The Sacred Fire, by B.Z. Goldberg, , at sacred-texts.com
And after the cry of fear
ERE love was born and faith came into the world man was already there. Wild and woolly he was, crude and beastlike, yet the progenitor of a specie that was to produce civilization and culture, romance and art, love and religion. He was there when Europe was still covered with ice and the mammoth roamed over the land. If we had called on him, we would have had to seek him out in the crevices of some rock, cold and hungry, in hiding from the terrific forces of an environment to which he was hardly equal. What did this crouching, recoiling Old Anthropology Adam think of Love and God?
His means of expression was necessarily limited; he existed long before there was an alphabet or any attempt at written record. In fact, even verbally we could not have gotten much out of him. His words were few and as indefinite as the thoughts forming in his brain. And yet, this Old Anthropology Adam, living in inner and outer darkness, felt the urge to express himself and found his medium in art.
Were we to call upon him in a happier moment when he had caught his fish and trapped his prey, when he had had his fill and napped off the process of digestion, we might have found him drawing upon the walls of his cave the outline form of the mammoth, or painting the lion in fast colors upon the roof of his dwelling. Old Anthropology Adam was engaged in art.
What made him decorate the walls of his cave with drawings and paintings? Was it a vestigial sense of the beautiful that possibly came down the animal line with him? More probably he was little concerned with beautifying his abode. He may have drawn the lion not so much to put it on the wall as to get it out of his head. He may have been the true artist, pursuing his art for art's sake.
For Old Anthropology Adam was already possessed of a memory and an imagination. In idle moments he had been recalling the things that had happened to him on the previous day. He had been dreaming of his desires and wishes. Such activities served him as a mental stimulus, creating surplus energy that had to find an outlet somehow. For man's mind ever seemed to be like a container of a more or less definite volume. Too full, it ran over and out into the world. Thus it was that Old Anthropology Adam came upon the medium of art, finding it most appropriate to convey his thoughts plastically and in line upon the screen of space before him.
Having found our way into the province of the primitive mind, we might now explore it a little. Old Adam was a realist to the core. In his art he portrayed objects
of his immediate environment. He presented them as faithfully as his primitive technique would permit. And critics have marveled at his ingenuity in overcoming technical difficulties.
Yet we very soon find him going in for symbolism. He not only presents an imaginary object to the eye, but he gives it a meaning. He intentionally rejects certain details and exaggerates others, emphasizing those that are apparently most important in his eyes. Old Anthropology Adam not only gave us his environment in his art, but himself as well, his own personal interests and urges, his dreams and desires, his very soul.
Now, what was on the mind of primitive man as expressed in his art? What was the motive that overfilled his being and sought projection into the outer world? It was love, sex, revealed to him in its concrete, physical form. When he drew the figure of an animal, his interest was centered on the parts that harbored the prime force of nature. When he was representing the human form, he took pains to render these same parts elaborately, in great detail and out of proportion to the entire body. No attempt is noticeable to delineate the limbs carefully or to represent the head realistically. All his attention was centered on the embodiments of that great life-bringing power in nature.
The impression obtains that primitive man used the body as a background for the generative organs, which he took for the chief detail, the leit-motif. Whatever Old Anthropology Adam was concerned with in his art, his attention was focused on the sex of it. Sex was the prime mover of his life.
In this respect, the artist did in his art only what the
singer did in his song and the dance master in his dance. The songs of primitive man concerned themselves with hunting, fishing, and driving spirits away. But far more than with these, were they concerned with sex. Similarly, the dances of primitive man may have represented war and the hunt and death, but, in most cases, they took on a sexual meaning in the course of execution. All other
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Primitive man's crude portrayal of the creative force
dances seem to have been merely a warming up for the chief dance of the primitive community, the dance that was the exaltation of the tribe, the sacred climax of every important ceremony, the dance that was highly suggestive and imitative of mating, culminating in rank sexual orgies.
What was it that made sex the center of primitive man's thought, the prime motive of his imagination? Was he
conscious of it as the life-giving force throughout nature? He may have been, for he realized his dependence upon the regeneration of nature, upon the green of the fields and the young of the animals for his sustenance. Again he may not, for he was not aware of any relationship between the occasional moment of pleasure with a woman and the offspring so many months later.
It is most probable that Old Anthropology Adam dwelled so much upon sex because it was pleasurable. His drab life offered little bliss and the sex emotion was his chief source of joy and exaltation. All other animals had a rather mechanical sexual life. Generally their mating instinct was inactive; their existence consisted chiefly in feeding, resting and physical play. This stretch of sexual inactivity was crossed by a definite season of hypersexuality. Then their entire organism was highly attuned, susceptible to the least attraction of the opposite sex and driven into courtship and intercourse by the lash of a force as incomprehensible as it was uncontrollable. In man these periods of rut were dissolved in an indefinite, general sex activity. This activity was the great diversion in his life except when it was submerged by fear or struggle. Frequently it was also associated with physical contests, as fighting or racing for the female, which added even greater zest to his loving. Is there any wonder, then, that his mind should dwell on it in his idle moments and that it should be the chief content of his memories of the past and imaginings of the future?
The attitude of primitive man toward sex was not at all like ours. He could never have understood our secretiveness about it or our reserve in speaking of it. Old Anthropology Adam was not in the Garden of Eden, yet
he went naked and knew it not. There are many primitive peoples today that go about entirely naked. Among others, only the married women go unclothed, bearing their nudity as a mark of their marital state, just as our married women wear the wedding ring. Early man had no secret part in his organism nor was he ashamed of any one of them. His attitude toward his own body may be gleaned from the lullaby the Nama-Hottentot mother sings her babe:
Proud of his sexual apparatus, primitive man could not be ashamed of its function. To him sex was as natural as eating. He ate in public anytime, anywhere there was food and he was hungry. So did he satisfy his sexual appetite. The Latin poet, Horace, described this stage of man's love in his own inimitable manner when he said: "He jumped in beastly fashion at the first best female that came his way." The great modern ethnologist, Bachofen, reiterates that originally man "satisfied his natural instinct like the beast without lasting bond with the particular female and before the eyes of all."
There are still those who disdain to think that such was the origin of the love of man. They would rather have him spring from more noble stock that was monogamous by nature. Only in time did he fall and degenerate into the state of promiscuity we find him in, in the past or present. Westermarck is one apostle of this monogamous
faith in man and he musters considerable evidence in support of his theory. Still, the consensus of opinion among anthropologists today is that originally man was promiscuous in the exercise of his sexual function. Greek and Roman historians speak of races living in promiscuity in their day. Modern travelers have found tribes in Australia and elsewhere, who in their sex life know neither family ties nor privacy, neither constancy nor consideration.
Moreover, the environmental life of primitive man was conducive to promiscuity. The tribal group lived in a circumscribed space. It was no more safe or convenient to go off to a place where one might not be seen than there was a conscious urge to do so. Old Anthropology Adam may have been returning home after a long day of hunting, weary in body and heavy of heart. What could be more pleasant to him than grasping a female and drowning his troubles in the joy of union with her?
The female was at hand and she dared not refuse. In his moment of passion little thought did he give to the presence of others, nor would he shrink from exercising his sexual function before them if he did. What one man did another would do. Imitation was the spark that set man's heart a-burning. What to us should be a strictly private affair became a social function, a group experience. And whenever the sexual function is exercised by individuals in a group, an exchange of partners will follow. It is true today in the so-called "wild parties," and in the orgies of religious sects.
The exercise of the sexual function in the presence of others only added fire to its flame. It intensified a passion already overwhelming the primitive being. It brought
additional joys to a signal pleasure in a life of bleak existence. As it was, in addition, free from all restrictions, we need not wonder that Old Anthropology Adam set his mind upon sex. In time, it overran his entire personality. He projected it out of his self in art and dance and song.
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Sex pervaded the art of Old Anthropology Adam
He shouted it forth in his speech; for the sounds that escaped him during his mating formed the basis of his language. And old, idealistic Plato tells us that even thinking was a sublimation of man's sexuality. That is why in most languages the word "conceive" has the two meanings of thinking and becoming pregnant. Sex became the way of man's living.
But the very fact that the sexual function had been exercised openly in the social group caused it in time to be limited and circumscribed. Once sex became a social activity the group took it in hand to make it serve the social unit rather than the individual. Inhibitions were imposed upon the mating instinct not to add to man's pleasure or to make it more orderly and improved. They were there to save man's physical energies for the greater tasks of the tribe in war and peace. They were there to whet his appetite for victory, which would bring the women of the enemy as its reward. They were there to drive man on in his daily grind, for at its close the great accumulated hunger would be satisfied. Harnessing the individual more closely to the work of the social unit, the latter found it imperative to curtail his sexual life.
Thus the sexual function was limited, and any break of the bonds upon sex spelled ill for the entire group. A sexual act committed against the accepted code of morality was in olden times thought to hurt the tribe by causing sterility of the crop, since it offended the fertility gods. To this day in some parts of Europe, adultery is said to bring about a fatal epidemic to children and when infant deaths increase the morality seekers have an easy hand.
Time and experience gave birth to such concepts as incest, which forbade intercourse between mother and son, father and daughter, brother and sister, and other blood relations, varying with different people. Exogamy came into being, by which the males of one group were forbidden sexual union with the females of the same group. Marriages of various sorts—beginning with group marriages
and ending with modern monogamous marriage—limited sexual union with a woman, first to a group, then to members of a family, like father and brother of the male, and finally to a single male.
Out of the chaos of promiscuity grew our complicated solar system of kinship, family relationship, and monogamous marriage—as complicated, for instance, as the Mosaic law that one may marry his niece but not his aunt. This remnant of antiquity is still reflected today in the pseudoscientific theory of consanguineous marriage, for which modern eugenics can find no justification.
But this growth did not take place without pains, nor has it yet reached its completion. We all know of the desperate fight against incest by the servants of Jehovah. Even at the present time, incestuous relationship is not so rare, as the records of criminal courts in any land will show. Methods of escape from the rigid rules were evolved—sort of a back-door entrance, either in space, delimiting definite places, like the Bais or Young Men's Barrack, where all was permitted; or, in time, like festive occasions, when again all bonds were loosened. Gradually these back doors were closed upon the hinges of civilization. Still, man's heart has not changed. We occasionally hear of an exchange of wives between families, recalling tribal or clan marriage, and a monogamous marriage is in many places almost as often honored in its breach as in its fulfillment.
The repression of any innate tendency brings in its wake the desire for some escape. So it was that sexual prohibition gave rise to an erotic tendency in religion. When Old Anthropology Adam found his sexual desire fenced in by social customs and tribal taboos, he, too, sought a way of going around these inhibitions. The hand
of the group weighed down too heavily upon the individual for him to try to break the law of the tribe. It was the group that made the taboos; it was up to the group to raise these taboos temporarily at various times. Hence, on all religious occasions, whenever primitive man returned from the hunt or the stream, whenever the tribe gathered for an important event, the taboos w ere wholly or partially raised.
He may have been in a joyous mood celebrating the advent of the springtime, thankful for a successful hunt, exultant because of a victory over an enemy, proud and happy at the birth of a child, or even depressed and saddened at the death of a favorite member of the tribe. But no matter what the cause, each of these occasions gave rise to a very definite display of emotion in an appropriate dance; and, again, no matter what emotion called it forth, the ceremony ended in an orgy in which all bonds were cast aside, all previous joys or sorrows forgotten, while, for a few short hours, love and sex furnished the bliss and exaltation that the primitive heart of Old Anthropology Adam craved.
Even to this day when the Buriats of Asiatic Siberia have a holiday, bonfires are lighted near the villages, around which men and women sing prayers and dance their monotonous nadan. Every once in a while a couple leaves the circle and disappears in the dark woods near by. After a time they return to the dance, only to disappear again, but with different partners.
Thus, Old Anthropology Adam looked to sex for whatever exalted joys life had in store for him. In the enjoyment
of this pleasure he had been very early inhibited and hemmed in. This impressed sex even more strongly upon his mind. It was not only the thing he wished most, but also the point where his desire was crossed. Moreover, sexual experience has always been man's outlet for his other pent-up emotions. Suppressed rage, swallowed pride, hidden fear, all could be relieved in an orgy of drenching sexuality. Hemming in the sexual impulse meant not only penning up man's greatest passion, but also closing the outlet for his other emotions. Modern man must either sublimate
An Egyptian phallic altar
his suppressed energies or develop a psychosis. Old Anthropology Adam faced the problem by a double-headed solution. He went in for blood-letting, raising all bonds from time to time as a soul cleansing, and for sublimating his desires in symbolism in his art and other products of his mind—above all in religion. The cruder he was, the more anthropologic he was, the oftener were his blood-lettings and the more simple his symbolism. As he climbed the ladder of civilization, the open outbursts of sexuality grew fewer and his symbolism became more highly involved.
At first, these symbols were merely realistic portrayals
of the generative organs. Later, man began to embroider them in his mind—they became something intricate and fanciful. Simple and natural sexual union was clothed with ideas and mental images. More and more it became a thing of the imagination. As these ideas grew, the act itself dwindled in importance, until it was only a ritual.
Old Anthropology Adam lived in a world of fears. His great-great-grandfather, the gibbon, swinging in the tree had been much happier and comparatively free from worry and fright. The gibbon did not know enough to be afraid. Modern man knows better; he has learned to discount his fears. Primitive man was caught in between. The babe may crawl right into the ocean, not knowing enough to fear the waves. The little child will play on the beach and enjoy the sight of the water, but will run back in horror when the foam of the waves touches his feet. The older boy knows just how far into the ocean he may safely go. Old Anthropology Adam was like the child in his attitude toward the great world about him.
Many things might put terror into the heart of primitive man. There was the blinding flash of lightning across the storm-darkened heavens, followed by the deafening crash of thunder. There were the powerful waters washing away everything before them after the cloudburst. There was ominous night with its strange, screeching sounds coming out of the bush, or echoing in the forests. There was the wail of the wind sounding like the moan of a friend when that mysterious something happened to
him—something that made him no longer able to walk, one who would soon lie listless and be carried away to the hills, a prey for the vultures and wild beasts.
For here another mystery was impressing itself upon the dawning mind of Old Anthropology Adam—death. It is a mystery to this very day, in many cases even to medicine. Its puzzling strangeness, coupled with sorrow and grief, overwhelms one still when it occurs in his immediate environment. It was even more of a mystery to primitive man, since it often occurred violently, and the quick transition from a healthful life to sudden death was shocking indeed. Neither was it quite conceivable that the big chief who was the terror of the land might suddenly become as powerless as the slain bison. What, he wondered, could it be that made a person lie down and be almost nothing at all?
The very same person that became nothing at all may have been seen later, quite as he was before—in dream or delusion. His very dreams filled Old Adam with awe and astonishment. How could he lie down to rest and, while he was lying there, go hunting, trap an animal, and feast on its meat? Even today, in the very moment of waking, many a man finds himself grasping for the object of his dream as if it should be there in reality. Is there any wonder, then, that primitive man should be puzzled over what had become of the food he had been dreaming of? Like the child, Old Anthropology Adam confused his imagination with his experiences, his dreams with his realities. Yet the two did not tally at all. What was this stuff that dreams were made of?
All these mysteries that worried the groping mind of primitive man could be allayed by the single idea of
[paragraph continues] "doubles." Such an idea may have been suggested by the shadow of himself which he saw on sunny afternoons or moonlight nights. There was actually a "double" of himself, following him wherever he turned. There was, then, the man one could see and get hold of, and his "double" that one did not always see. But it was there just the same. Now as Old Anthropology Adam was lying asleep under the tree or in the cave, it was not he, but his "double," that was hunting and feasting on the prey. Therefore it did not do him much good when he awoke. For it was only when he was together with his "double" that he was himself and things went well. Once his "double" left him, he might fall asleep or become ill, and if the "double" did not return, he might come to be nothing—that is, dead. It was for this reason, too, that one could see a person even though he was dead. One did not really see him, but his "double," and "doubles" persist forever.
This "double" idea was extended, not only to humans and animals, but to everything in nature. It was before the time that primitive man learned to consider himself the crown of creation. It was still the day when he did not have the consciousness of being singled out from his environment. Like the child of today, he drew no line between himself and the world about him. He was "double"; therefore, all things were "double."
As Old Anthropology Adam went about building up this idea of "doubles," little did he realize how much trouble it was going to cause him. It proved a sort of boomerang. Relieving man of some of his fears, it came to add many others. Take the case of a very formidable enemy. The enemy died. Instead of being relieved by his
death, Adam's woes increased tremendously. He might have been able to cope with his enemy living; but he was not equal to the "double" now that it was liberated from the body and thereby unlimited by space and time and physical barriers. The "double" might be visible or invisible; he might be here and there and everywhere within a second. He could strike and do all sorts of mean tricks in the world of darkness in which he operated. The "double" thus became a ghost, and the ghost of an evil man, of a deadly enemy or a cruel chieftain, was a demon. And there were also the demons of nature, such as thunder, hurricanes, and forest fires.
To be sure, there were also good "doubles," favorable ghosts, such as the "doubles," of one's beloved or of the friendly forces in nature. But the harm that the demons might do one by far overshadowed the good that one might expect from the friendly spirits.
Harsh, cruel and menacing as the environment of Old Anthropology Adam was, it became still harder and even more threatening because of the "doubles," ghosts and demons, that thickly populated it.
Man has always found remedies for his ills, whether real or imaginary. The remedies are on the same plane and appropriate to the ills. Old Anthropology Adam may not have been very cunning; but he knew how to play off one "double" against another. If there were "doubles" that could come down in the night to do harm to one's cave or hut, there was a rattle—with a "double" as well—of which the threatening "double" was quite wary. Get after the demon with a rattle and he would take to his
[paragraph continues] "double" heels. What was it in the rattle that drove off the devil? Something inherent in it which was as real as the demon, and for all that, the rattle was a rattle and no more. Its power to charm, its mana quality, did not distinguish it from other objects used in the hut.
Of course, to us there is not much sense in driving off spirits with rattles. Neither do we see any reason to worry about what a spirit may do. But to those who stand in awe of spirits, the rattle may be a powerful charm. Even to this day in eastern Europe, the peasants expel the devil with incense. If a rattle will drive off a demon and incense will chase the devil away, why should not a horseshoe bring good luck? Certainly luck is as evasive a phenomenon as a spirit, and the iron of the horseshoe as tangible as the rattle or incense. It is all the same phenomenon which is called mana, and so many of the "initiated," civilized people who ridicule the mana of Old Anthropology Adam will take very seriously their own superstition of a horseshoe, or of Friday the thirteenth, or of a broken mirror, which is sure to bring bad luck since the breaking has liberated the spirit, that is, the "double" that dwelled therein.
Thus, Old Anthropology Adam found in mana one way of counteracting the multitude of untoward forces in his world. Another way of dealing with the world of animal wills and "doubles" was to charm them, just as one charms a snake. You get them to do your bidding by simply knowing how. The spirit of water may withhold the rain, wishing in his anger to dry up the world, to parch and destroy it. But when the wise man, the shaman, the medicine man, the magician, comes out and throws up sand to the sky and the sand comes down like rain, then
the spirit of water must give up the rain. This magic way of dealing with natural forces and spirits is a kind of activity-mana. Apparently it is a form of persuasion that cannot be refused. Again, one may question the logic of it—compelling the spirit of water to give up the rain for such a small reason—yet it is no more illogical than the very belief in a spirit of water that withholds the rain.
Mana, or magic, is a quaint way of dealing with supernatural powers, hardly conceivable to modern man. It is so old that its origin lies side by side with that of man himself. Its sense or motive is hidden from us. We can see in it only the product of a mind groping alone in the haze of muddled thinking. To us, it is a single-handed mechanistic method of coping with an unequal opponent, but without this weapon man might have succumbed beneath his burden of fears.
As social life developed among humans, man was no longer so helpless. He acquired new ways of dealing with other beings within his social group and he carried over some of these into his relationship with the supernatural. Instead of depending on sheer, senseless mechanics, it occurred to him that he might obtain the desired result in a more natural manner. He might deal with the supernatural in much the same way as he dealt with his fellow men. He might impose upon the "double" by threat or win its favor by offering gift or compliment.
This is a social relationship entered into with the "double." It involves an emotional attitude toward the supernatural power. At first, it was crude and mercenary. There may have been neither adoration nor humility in it, but it was the making of religion. Once man entered into a relationship with the supernatural, the affinity was
bound to grow in importance and omnipotence as man became more and more dependent upon it. He was started on the way to faith and god. Humble indeed was the beginning of his religious sentiments, but humbler still was the beginning of his gods.
And this is the story of how Nathuram, the rascal, became a god:
Nathuram was a rascal, that everybody knew, although no one had ever learned who he was or where he had come from. Apparently he wandered down from the hills and kept himself in the woods of Rajputana. No sooner did he arrive than he was heard from in an unsavory way.
First it was the wife of Surenda. She was returning from a visit and was stepping sprightly along the road to Marwar, when she felt something spring at her, gasping in a dreadful way. She thought it was a snake, or perhaps a monkey gone mad. Then she saw the dark eyes, burning like coals in the swarthy head, the large hand with its iron grip dragging her after him into the woods.
When Surenda's wife emerged from the woods, she uncovered her head and walked, not in the middle of the road, but at the side—the path of sinners. Weeping, she reached her husband's door and prostrated herself before him.
Then it was the wife of another, and yet another, until one day, there were as many as five women who had been caught by Nathuram and made victims of his passion. There were many expeditions sent into the woods to capture him, but he was not to be caught.
Finally a little girl of the tribe, the daughter of a priest, was seized by Nathuram and kept for a whole day in the woods. She fainted on her father's doorstep, unable to
tell of the torture and the violence that she had undergone. But no telling was necessary. Just one glance at the poor little maiden and they knew—Nathuram.
So all husbands and fathers took an oath that they would not return to their huts until they had caught Nathuram, living or dead. And they got him along the side of a stream as it ran down a short but steep hill. And as they beheaded him, the head of the rascal rolled down the hill, winking one eye and wearing a strange grin. It finally fell into the water, but still it winked and still it grinned.
Wives were safe in Rajputana and so were young girls, and all was quiet again. But no quiet knew the souls of the Rajput. The men could not banish from their minds the wink in dead Nathuram's eye and the grin on his face. And the women folk of Rajputana were awakened at night by dreadful dreams and nightmares, all brought about by the dead rascal Nathuram. They could almost feel his breath and his grasp about their waists.
And so again the wise men of Rajputana met in council and decided to placate the angry spirit. A feast was prepared in his honor, in which a figure representing him was carried down the hill to the bank of the river, and songs were sung, telling of the powers and superhuman virility of Nathuram, that all the women of Rajputana could not satisfy his sexual hunger.
Seasons came and seasons passed. The young of Rajputana grew old, and the old were no more. New young folks, who had not witnessed the execution of Nathuram, filled the huts. They knew of him only by hearsay. Nathuram's spirit, too, apparently had grown old and less bothersome. No longer did he worry the memories of
the men, nor disturb the sleep of the women. Yet the feast of Nathuram continued to increase in importance in its place in the life of Rajputana.
Both men and women liked the songs about the things Nathuram did, and all enjoyed the dances showing in action the life of Nathuram in Rajputana. These dances
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A demon of love
(Adapted from an old English ballad)
were executed by the women around a huge figure of Nathuram, a nude monster of sexuality. Time wore off the ill feeling that the people of Marwar had borne toward the former rascal. He was now the God of Fertility; barren women looked to him for deliverance from their sterility, and on the night the bride first visited her husband, an image of Nathuram was placed beside her on
the couch. Nathuram, the rascal, had become the god of Marwar.
With so many opportunities for god production and the ease with which the gods took root in the mind of primitive man, it is not at all surprising that Old Anthropology Adam had a great many of them. Whatever played a part in his life was food for his thought and cause for mental speculation. If it was strong enough to stir his soul and overshadow his whole being, he carried it right up to the mountain of the gods.
There were gods for the sun and the moon and the stars; there were gods for the woods and for the river and for the fishes that swarmed therein. And there were people who became gods. In some places, when a man died, an image of him was made and placed along with other divine images of the household—the initial step in the development of ancestor worship.
At first, the god of birth was only one among many on the mountain of the gods. But many factors were driving this divinity to the head of the divine family. True, it did not have the advantage of the first and considerable start the gods of fear had. But these latter were bound to lose as man grew less afraid of his immediate environment, when his fancy ran along more pleasant channels. In fact, the very god of fear was building a temple for the god of birth and generation. For fear was a strain upon man's soul and he had to find relief somewhere. This was afforded him by the god of procreation. Even now, people living under great strain seek relief in sexual activity. All the energy collecting under the strain was released in the channel of sexuality.
Then again, the god of birth and fertility was associated with another great force in the life of Old Anthropology Adam: physical hunger. He wanted to eat, and the hunger for food was as potent as the desire for the life upon which the fear gods were rasping. Birth of the young of animals meant additional food; besides, it was easier to trap the young animal. The generative force was also the harbinger of spring, when life generally eases up, when the first signs of abundance are manifested. The life of primitive man was chiefly a physical matter and it was the creative force that supplied his needs.
There was still another element in the selection of the generative force as king of the gods. Birth was the opposite of death. The sorrow that came in death was relieved by the joy that a new birth ushered in. The more man pondered over death, the more his thought turned to birth, making it the chief encouraging event in his life. The fact, too, that the father of the clan or family was also the progenitor, or birth giver, added import to the god of birth, just as the god of birth gave prestige to the birth giver in the family. One reacted upon the other to their mutual benefit.
Another element that made for the supremacy of the generative divinity was the order of worship. Man served his god in accordance with the function over which the god presided. Putting on masks, making a terrible racket, moaning, shouting, shrieking, all served to let off energy in the service of any divinity. But the erotic dances, representing the activities of the birth god, the songs that we today would call obscene, and the physical union of the sexes that became a definite part and the climax of the services to the fertility god, made this particular service
a source of unusually pleasurable excitement and exaltation. Not only was the birth god gradually growing in importance through the realization of his powers in the minds of the people, but the very service that the people offered to this god enhanced his value and his importance in their eyes. The god became associated or "conditioned," as the Behaviorists today would say, with the most supreme moments of happiness and joy in the life of the community.
Finally the god of birth came to be served at the most opportune moment—the time of spring. Love came into religion when loving was in the air. Today, "in the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." There is a response in the physical organism of man to the great regenerating changes that occur in nature. That is the time when humanity revolts against the bonds, when "freedom rings," and man seeks to escape the prohibitions that social customs have developed about his love life.
So in time, the worship of the generative force in nature came to overlap all other forms of worship and the god of fertility was the leading god on the mountain, in fact, if not in name. The service to the god of generation spread beyond the limits of his temple and into the provinces of other gods. Whoever the god was, or however he was served, the service was an overture, or a preparation—a sort of warming up for the real ceremony which was to follow, the ceremonial dances and songs and other expressions of the sexual emotion that came into the religious sphere through the gateway of the god of birth.
Old Anthropology Adam realized intuitively what is so obvious to us today: that the emotion of love and the sentiment of religion have very much in common; both
are to a large extent indefinite, general sensations, arousing the entire organism and ending in an approach to ecstasy; both are ways of escape from an oppressing environment, a means of relieving mental strain. No wonder then that the two have become intertwined and that all other gods partook of the sacrifices that Old Anthropology
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Man's first church—the spreading banyan tree; his best-loved god—the male creative force
[paragraph continues] Adam so generously offered his god of fertility—his god of love.
. . . . . . .
There is a legend that has always captivated the fancy of men and women in all parts of the world. It is the story of the Sleeping Beauty.
A beautiful princess of the blood and of spirit is forcefully held captive in the tower of a castle guarded by dragons or men of evil. In time, a youth appears on the scene, a young prince charming who slays the dragons or evil men, and liberates the princess. Of course, the two fall in love with each other, marry in royal fashion, and live happily ever after.
Some such relationship exists historically between the emotion of love and the sentiment of religion. At first, love was royally free, without bonds, barriers, or restrictions of any sort. In time, organized society laid its hand upon the free exercise of the love passion and imprisoned it. A number of taboos, like dragons, were woven about it. Love was forbidden with certain persons, as incestuous love. It was forbidden with many persons at once, as promiscuous love. It was forbidden in free and open
Click to enlarge
From an old Egyptian urn
spaces, before the eyes of the people. Love was forbidden altogether unless men ran the gauntlet of capture, barter, or bans. There were ample reasons for all these barriers thus placed in the path of love. Yet they oppressed the spirit of man. His whole being rebelled for his thwarted sex instinct.
It was then that Prince Religion came to liberate the imprisoned Princess of Love. Religion, born of fear and nursed in darkness, raised itself by fusing with love. What was forbidden in ordinary life was allowed in the life of religion. Bonds were broken and taboos raised, once
people entered into the temple of the gods. What was desired in lust was sanctified in song and prayer. That which was kadosh, taboo, unaccessible, forbidden the very touch or the slightest approach, was purified and elevated to supreme duty by the magic wand of faith. The very mother-in-law, who was not to appear under the same roof or tree with her son-in-law, who must flee at sight of him, could be had for wife as the dessert after a religious feast. The other fellow's wife, union with whom could be had only under sure forfeit of one's life, could be secured at the motion of one's finger during the incantations of the priest. All this only served to strengthen even further the bonds between love and religion, culminating in a marriage that was to be both happy and lasting.