. Thus to the Alaskan Indian of the Raven clan, all ravens are subject to the same veneration and esteem.
Believers in totemism claim that there is a bond of friendship and kinship between the clan or the individual (totems may be clan totems, or they may be individual totems) and the totem, that mutual advantages result from this relationship, and that the totem is actually in some sense the ancestor of the clan or individual to whom it belongs.
It is found that a clan or individual expresses the characteristics of its totem. The human group, or individual, vibrates to the same key that its totem does. The decave is different, but the key is the same; for the totem may be an animal, a plant, or other object. To state it in astrological terms, the totem is of the same astrological rulership as the person or clan claiming it as a totem.
This natural sympathetic relation is taken advantage of by the savage. He enters into rapport with the astral double of the totem. He does his utmost to protect and otherwise benefit the totem, and in return expects the astral double of the totem to warn him in time of danger, to afford him premonitions of important approaching events, and otherwise recompense him for his devotion to its welfare.
Through his friendship he attempts to use its double to attain certain advantages for himself. Although he does not hypnotize his totem, he talks to it, giving it suggestions, much as a hypnotist may suggest to his subject that the latter’s astral shall go to a distant place and obtain certain information, or that it shall direct him to a lost article. Through the natural vibratory similarity between them, the savage is in rapport with his totem in a manner not widely dissimilar to the rapport between the hypnotist and his subject, or the rapport between the controlling entity at a séance and its medium. The totem is a medium somewhat controlled by its human friend.
This all seems to the average individual pure nonsense and deep-dyed superstition. But before final judgment is pronounced, an investigation should be made as to how often a clan is actually warned—probably through the extrasensory perception of the totem or the clan—of danger by the uncommon actions of some member of its totem. It might be well to know, for instance, how often a clan in search of game following the direction taken by the first of its totem met actually found abundant game in that direction. And bearing the power of psychokinesis in mind, and how little is known about how it works, it might be well to investigate the fortune in warfare of a clan holding a dance in honor of its totem before entering battle, and what effect it had upon their endurance, their keenness of faculties, and the sudden impressions by which they took advantage of an opponent or escaped danger.
Next above Totemism on the religions genealogical tree is the worship of heroes. We need not go back to olden times to witness how certain individuals with superior talents in some direction are endowed by their followers with perfections they in no wise possess. Multitudes of young people adore certain movie heroes. A statesman who has accomplished some outstanding service to his nation is raised on a pedestal which permits him never to be wrong. It has been proved that the George Washington cherry tree incident is a hero-worship fantasy.
Had Hitler won World War II he would have been acclaimed a god, as were certain Roman emperors. After they have been dead a hundred years or more certain individuals are proclaimed to be saints, and to them are directed the prayers of the devout.
Because of the taboos of our society we cannot give this subject the discussion it warrants. While in its grosser aspect it is something quite repugnant, nevertheless it seems to be founded upon something that in its finer aspects is both constructive and beneficial; the use of the higher emotions of love between husband and wife.
Actual results need to be checked to give us anything conclusive, but the ancients made great claims for the finer relations between married couples, claims that in the light of modern psychological knowledge, and knowledge of the action of the endocrine glands, may be founded on fact. To what extent husband and wife may contribute, through the stimulation in each other of high ideals and emotions, through exchange of magnetism, and through the psychokinetic influence of their minds upon each other, should be investigated by competent scientists; for many have claimed to have been rejuvenated and given health, as well as the inspiration for high accomplishment, through marital love.