Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ghostism and Godism - I

This post is the outcome of a discussion at Quetzalcoatl anthropology forum. It is difficult to say if other member/s understood my points or I understood their points. But once in a while during the discussion one of the more learned members of forum would assure me that my point had merits. Therefore, I think, the whole discussion was not pointless and I can expand it to include many other aspects and as my wont make it completely incoherent.

Description of the terms:
Soulism is belief in the supernatural to which we can connect. These supernaturals are called spirits. The founders of this institution were females who could see their ancestor ghosts and sometimes get possessed by them. In the later times mostly men became shamans who go into trance and get possessed by spirits.

Godism is belief in the supernatural to which we can not connect. These supernatural are called gods. The founders of this institution were males who lost the memory of the ancestors who became spirits. Probably, these are the men who lost from the tribe with shamans. In this belief an oracle might resemble a shaman but I don't think he gets possessed by gods in public and deliver the message. Also, oracle uses some other materials to read and deliver gods' message which is not shamanism. Therefore, oracle must not be equated with a shaman. Here the people who hold the knowledge of worship are called priests.

However, human society includes one more institution that was relatively uninfluenced by supernatural but wondered about human creation. The final conclusion of this group was emergence of linga-yoni or yin-yang.

The incompatible institutions:
I believe all these three groups had independent origins. When they met there were many frictions and also many anomalies to accommodate. Consider Vedic people for example;
Vedic people were basically a pure godistic community. They did not have spirit and linga-yoni concepts. Therefore, you can find RigVeda making mockery of phallus worshippers. Also, Krishna commenting that people who worship ghosts will become ghosts eventually.

When Shamanic society encountered Godistic society the gods became just like spirits. You can observe many Hindu gods being worshipped as spirits in Tulu region.

However, I do not have any examples of linga-yoni society meeting Shamanic society. When linga-yoni did come to pure Shamanic society of South India; it came as a part ofGodistic society. This makes me think may be linga-yoni concept in fact was part of Shamanic society or grew in Shamanic societies. But probably few Shamanic societies developed it.

The creation question:
As we have already seen the question of creation need not to have an answer in god. A linga-yoni duo can satisfy it. However, because of gods the answer took different form in godistic societies. There was a greater need for explaining the concept of gods and a new range of myths were created in those societies. What about Shamanic societies?

Curiously, the pure Shamanic societies never faced this situation as their ancestors were always kept alive in the form of spirits. People were just descendants of those ancestors. It was difficult to imagine a supreme ghost like a supreme god as Shamans can not connect to that supreme ghost. I have already mentioned that many of the spirits in Tulu regions come in brother-sister pair. The present day myths talk about origins of all spirits from Shiva. The original story connected to many of these spirits have been lost. In my opinion, this brother-sister pair were also husband and wife and the ancestor of the tribes. Curiously, a tribe named Koragas have brother-sister pair spirits called Koraga and Korati(though now propitiated by all the communities).

Probably, Nuwa-Fuxi, Adam-Eve and Mari-Sugaar pairs were initially brother-sister spirits like Koraga and Korati.

Priests versus Shamans:
I do not think shamans could have commanded the respect that the priests had in the past. I think the fundamental difference between them was the kind of background from which initial shamans and priests came. I believe shamans came from poor, malnourished families where it could have been natural to see the ghosts or get possessed by the ghosts. Therefore, their position might not be exulted in any society. However, priests could have been elites who in the absense of shamans had to invent gods in the place of spirits. The priests generally had very uneasy relationship with shamans. The priests were always exorcists or sorcerers to drive away the evil spirits. But what if a shamans and priests come together? I think this happened in India.

Advaita and Dvaita:
Curiously, the biggest proponents of these two schools of thought came from predominantly Shamanic societies. Shankara, proponent of Advaita, was from Malayala region and Madhva, proponent of Dvaita, from Tulu region. These two schools of thought exemplify the anomalies when the fundamentals of Soulism meets fundamentals of Godism.

Shankara said both soul and god are the same. By saying he in fact broke away from god's concept which is a supernatural that can not be connected by a human. Shankara in his actions remained Godistic in his philosophy became Shamanic. However, Madhva wanted to maintain the status-quo and said soul and god are different. But could not get over the concept of soul, an abstraction of spirit.

The development of Education and Soulism and Godism:
Here, I think Godism moves ahead of Soulism. The invention of supernatural that humans can not connect needed higher level imagination to explain the things. And also the need to preserve these explanations. This was not required in Shamanic societies. Also, priests tend to be from the elites(could be rulers too) this education (oral or written) became mainstream. Even if there was any kind of literate tradition in Shamanic society it would not have become mainstream as elites of those societies were never shamans.

Indus Valley Civilization:
Some people(Michael Witzel, Steve Farmer) have speculated that Indus valley civilization was illiterate. I do not think we can judge that. In my opinion, we can be only sure that it was Shamanic and not Godistic. The kingdoms west of this civilization in fact had highly developed literate society even before this civilization started taking complete form. However, we have to also see that those were generally Godistic societies. Some of those kingdoms were ruled by priest-kings. The literature was mostly about gods/goddesses and rulers.

Because IVC was Shamanic and hence not ruled by priest-kings, we can safely say that kind of literature /artifacts/ artistic creations found in Godistic societies can not be expected in IVC. However, that does not mean everyone was illiterate. There could have been few people with their secular literature on construction/ astronomy etc. But education was not mainstream and hence the preservation never became a mainstream effort.

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