Thursday, January 01, 2009

Development of World Religions - 1st Draft

9 comments:

Maju said...

I've already said elsewhere that it does not appear that Early IEs/Kurgan were shamanic at all. Their theology everywhere is fundamentally about "heroic" human-like gods and divinized humans. Shamanism proper is East Asian/Siberian.

Manjunat said...

That probably is later Bardic age(early pre-Brahmanic Rig Vedic). In my opinion, Shamans (wise women, medium) were the earliest (just like it is all over the world) phase. In my opinion, the earliest Kurgan society was not there in Rig Veda but in Voluspa. Shamans/Bards/medicinal men/women were part of civilizations everywhere. However, the priest centred society, in my opinion, originated only in West Asia.

Apollo said...

i think islam was influenced a lot by judaism and christianity theology and christianity itself is directlyc descended from judaism and later imbibed a lot of hellenic and egyptian elements within it. and how is buddhism descended from jainism?

Maju said...

We have discussed the Voluspa before and it doesn't seem to my eyes to carry any clear evidence of IE shamanism. As I have already mentioned in Nordic mythology, animals like wolf and serpent (as well a the godess of the Underwold, Hela or Hel) are enemies, demons, not gods. They surely represent a pre-IE religious layer, demonized in or after the conquest. Nordic mythology is, like all other known IE religions, one of conqueror/heoric gods, mostly men. You see the same in Greece, and also among Celts.

I cannot really agree with your universalism of shamanism, at least on the light of historical evidence. We can maybe speculate that prior to the human-like celestial theologies of West Asia and others (IE included), there was some sort of widespread hunter-gatherer shamanism/pantheism (I like the idea, really) but we can hardly prove it. Certainly not based in IE mythologies worldwide (the Vedas are just a piece of the IE puzzle).

Maju said...

i think islam was influenced a lot by judaism and christianity theology and christianity itself is directlyc descended from judaism and later imbibed a lot of hellenic and egyptian elements within it. and how is buddhism descended from jainism?

Agree overall. Christianity is reformed Judaism made Greco-Roman (to make Rome "Jewish"). Mohammed was heavily inspired by Judaism and Christianity and early Muslims got support from Jewish-dominated Medina and later from Christian Axum, while Judaist and Christian Arabs (from Arabia peninsula and Syrian desert) eventually converted to Islam en masse. Islam keeps most of the core precepts of traditional Judaism (circumcission, no pork - which may belong to the overall Semitic/Afroasiatic tradition) and originally Jerusalem was to be their Mecca - though this was changed after Mohammed quarreled with the Jews of Medina.

Buddha may have been a jain-like ascetic before choosing the "middle path" instead but both religions are roughly contemporary in origin anyhow.

Manjunat said...

This is an attempt to find the links assuming there were no prophets. I think with this assumption I can assume Semitic traditional folklore influencing Judaism, Islam and Christianity independently.

while Judaist and Christian Arabs (from Arabia peninsula and Syrian desert) eventually converted to Islam en masse

I think I have read there were many Arab tribes that were neither Christian nor Jewish.

We have discussed the Voluspa before and it doesn't seem to my eyes to carry any clear evidence of IE shamanism.

I'm not keeping a very strict definition of Shamanism here. It appears the wise woman goes into trance and answers. That probably is like 'medium', which could be found in South India. I would rather consider anything related to 'trance' is Shamanism. The way the person in 'trance' gets the knowledge may differ.

Anyway, Voluspa appears to be the first poem in poetic Edda. Any comments on this? Is it because of Christian ethos(I think this was written down after the spread of Christianity) we have a poem that talks about 'origin', placed at the head?

and how is buddhism descended from jainism?

I too am not clear (once I remove Buddha from Buddhism). It should be from Sramanaism, I suppose (parallel to Jinaism). But it resembles Jinaism in too many aspects.

Also, I'm not clear how Buddhism and Jinaism interacted. I think in Andhra Pradesh both clashed (though it may be possible that after the decline of Jinaism, Buddhists destroyed Jain temples ... or is it the other way round? ... forgot). But in other places Buddhism and Jinaism difference blurs I suppose (especially in Tamil works).

Maju said...

This is an attempt to find the links assuming there were no prophets. I think with this assumption I can assume Semitic traditional folklore influencing Judaism, Islam and Christianity independently.

I can agree with that no-prophet assumption. It's probably a good idea. But I would not just claim "Semitic folklore" as the source of all three JCM branches.

Even behind Judaism alone you must at least add Sumerian religion (visible everywhere in the OT), some Egyptian influence as well, and later on Persian Zoroastrianism too - which some argue is the real influence behind the Jewish evolution from "elohim" (the gods) to "El" (God), i.e. from polytheism to monotheism.

Christianism is just reformed Judaism and the most important influence is the adoption of non-Semitic (Greco-Roman, IE) cultural practices (supression of circumcission and pork taboo, adoption of Mary as quasi-goddess for need of motherly deity, cult of the saints to take over polytheism, iconolatry, resurrection myth and promise, etc.). It's Hellenistic neo-Judaism in other words, rather than just Semitic anymore.

Islam is certainly of direct Semitic/West Asian (Sumerians were not Semitic for instance) influence though (quite obviously) but some elements, notably the myth of resurection are obviously taken from Christianism (Judaism has no resurrection promise) and therefore indirectly from Hellenistic, Egyptian and Zoroastrian religous paradigms.

Also the cosmopolitan (almost non-ethnic) concept of these "universal" (imperialist) religions is not certainly Judaic or specifically Semitic: it comes from the cosmopolitanization under Hellenism, Persia and Rome - and the realization that only such an assimilationist ideology could go beyond the ethnic group and become eventually dominant.

It's religious globalization and it's born from pre-existent socio-political globalization of sorts, rather than from any pre-existent religious paradigm. In any case, most (surely not all) of these JCM concepts were first of all evolved in Zoroastrianism, that strongly influenced Judaism and the Hellenistic World overall.

I think I have read there were many Arab tribes that were neither Christian nor Jewish.

Sure. But in West and South Arabia Judaism and Christianism were already very influential (in the East it was Zoroastrianism). Yemen was an oficially Judaistic state and before had been dominated by Axum (Christians). As mentioned, Medina was strongly Judaized and supported Mohammed, while his native but Pagan Mecca did not. The birth of Islam was largely a war between Medina and Mecca in which Mecca lost. Nevertheless the Pagan religious center in that city was finally recycled and made global center of Islam, after stripping all the polytheistic icons.

It appears the wise woman goes into trance and answers. That probably is like 'medium', which could be found in South India.

Mediums have existed in nearly all ancient religions I know of. But I doubt that can be called Shamanism or that in that sense it can be thought of as any unified doctrine at all. Just a mystic praxis, like prayer, sacrifices, rituals...

Anyway, Voluspa appears to be the first poem in poetic Edda. Any comments on this? Is it because of Christian ethos(I think this was written down after the spread of Christianity) we have a poem that talks about 'origin', placed at the head?

Can't say. But I think that such "idealistic" kind of genesis myth are pre-Christian. Wasn't Plato (c. 400 BC) who talked about the Demiurg: an ideal/intellectual creator of all that exists?

Also I tend to think that when legends talk of verbal/mental origins, they are just saying: "we just made it all up but you're probably too naive to notice" (an esotheric apology of priesthood as myth-makers and perpetuators). Of course, it can also be taken as the human exaltation of intelligence as the most specifically human and (by extension) divine attribute.

It is a contrast in any case with the more "physical" yoni-lingam (not just the Hindu version but all the similar legends, rituals and doctrines around the World) ideology of natural fertility as the source of all.

So I do see a contrast between idealist and physicalist religious beliefs but I would not be able to pickpoint a single origin for the former (I'd think that the latter is older anyhow).

Manjunat said...

(Greco-Roman, IE) cultural practices (supression of circumcission and pork taboo, adoption of Mary as quasi-goddess for need of motherly deity, cult of the saints to take over polytheism, iconolatry, resurrection myth and promise, etc.)

I don't have much idea about how circumcision was suppressed or why it was so? Also, what was the problem with pork taboo? Also, how widespread were these practices during that time (before the advent of Islam) in West Asia.

Indeed, I consider European influence in getting rid of all the purity-pollution taboos of West Asia a major influence. However, I don't consider it Greco-Roman but rather tribal IE. Considering these practices where given high philosophical status in West Asian religions these changes show triumph of IE tribalism over West Asian civilization. Of course, menstrual blood taboo was also not very prevalent (except probably among East European Orthodox communities).

I would consider Mary is rather older folk deity. Considering the similar name for mother goddess in Semitic Asia, Basque and South India, I would consider either it belonged to J1/J2b substratum or just a coincidence in all these regions.

Cult of saints could be either from Indian Sramana culture or from Mithraism (which in my opinion again is influenced by Indian Sramanas). I am sure if Indian Sramanas could influence East Asia (as part of Buddhism) they could have done influenced West Asia too (just that we have to live with their illiterate culture).

Resurrection myth is again Egyptian (but could be from Sumerian from which it also moved to Brahmanism).
In a way all these were part of Semitic folklore.

And by the way, Iranian region had many non-IE civilizations(that are closer to Semitic regions ... at least one of them was Semitic itself) before IE entry, Zoroastrianism with their menstrual blood and purity and pollution rules is hardly representative IE. Even if the concept of Monotheism developed because of Zoroastrianism it is just unique to West Asia.

Maju said...

I don't have much idea about how circumcision was suppressed or why it was so?

They were not supresed, at least initially, just made unnecesary. This was precisely to allow Gentiles (non-Jewish Romans, specially of Greek culture initially) to join without such major cultural barriers. "Salvation or ham? Ham", you know. Not to mention the painful, potentially dangerous, and psychologically challenging penis surgery.

Eventually they disappeared totally.

Indeed, I consider European influence in getting rid of all the purity-pollution taboos of West Asia a major influence. However, I don't consider it Greco-Roman but rather tribal IE.

There were no tribes anymore in the Empire, except surely in the Atlantic remote west and other marginal areas. It was a urban, specially Greek, influence. Christianity was particularly a urban religion initially and became very closely imbricated with Neoplatonism (a secular conservative, rather reactionary, ideology that would become the backbone of Christian thought until Renaissance).

Greco-Romans were IEs but not anymore tribal by then. Not at all.

... these changes show triumph of IE tribalism over West Asian civilization.

Not anymore tribalism certainly. If anything it was culture conflict inside civilization at that stage. Anyhow there were many IE cultures in West Asia (pre-Greek Anatolians, Partho-Persians) and there was also an Egyptian influence.

The caste system in Europe was reinforced with Christianism (and before the tribal Germanic invasions) and it had some ritual elements, though not exactly what you call "purity/pollution" ones.

I would consider Mary is rather older folk deity. Considering the similar name for mother goddess in Semitic Asia, Basque and South India, I would consider either it belonged to J1/J2b substratum or just a coincidence in all these regions.

It's possible. Mary nevertheless derives from Hebrew Myriam, that has a local Jewish ethymology (not sure which). Maybe it's worth noticing that once popular goddess Isis (the last non-JC religion to be banned in the Empire) was known as "stella maris" (sea star), with obvious connotations re. navigation and astronomy (not sure right now which specific star that phrase meant, maybe Syrius).

What is clear is that, even if the role of goddesses had declined since the IE invasions, these were still very popular and respected and they fulfilled a motherly role that the hyper-patriarchal Judaistic religion could not fulfll. Making Mary a "super-saint", "mother of God" directly connected with that pre-IE cultural element (probably a Neolithic or even maybe Paleolithic one) so strong in most of Europe. In many places Mary is venerated much more intensely than any of the persons of the Christian tritinty - followed by Jesus. It is their humanity what makes them both close and admirable (an abstract all-powerful God is hardly worth any admiration: too easy, too distant), and therefore lovable.

Cult of saints could be either from Indian Sramana culture or from Mithraism...

Too widespread for such a single source. When Christianity reached other remote polytheistic areas, like America or Tropical Africa, they did the same: transform the most popular local gods into Christian saints. It's an act of synchretism, always inside the Judeo-Crhistian frame. That way their shrines can be recycled, their holy days declared Crhistian holidays and so on.

It's a strategy of absorption and recycling of Polytheism into an "acceptable" frame within strict Monotheism.

Resurrection myth is again Egyptian...

Could be anything. Greeks were heavily into resurrection mysteries long before Christianism. The main gods here were Dyonisos and Demeter. Demeter is a naure mother-goddess who managed to get her daughter out of the netherworld for 2/3 of the year (hence the seasons), Dyonisos the mysterious chaotic god of theater and drugs, got his mother out of Hades by making an offer of myrth. These mysteries were celebrated and experienced via drug-induced mystic trances that revealed whatever they did but was obviosly about trascendence beyond this life (and therefore beyond death). Possibly Mithraism/Zoroastrism was also about that and certainly the popular Egyptian religion of Isis. so in general there was a widespread substrate of beliefs into some form of trascendence beyond death, sometimes clear resurrection long before Jesus.

But even for Greeks, not all deaths were the same: the Elysian Fields are much like Christian heaven, while other areas of Hades rather resemble hell. In fact they may resemble somewhat of Nordic Valhalla, specially in the sense that they were reserved for the heroes (and the virtuose too, this is a mjor difference). Valhalla cannot be attributed to any West Asian influence I believe: too remote (and too similar to many other culturally unconnected myths).

You're trying to draw a genealogy of religions from a single or few ancestors. Yet the pre-civilization Humankind was very fragmented and diverse, even if all groups had their own forms of mytology and religion, as well as rituals and taboos. The reality must be that many different sources converged and crossb-bred across the milennia in new forms. And that in the process many more or less new ideas arose as well.

In a way all these were part of Semitic folklore.

Not in Judaism. We don't know much about other Semitic religions.

And by the way, Iranian region had many non-IE civilizations(that are closer to Semitic regions...

Whatever the origin of Semites, they only arrived to Mesopotamia rather late, in the 4th milennium BCE. Calling Mesompotamian (and by extension Elamite and others) "Semitic" is shallow and untrue.

Zoroastrianism with their menstrual blood and purity and pollution rules is hardly representative IE.

True but not necesarily "Semitic" either. We don't know well how and when these Semitic cultural elements arose. They may have been borrowed from Sumerians and other pre-Semitic cultures of the area (a good deal of Hebrew mythology is Sumerian recycled one) and what is specifically Afroasiatic. I really don't think there is any clear Semitic specifity but rather the fussion of Afroasiatic traditions from Africa (that should be shared with other AA groups to be considered genuine) and the varied Neolithic civilizations of West Asia, none of which was surely Semitic originally. So I'd try to make sure that it's clear what is Sumerian/Mesopotamian, what of other West Asian origins, what Afroasiatic and what, if anything at all, specifically Semitic. A hard job surely but I cannot accept the blanket "Semitic" tag anyhow.

Even if the concept of Monotheism developed because of Zoroastrianism it is just unique to West Asia.

Psah. Many polytheistic religions admit the existence of a supreme God, yet they consider it too distant to be of much daily importance. Zoroastrianism, at least in some versions, also considered such supreme God (a God that coud not be worshipped or even explained at all) beyond the manicheistic dualism of their core mythology.

In a very distinct context I'd argue that Basque religion was monotheistic, albeit in a male-female (yin-yang, yoni-lingam) dualistic style (more like the Christian trinity than the Manichean good-evil dualism). The pair Mari-Sugaar is clearly the only God of Basque religion, all the rest are just genies: lesser magical criatures.

So while the now widespread Patriarchal Monotheism of hebrew background did obviously arise in a Semitic culture (possibly under heavy Zoroastrian influx - though we can't ignore the Platonian Demiurg either - as well as some Egyptian creation myths, like the one of Ptah, so blatantly plagiarized in the Genesis) and in West Asia, of course. I could not really argue for Monotheism as such being specifically a West Asian phenomenon. Only the Patriarchal Doctrinarian (ideological) one (Yaveh-Deus-Allah) is.