Early Religions of the World
DESPITE the assumption that religion developed from pre-human Naturism, there
are no extant proofs as to what man’s earliest belief may have been. When he first
came upon the scene of prehistory he already had developed quite complex religious
ideas and observances. Even the cavemen, the Neanderthals, who belonged to a
different species of humanity than any that survived, believed in magic, that man
survived death, and, as attested by his burying a suitable outfit with the dead, he
believed that the dead after passing to the next life instead of playing a harp before a
great white throne in a city paved with gold, would follow much the same pursuits
that he followed here.
The first truly human men, in the sense that they belonged to the same species as
existing peoples, the Cro-Magnons, were great believers in magic–which is what is
now recognized as psychokinesis–and also believed in life after death. Far back in
the underground grottoes of France have been found the chambers in which their
magic was practiced. Clay effigies of various beasts had been made, and then pierced
with spears and arrows, and cut with knives. As similar practices exist among
aboriginal people in certain regions today, we may assume that these magical
ceremonies were performed to enable the hunters more easily to find and overcome
the very formidable game which they hunted. It is believed also that the paintings of
animals on the walls and ceilings of their caves had a religious significance. So little
is known about these first men that the extent of their religion cannot be determined,
but their ceremonial chambers, paintings, carvings on bone and ivory, and elaborate
burial practices, lead to the conclusion that it was quite complex.
These Cro-Magnons belonged to the culture of the Old Stone Age. The next people
known in Europe arrived about 12,000 years ago. They, and other people of the
Polynesian-European group found elsewhere, had already arrived at the stage of
culture where they used polished stone. It is often assumed that they passed through
the stages of religious development starting with animism, in which there was
propitiation of elemental powers, then fetishism, totemism, hero cult, phallic
worship, stellar cult, lunar cult, and thus finally arrived at solar cult. And some such
gradual development may have taken place; but there are no records or monuments
of any kind known at the present time to prove it.
These people of the New Stone Age when they first arrived in Africa, Europe, Asia
and America, in so far as at present known, already had practically all the mentioned
forms of religious practices. Not all of these were practiced in any one spot at any one
time, but all seem to have been practiced at a very early date in adjacent regions at
times so far back that we cannot be certain which was practiced first.
It is not to be assumed that heliolithic culture–the culture and religion associated
with erecting stone monuments to the Sun, who was looked upon as the source of all
Life, Light and Love on earth–in all its complex associations existed from the
advent of Neolithic man in Europe and farther east. Many of the practices associated
with it in later times were highly artificial, and the dates when some of them began
have been determined. Yet heliolithic religion, in its essential elements of venerating
the sun and erecting monuments in its honor, goes back so far that it seems likely to
have been possessed by man as early as there are records–not including the
indications left by Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon–of any kind of his religious
The best recognized authority on heliolithic culture seems to be G. Elliot Smith,
Professor of Anatomy in the Victoria University of Manchester. Because it is so
important a link in the evolution of religious ideas I feel justified in quoting at some
length from his monograph, The Influence of Ancient Egyptian Civilization in the
East and in America. It should be understood, however, that the heliolithic culture
referred to in this quotation is not the earlier type, but perhaps the most complex
dated by him as about 700 BC
“When one considers the enormous extent of the journey, and the multitude and
variety of vicissitudes encountered upon the way, it is a most remarkable
circumstance that practically the whole of the complex structure of the megalithic
culture should have reached the shores of America. Hardly any of the items in the
large series of customs and beliefs enumerated at the commencement of this lecture
failed to get to America in pre-Columbian times.
“The practice of mummification, with modifications due to Polynesian and other
oriental influences; the characteristically Egyptian elements of its associated ritual,
such as the use of incense and libations; the beliefs concerning the soul’s wanderings
in the underworld, where it undergoes the same vicissitudes as it was supposed to
encounter in Pharoanic times (New Empire)–all were found in Mexico and
elsewhere in America, with a multitude of corroborative detail to indicate the
influence exerted by Ethiopia, Babylonia, India, Indonesia, China, Japan, and
Oceana, during the progress of their oriental migration.
“The general conception, no less than the details of their construction and associated
beliefs, make it equally certain that the megalithic monuments of America were
inspired by those of the ancient East; and while the influences which are most
obtrusively displayed in them are clearly Egyptian and Babylonian, the effects of the
accretions from the Aegean, India, Cambodia, and Eastern Asia are equally
“The use of idols and stone seats, beliefs in the possibility of men and animals
dwelling in stones, and the complementary supposition that men and animals may
become petrified, the story of the deluge, of the divine origin of kings, who are
regarded as children of the sun or sky, and the incestuous origin of a chosen
people–the whole of this complex interwoven series of characteristically
Egypto-Babylonian practices and beliefs reappeared in America in pre-Columbian
times, as also did the worship of the sun and the beliefs regarding serpents, including
a great part of the remarkably complex and wholly artificial symbolism associated
with this sun and serpent worship.
“Circumcision, tattooing, piercing and distending the ear-lobes, artificial deforming
of the head, trephining, weaving linen, the use of Tyrian purple, conch-shells,
trumpets, a special appreciation of pearls, precious stones, and metals, certain
definite methods of mining and extraction of metals, terraced irrigation, the use of the
swastika symbol, beliefs regarding thunder-bolts and thunder-teeth, certain phallic
practices, the boomerang, the beliefs regarding the `heavenly twins,’ the practice of
couvade, the custom of building special men’s houses and the institution of secret
societies, the art of writing, certain astronomical ideas, the entirely arbitrary notions
concerning the calendrical system, the subdivisions of time, and the constitution of
the state all of these and many other features of pre-Columbian civilization are each
and all distinctive tokens of influence of the culture of the Old World upon that of the
New. Not the least striking demonstration of this borrowing from the Old World is
afforded by games.
“When in addition it is considered that most, if not all, of this variegated assortment
of customs and beliefs are linked one to the other in a definite and artificial
civilization, which agrees with that which is known to have grown up somewhere in
the neighborhood of the Eastern Mediterranean, there can no longer be any
reasonable doubt as to the derivation of the early American civilization from the
” Indeed, such identity of complex beliefs and practices extending around the world
proves positively that all were derived from a common source. But as at least the
fundamental ideas which thus became elaborated into an intricate and complex
system arrived with the white population who entered the Mediterranean region
around 12,000 years ago, there is no more evidence where it first developed than
there is evidence where the higher culture, as shown by their first records, of Egypt,
India, Crete, Peru, Mexico, China and Mesopotamia developed, which was
contemporaneous with and exercised an influence upon, the less advanced
heliolithic culture elsewhere. But Professor Smith’s description gives us a good
picture of the religion of considerable of the world outside the seven ancient centers
of civilization as it existed around 700 BC.
Religion of the American Indians
–The Indians of the two American continents embrace many hundreds of tribes
speaking different dialects. It is not wholly justifiable, therefore, in view of their
different cultures, to group them as a unit and speak of their religion as a whole. Yet
in spite of the long period during which there has been little intercourse between
some of them, as shown by their language springing from different linguistic roots,
there is a remarkable similarity between the religious beliefs of primitive Americans.
There is no more evidence where the American Indian came from, or how he reached
America, than there is to indicate where the Cro-Magnon came from and how he
reached Europe. But in Virginia and North Carolina has been discovered evidence
within the past two years that seems to indicate an eastern phase of the famous
Folsom culture which flourished in the Western Plains during the last of the Ice Age
more than 30,000 years ago.
When the white man first came to America he found a virgin wilderness. From this he
assumed that the continent had a widely scattered and quite sparse population. But
intensive archeological digging during the past few years has demonstrated that in
ancient times there were numerous diverse tribes occupying almost every region on
At least we now know that the Amerindian appeared in America before the
Cro-Magnon appeared in Europe. And there is considerable mystery about where he
received some of his ideas. For instance, the Doheny Expedition of 1924, found some
interesting wall carvings. Samuel Hubbard, Director of the Expedition, and Curator
of Archaeology of the Oakland, California, Museum, reported the finding of a
wall-carving of a dinosaur. The quite perfect wall-carving by prehistoric man was
found in Hava Supai Canyon, Arizona, within a hundred miles of where fossil tracks
of these monsters also were found.
There were also carvings showing man chasing ibex, and one showing man being
attacked by an elephant. It seems certain that man was in America contemporaneous
with mountain goats, mountain sheep and the Imperial Elephant. But according to all
knowledge we have at present the dinosaurs had disappeared from the earth 50
million years before the advent of man. Did some early artist use his extrasensory
perception accurately to reconstruct and picture on the canyon wall the monster
which millions of years earlier had left its huge footprint in the mud which had
hardened into rock?
To the Indian of North America or of South America, both past and present, in so far
as there is evidence to consult, religion is not merely for special occasions, but is the
very essence of his daily life. He believes in a Great Spirit, Creator of the Universe,
Who is not to be represented by any object nor to be circumscribed by the walls of any
temple. He believes also in a devil, called by some tribes Hobamoco, to whom, in the
effort to attain his good will, or to keep from offending, devotion by some may be
paid. And residing in objects, such as the sun, moon, rain, and earth, as well as in
minor things, he discerns an animating spirit to which in reverence he may address
The typical Indian is reverent under all circumstances. On rising in the morning he
breathes a prayer to each of the four cardinal points, and to the “here,” which is the
place where he stands. Or if a Navajo, for instance, he addresses a prayer not merely
to the spirits of the East, North, West, South, and “Here,” but also to the spirit of the
Heavens above, and to the spirit of the Earth below. When the sun rises he offers a
prayer to it, and often makes a secret prayer to the powers above and around him
before partaking of food.
On more momentous occasions, such as planting grain, preparing the harvest, going
on a protracted hunt, or initiating a war, he first prepares to merit success by an
elaborate religious ceremony. There are war dances, ghost dances, snake dances,
harvest dances, and a great many other solemn religious rites and festivals for the
purpose of gaining the assistance of invisible powers in the Indian’s undertakings.
Civilized man is all too prone to scoff at the Indian’s belief that his ceremonies and
prayers tend to cause his corn to grow thriftily, tend to protect him in time of battle, or
tend to bring rain when needed Yet Roman History records that in the time of Nero a
Cynic laughed at the folly of the Aqualieium, but that the pontiffs solemnly carried
the sacred stone to the Capotiline and prayed to Jupiter until, in response, the people
were drenched like rats by rain that fell in bucketfuls. Or if you wish a more modern
instance, here is a clipping from the Los Angeles Examiner (1925): “Atlanta, Ga.,
Sept. 13–(By Associated Press)–A break in the drought which has held most of the
South many weeks, came today.
“The Governors of Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia had issued
proclamations calling on the people to pray for rain.”
Whether it is admitted that the rain in the above instance was influenced by prayer or
not, at least when the governors of four states issue solemn proclamations calling on
the people to pray for rain, it indicates a belief in the efficacy of such prayers. And if
civilized people believe their prayers will be answered, but that the prayers of
primitive people will not, it is because they are under the illusion that they are the
favored or chosen people of God. But all the evidence indicates that God works His
will, not through whim and prejudice, but through undeviating natural laws, and that
psychokinesis is just as likely to bring the realization of the prayer of a devout savage
as to bring the realization of the prayer of the most pious Christian.
In addition to believing in a host of spirits both kindly and malicious the American
Indian is a firm believer in magic. The Medicine Man is the chief magician of the
tribe, and is supposed to be the repository of secret wisdom and uncanny powers.
Totemism is widely prevalent, and so sure is the Indian of a life after death, in which
usually it is believed good deeds will find a reward and evil deeds will be punished,
that he faces death without fear or hesitancy. The Indian about to die has no
misgivings. It is only those who are left to miss him who bewail his departure.
This life after death is conceived to be very similar to the life on earth, except less
sordid and harsh. Therefore, that he may have them (their astral counterparts) for his
use in the Happy Hunting Grounds, it is not uncommon for the Indian’s most
cherished possessions to be buried with him, and that he may not be compelled to go
afoot, his favorite horse may be slain on his grave.
The Indian is cruel in war, as are most modern people; the mass murders and cruel
concentration camps of Nazi Germany, for example. Yet the Indian has a deep sense
of honor, and a keen feeling of responsibility toward the other members of his tribe.
Those who receive the highest praise and are the most esteemed are those who do
most for the common welfare.
Indians believe the positions of the heavenly bodies have an influence on mundane
undertakings. Thus the religious ceremonies more frequently begin under some
special astronomical configuration. This may be merely according to some phase of
the moon, or it may, as in the case of the Snake Dance of the Hopi Indians–details of
which are given in the reference book, Astrological Lore of All Ages, and a picture of
which is given in Chapter 01–be determined by a special relation of the
moon to the sun when the sun is in a particular part of the zodiac. To what extent
astrological considerations enter into the life depends largely upon the culture of the
particular tribe. As a general thing, the higher the degree of culture the more attention
they pay to astrological factors.
The Indians of the larger part of Canada, except where there are towns, groups of
white settlers, or trading posts, may be classed as animistic. They believe in a Great
Spirit, in a Happy Hunting Ground to which they go after death, in spirit communion,
and in the power of their medicine men to perform wonders. Totemism is in
particular evidence along the Northwest Coast and the coast regions of Alaska.
Sweat chambers are common, initiation ceremonies are considered important, there
are religious dances and festivals differing with differing tribes, and also a number of
methods of disposing of the dead; all of which to them has religious significance.
The Aleuts between Kamchatka and Alaska believe in ghosts; but they go somewhat
further than primitive animism, for they believe certain priests, or ghost controllers,
have the power to control and influence ghosts. They thus belong to an advanced
kind of animism, such as is to be found also in Siberia, where a special priest is
thought to have supernatural powers. This belief is called Shamanism.
Along the narrow sea-coast strips of Greenland which are inhabitable, we find
Eskimos. They may also be found around the Bering Sea and on the northeast coast of
Siberia. Wherever found their religion is the same, except that in some localities it
has come to a greater extent than in others under the influence of Christianity. The
Eskimo believes in a Great Spirit, or supreme god, called Tornarsuk, to whom all go
after death if they have lived good, honorable lives. The after-death lives of such
good people are happy and filled with joy. The after-death life of evil persons is a
miserable sort of existence. The Eskimo is a firm believer in spirit communion? and
in witchcraft. Their priest, called Shaman, is both a magician and one who converses
with the dead. In some regions Eskimos are regarded as Christians, but where
uninfluenced by Christianity their religion is pure Shamanism.
At the opposite extreme of the Americas we find the big Patagonians, who believe
that after death they will live in a pleasant grove. They also believe in evil spirits. In
Tierra del Fuego there is a belief in a Great Spirit who knows man’s actions and
words, and has an influence upon the weather.
Indians of both Americas, even in the outlying wilderness, have traditions
concerning some of the constellations. But the nomadic tribes, lying outside the
region where squashes and maize are raised, including the mentioned Canadian
Indians, were so much on the move, and had so little time to devote to anything
except procuring their daily food, that their culture was small and found little room
for astronomical notions. Those Indians, on the other hand that lived in the maize
raising belt, had time to develop a high degree of civilization, and the nearer we
approach the highest centers of civilization the more prominence is given to
Thus near the City of Mexico is a pyramid temple to the sun, and not far from it a
pyramid temple to the moon, each rivaling in size the Great Pyramid of Egypt. And
farther south in more ancient times the Maya had quite effective observatories.
In such vicinities, until suppressed by the Spanish conquerors, the
religious ceremonies and also the important affairs of life in general, were regulated
by a careful observance of astrological positions.
Religion in Oceana
–The native Australians may roughly be divided into two great divisions, the
Eagle-hawk group, and the Crow group. The former are a much taller and stronger
people. They are all quite convinced that the soul is able to leave the body and visit
celestial spirits in sleep. They also believe it is dangerous suddenly to awaken a
person from a sound sleep, as the shock may sever the connection, and the soul will
then be unable to return to the body. They further believe that following death the
dead often return to earth and linger for a time. In periods of great danger they call
upon the departed for assistance. They believe in gods, who are supposed to live in a
region above the earth. After his initiation is completed, it is customary for the
Australian youth’s father to lead him out into the bush and point up to a star,
reverently telling him, “Now you can kill all kinds of animals but remember, He can
see all that you do down here.”
The most important religious rite of this whole region is that of initiation. The
initiatory ceremony varies somewhat with different tribes. In some only the young
men undergo initiation, which is usually accompanied by circumcision, and perhaps
knocking out two front teeth, or other mutilation. In other tribes women have
initiation ceremonies which, of course, are carefully guarded from the men. These
initiatory ceremonies are quite protracted and very harsh. In them, communion with
spirits plays a part, and information is imparted by the older men. There are also
Gomeras, or wizards, resembling the Indian Medicine Man.
Of course, among the different groups of islands customs and beliefs vary somewhat,
but animism and totemism are the dominant features. Thus the Maoris of New
Zealand have large piles of stones, of phallic import, upon which sacrifices are
offered, the entrails being inspected to obtain omens of the future. In time of peril
human prisoners have been sacrificed on these phallic altars. On Gilbert Island,
midway between New Guinea and South America, such sacrifices, which date back
to the heliolithic culture, are made to a single stone set within a circle of stones. On
the Haides, east of Australia, the natives believe in two gods, both of rather
One is the ruler of the upper world, and the other the ruler of the
lower world. Once they quarreled, and the one threw the other out of heaven, and
heaven became filled with a host of other gods, who still remain there, and who must
be propitiated to prevent misfortune. They consider the worst sin to be disregard of
the wish of their priest. The latter, they believe, has the power to condemn a man’s
soul to hell.
The Fiji Islanders, like the balance of Polynesia, were once of heliolithic culture.
There are remnants of this belief, as well as strong influences from animism and
totemism among them at the present time. They formerly worshiped sacred stones
and sacred trees. But at the present time the dominant influence is Protestant
Christianity. In Samoa, still farther east, there is a belief that gods incarnate in
various beasts, birds, fishes, and shells.
Farther east than Samoa, and considerably north, are the Hawaiian Islands. The
religion before civilized man arrived was animism, arising out of and associated
with, the old heliolithic culture. As in Australia, the priests, called kahunas, at times,
in addition to other magic feats, used psychokinesis to bring about the death of their
enemies, or those they had been paid thus to kill. In Australia the magician makes use
of a “pointing bone,” a bone which he either holds while he points it at his victim, or
which he fixes near where his victim sleeps so it will point in that direction. He keeps
repeating an incantation while the bone is thus pointed, and the victim gradually
becomes paralyzed and finally dies. The Hawaiian kahuna uses a “death prayer” to
send his spirit slaves to enter the intended victim’s body and remove the vital energy.
The vital force is first removed from the feet, which become numb, then from the
knees, hips and solar plexus. In the course of a few days the numbness gets as high as
the heart and the victim dies.
Among the Polynesian priests there is a secret philosophy, not given to others,
relative to what we call the astral double, and methods of performing various feats of
magic. In Hawaii this is known as the Huna philosophy. But at present there is a
strong Protestant Christian influence, which has converted a large part of the native
population. And in addition, there is the Buddhism and Confucianism which is the
belief of the quite considerable Mongolian population who are immigrants to the
In New Guinea, and such adjacent islands as Ladrone Islands, Yap, Caroline Islands,
Lelew Islands and Guam, the earlier heliolithic religion is heavily overlaid with
animism, in which charms and magic are prominent features.
Early Religion in Asia
–In south and east Asia, including the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, and the
Philippine Islands, we find a people who in earlier times were essentially of the old
heliolithic culture. Overlying this there later developed a less cultured form of
animism, there being a strong belief in charms, in the power of certain idols, and the
presence of altars and sacred groves. At the present day, however, while the Dyaks of
Borneo still have wizards who perform rites, throughout the Malay Peninsula,
Sumatra, Borneo and Java, another influence has become dominant. These regions
are now strongly Mohammedan. Indo-China, on the mainland, however, including
Siam, is predominantly Buddhist.
Off the north coast of Asia lie the islands of Japan. The primitive people here seem to
have been the hairy Ainus. Their religion was on a par with that of the natives of
Chota Nagpur, India, in being a quite nebulous form of animism. The present
Japanese are supposed to be an invading race, in part racially allied to the Chinese.
The religion that developed among them is called by them Kami no michi, meaning,
The Way of the Gods, but is customarily referred to by the Chinese designation,
Shinto, meaning, The Way of the Spirits.
The chief Shinto god is the Sun-deity, Amaterasu. There are a great many other
deities, but the only other ranking close to the Sun deity is the Food-goddess. In the
earliest traditional-times, beyond the exaltation of the sun to the station of chief and
most powerful goddess, the religion seems to be little more than animism. The moon,
fire, lightning, three watergods, volcanoes, trees, and animals were subjects of
special veneration. There were also a host of other spirits. It was held that the soul
persisted after death, at least for a time, although this belief was not clearly defined;
and the abode of the dead was hazily considered as some subterranean region in
which the departed persist for a time in an unenviable state, thus greatly resembling
the belief of the early Sumerians. The chief Shinto ceremony is the Great Offering of
the first fruits at the commencement of each new reign.
There was no special moral code associated with Shinto; but courage and kindness
were endorsed because they were regarded as characteristic of the Sun goddess.
Magic was believed in, but was considered an offense. The four distinctive emblems
of the religion are the mirror, the rope, the torii, and the gohei. The torii consists of
two stones, or two barked unpainted tree trunks planted upright in the ground, on the
top of which rests another trunk or stone, and below this is another horizontal beam.
In effect, it is the dolmen structure so frequently encountered in the prehistoric stone
monuments of the West. The gohei is a slim wand of wood, with two pieces of paper,
each notched alternately on opposite sides, hanging from it. These are supposed to
attract the attention of the gods to the worshipers.
In the course of time, no doubt so his political supremacy might remain secure, it
came to be taught that the Mikado is always a direct descendant from the sun. This
being a god because he was the Son of God, is a regular feature of the Hero Cult as it
developed in various sections of the world. It is the main doctrine back of
Christianity. And the Mikado thus held
his subjects under complete domination until recently, when, as a result of losing
World War II, he was compelled publicly to announce to his previous subjects that
after all he was not a god, but merely a human being as were they. This was a terrible
shock to the people of Japan, but it emancipated them from a previous form of
It was taught that because of the mischievous tricks of the violent god of the
underworld, the Sun goddess once shut herself in a cave. The violent god thereupon
by dancing attracted her attention, and showing her her own reflection in a mirror
told her she had a rival, upon which she reappeared and all was bright in the world
again. The violent god was then banished by the other gods, and the grandson of the
sun came down to earth, and by slaying all who opposed him, secured peace on earth.
This grandson of the sun was Ninigi, the great grandfather of Jimmu, the latter being
the Mikado that tradition claims reigned 660 BC. It is also related that the empress
Jingo, who lived a hundred years and conquered Korea, lived about 200 AD, but
there is no certain date in Japanese history before 401 AD.
Up to the time of the Japanese defeat in World War II, the chief doctrine of Shintoism
was unswerving loyalty to the nation. Patriotism was looked upon as the highest
virtue. The implication was that any act, regardless of its effect upon other peoples,
and regardless of justice, that benefitted the empire was commendable. There was no
consideration for members of society other than the Japanese.
Early Shintoism had no organized priesthood. It is said there are 37,000 Shinto
Shrines at present in Japan, but at many of these shrines the Buddhistic influence is
practically as strong as that of Shinto. The service at these shrines is hand-clapping
and bowing. The center of the Shinto religion today is at the shrine of Ise, to which
pilgrimages are made from all parts of the country. At Ise there are two temples. It is
here the custom for pilgrims to throw down their copper coins upon a white cloth in
front of the gateway which is within a torii, bow a few times, and then depart in
In every Japanese household there is a “shelf for gods.” This seems to be a
development due to Buddhistic influence, which only began to infiltrate Japan after
600 AD. On this shelf it is the custom to have a little shrine containing paper tickets
on which are written the names of the various gods. One of these tickets is supposed
to contain in its makeup some shavings from the wands used by the priests of Ise at
the two annual festivals, and is supposed to protect its possessor from misfortune for
six months, at the end of which time it should be changed for a new one. These tickets
and the priests, as well as the doctrine of the infallibility of the head of the
government because of his divine descent, however, are no part of the original
Shintoism. Even the mirror, symbol of the sun, which is shown in the present-day
Shinto temples, together with the jewel and the sword associated with the sun’s
struggle with her violent brother, is an importation from the Buddhist cult, and the
real mirror is kept secretly concealed.
The Dravidian people of primitive India were of the heliolithic culture. Later
animism developed the worshipers of Siva, which is one of the two great divisions of
Hinduism to this day. Siva is the destroyer. A standard authority on the subject
writes:”But whenever one finds a true Sivaite devotee that is, a man that will not worship
Vishnu but holds fast to Siva as the only manifestation of the supreme divinity, he
will notice that such a one quickly becomes obscene, brutal, prone to bloodshed, apt
for any disgusting practice, intellectually void, morally beneath contempt. If the
Sivaite be an ascetic his asceticism will be the result either of his lack of intelligence,
or of his cunning, for he knows that there are plenty of people who will save him the
trouble of earning a living.
“But we must now give an account of the low sectaries, the miracle-mongers,
jugglers, and ascetic whimsicalities, which together stand under the phallic standard
of Sivaism. Ancient and recent observers enumerate a sad list of them.
“The devotees of the `Highest bird` are a low sect of ascetics who live on voluntary
alms, the result of their affectation of extreme penance. The Urhvabhus, `Up-arms,’
raise their arms until they are unable to lower them again. The Akacamukkas,
`Sky-facers,’ hold their faces toward the sky till the muscles stiffen, and they live
thus always. The Nakhis, `Nail’ ascetics, allow their nails to grow through their
clenched hands, which unfits them for work (but they are all too religiously lazy to
work), and makes it necessary for the credulous faithful to support them.
“Some of these, like the Kanaphates, `Earsplitters,’ who pierce their ears with heavy
rings, have been respectable Yogis in the past, but most of them have lost what sense
their philosophic founders attached to the sign, and keep only the latter as their
religion. Some, such as the Ukharas and Sukharas, appear to have no distinctive
features, all of them being `refuse of beggars’ (Wilson). Others claim virtue on the
strength of nudity, and subdue their passions literally with lock and key.
“The `Potmen,’ and the `Skull-men,’ Gudaras and Kapalikas, are the remnant of a
once thoughtful sect known by name since the sixth century, and Kanaphats and
Kapalikas show that very likely among others these wretches are but the residue of
ancient Sivaite sects, who began as philosophers (perhaps Buddhists), and became
only ascetics and thus degraded; for Siva apparently has no power to make his
worshipers better than himself, and he is a dirty monster, now and then galvanized
into the semblance of a decent god.
“But none of the Sivaite sects that have been mentioned, imbecile as seem to be the
impostors that represent them, are equal in despicable traits to the Shaktas. These
worshipers of the androgynous Siva (or of Shakti, the female principle alone) do,
indeed, include some Vishnuites among themselves, but they are originally and
prevailingly Sivaites. Blood offerings and human sacrifices are a modern and ancient
trait of Siva worship; and the hill tribes of the Vindhya and the classical drama show
that the cult of Aghoris is a Sivaite manifestation which is at once old and derived
from un-Aryan sources. Aghori and all female monsters naturally associate with
Siva, who is their intellectual and moral counterpart.
“To give in details the worship of Mehadevi, Durga, Kali, Uma, etc., the names by
which Siva’s wife is known is not desirable, and non-permissible, because of the
indecencies. Nor is it desirable to more than mention the rite-book called the Tantras,
which enjoins indulgence in “wine and women.
“The wild tribes of India hold to still other religious beliefs. These tribes may be
divided into two great groups, the dark-white Dravidians, and the yellow Kolarians,
the latter being sometimes called Indo-Chinese. The general religion of the
Dravidians is essentially heliolithic, and for that matter the sun is venerated and
worshiped in nearly all parts of India. I shall have space to mention but two of the
larger divisions of the Dravidian population, the Gonds and the Khonds.
The pure Gonds are junglemen, and are noteworthy for honesty, truthfulness, and
courage. Those that have intermarried with the Hindus, however, are noted for their
treachery and dishonesty. They venerate the sun, moon, and stars, and have stone
idols, or symbols, which they venerate, and believe in magic. More anciently the sun
was the great object of their veneration, to which they offered human sacrifices, a
man of straw now being substituted as the victim of the rite. The chief ceremonies are
the sun-feast and the snake-feast, in which worship is combined with drinking and
The Khonds make a human sacrifice to the earth-goddess their principal rite; but they
also worship the sun as the supreme deity. The human victim whom they sacrifice is
placed in a cleft of a tree to be crushed, or he is placed in the fire. Human sacrifices are
also used to mark boundary lines. The victim is captured while quite young, and
treated with kindness until he is grown; then he is sacrificed in a mud-bath and bits of
his flesh are cut out and strewn along the boundary lines. This people are aborigines
of the Eastern Ghats.
Of the yellow Kolarians, the Sunthals have immigrated into the West Bengal region.
Their highest deity is the sun; and their religion is strictly animism. The Koles
(pig-stickers) also worship the sun; and in addition worship the moon as his wife, and
the stars as his children. Then there are the Garos, who live between Assam and
Bengal; and the Kaaos, the Savaras, and many others whose worship is chiefly sun
worship, totemism and animism.
To the north of India lies the mysterious region of Tibet. The religion of this country
is Lamaism. This Lamaism has for foundation Mongolian Shamanism. This
Shamanism still is the dominant religion of Northern Asia. The Shaman is the wizard
priest, closely resembling the Medicine Man of the North American Indians. He is
primarily a magician who holds communication with both good spirits and bad
spirits, as well as with people’s ancestors.
Tradition relates that the Mongolian Shamans of Tibet were among the world’s most
powerful magicians, exceptionally well versed in necromancy. Later, Buddhism
gained a foothold in Tibet as it did in Mongolia and China. In the course of time,
however, the Buddhist doctrines in these regions underwent a gradual but radical
change. Then, in the seventh century, the ruler of Tibet, Sorong Tsan Gampo, entered
into negotiations with the Emperor of China, and founded Lhasa, the present capital
He was supported in his enthusiasm for Buddhism by two queens, who are now
worshiped as being incarnations of the wife of Siva. The king also became a saint,
and is looked upon as an incarnation of a divine being. From then on, as Rome
became a holy city under Catholicism and strove for temporal power, so Lhasa
became the Holy City of the Far East, and its religion began to take on an aspect of
In the West, in the fourteenth century came the reformation of
Christianity led by Martin Luther, and in the fifteenth century in the East there was a
so-called reformation which finally resulted in the Emperor of China recognizing
two leaders, the Dalai Lama and the Pantshen Lama. These two had previously been
abbots of the great monasteries at Geduu Dupa, near Lhasa, and the one at Krashis
Lunpo, in Further Tibet. They each strove for complete dominance, and to prevent a
long and bloody war the Emperor of China effected a compromise. Since then these
two Lamas have been the temporal and religious rulers of Tibet; being supported in
this by Mongolia and China.
These Lamas are supposed to be incarnations of divine beings, the Dalai Lama being
an incarnation of the same divinity as Buddha. When either of them die it is necessary
for the other to ascertain in whose body the celestial being will next incarnate
himself. He, therefore, has collected all the names of the male children born soon
after the demise of the other Lama. Out of these names he chooses three. These three
names are placed in a casket provided by a former emperor of China. The abbots of
the great monasteries then assemble after a week of prayer, lots are drawn while they,
the remaining Lama, and the Chinese political resident, are present. The child whose
name is thus drawn is the future Grand Lama.
The abbots correspond closely to the Roman Catholic Cardinals; but there are Chubil
Khans who fill the post of abbots to lesser monasteries. These abbots are all
incarnations of celestial beings. Below them are other ranks in a descending scale,
corresponding to deacon, full priest, dean, and doctor of divinity, according to the
standards of Christianity.
The Dalai Lama is the head of the Buddhist Church throughout Mongolia and China;
and while his political authority has been confined to Tibet, and while there are
Buddhists both in China and in Japan who do not recognize his authority–as the
Greek Catholic church does not recognize the authority of the Pope–he is the head
of a hierarchy that has sought, and still seeks, world dominion; using religion as a
means of gaining temporal power. The parallel between the Buddhist Church of
Tibet and the Catholic Church with headquarters at Rome, is amazingly close, both
in the manner in which they manage their affairs, and in the ultimate ends sought.
But Buddhism is not the dominant religion in China proper. The strongest elements
are Taoism and Confucianism. These have been slightly influenced by Buddhism,
but in most respects retain their original elements. Temples are numerous, ancestor
worship is prevalent, and while moral precepts are taught, a great amount of attention
is paid to driving out evil spirits. Animism, therefore, enters largely into their present
Religion in Africa
–It is true that some African peoples have advanced beyond fetishism. Thus the
Bushmen, while still fetish worshipers, look upon the sun and moon as spirits to be
venerated. The Guinea Negroes have also totem worship, religious cannibalism, and
a moon-cult. The Wakamba Bantus in addition to fetishism have phallic cults, and
the Hottentots have a benevolent god and a malignant devil resembling those of the
Christian faith. But Africa as a whole is closely wedded to fetishism. This is
particularly true of the West Coast.
Voodooism as practiced by the Negroes of the Southern United States and Haiti, and
Obeah and Wanga, came from the West Coast Negroes. Voodoo means fearful, and
as originally practiced by the Dahomy Negroes required a priest, a priestess, and a
snake. The Wanga, which is still practiced by Voodoo Doctors in the Southern
United States, shows the action of poison but does not require the spilling of blood.
The White Voodoo requires the sacrifice of a rooster or a goat. The Red Voodoo,
which has caused the authorities much trouble in Haiti, requires in its ritual the
sacrifice of a human victim.