Saturday, 8 October 2011

Theory of Religion Evolution: Scholarly Opinions

Opinions Regarding Tylor's Hypothesis

Commenting on the belief of primitive people, E. Adamson Hoebel who was an anthropologist in Anthropology Department of Minnesota University mentioned in his book, Man in the Primitive World:

It is quite late for civilized men with knowledge and the ability to think that primitive human mind have no capacity to reach the thought about the Great Essence or the Highest God. Tylor's biggest mistake in his opinion is regarding the concept of Highest Deity is the final evolution of intellectualism which begins with the belief towards spirits, and then developed to ghosts and ancestral worship, and turns to be devotion toward deities and the final result is monotheism.   

It could be seen that Hoebel rejects the evolution of theology proposed by Tylor. He further mentioned in his book:

Andrew Lang before this century had proved that natives of Australia, Africa, Polynesia, and Amerindian belief toward the Highest God is not reaped from Christianity. Anthropologists who were never exhausted in his studies, Wilhelm Schmidt had put in his note this notion in his four volumes the Origin of the Idea About God

Wilhelm Schmidt is also counted as one of historical and cultural sect follower where he studies the development of human culture and history. The result of studies will take the cultural impact on human belief. It brings the idea on how the pattern and shape of oldest culture could influence human's belief.

In order to find the purest religion or perhaps ideology which was first embraced by human, Schmidt had been collecting information and proves from every inches of the world. He concludes that the purest teaching is the teaching which proclaims the existence of the Greatest God. This ancient ideology is called as beginner monotheism. Due to historical development, this monotheism had gone through changes.

According to Rahmat (1979), we do not have to go far with Schmidt travels. It is enough for us in the Middle Island (South East Asian archipelagos) to look at the Unity of the God concept in natives' belief. It has been certified that with no influence from the Middle East be it Christianity or Islam. Christianity is a Middle East religion but grows up within European environment. Hinduism in Bali Island in Indonesia which is called as Balinese Hinduism is also different to that of Indian sub-continent. The difference is that, they have a notion called as Sang Hyang Widdhi or the One God. The Sundanese in Western Java Island before the advent of Islam called the power that they believe as Sang Hyang Tunggal which means the Only Spirit.

Regarding Rahmat (1979) notion about Balinese Hinduism in South East Asia, I was a Buddhist by ideology though my name is by Islamic born name and I still remember what I had learned. I did not only learn about Buddhism but also Hinduism and their philosophical schools. Sang Hyang Widdhi means the Respected Spirit who Knows. It is not the One God like Islamic theology of monotheism. It may refer to god Shiva who Destructs and who Creates the New Cosmic through Nr'ittiya (dance) as what I had learned from Javanese literature that those in Bali Island have this kind of religious syncretism between Buddhism and Shaivism school of Hinduism. Though I did not believe in the God last time... Well, I denied the existence of the God because I hate people around and I compared myself to others where I could only see others as more fortunate than me while I had to go through difficulties in many aspects of life while being only a child... I thought that it is useless for me to prostrate and pray to something which does not exist to help me. Now I realize that many people face more or less the same problem so nothing really is a big deal. We just need patience and being a servant of the God is without any choice to go through tortures since we could actually just choose one, the God or the world as our Beloved one. Last time, I know about the existence of the God through Phrommann-a-Witthiya (Brahminical Sources) and of course, I know about Islamic theology since I was also educated in Islamic schools since childhood. I was an orthodox Muslim kid born in a family who follows Shafi'ie methodology which was not really religious, I mean our parents were not so religious during their young time but I was put together into mingle with religious elders during a little child time... I turned out to be quite different in some point of this life when it comes to practices and belief after changing phases in family and environment around. It is very hard for young kid to face the world without physical or mental support.

In the Batak land of Sumatera Island, people have Ompu Mula Jadi Na Bolon which means Great Grandmother who First to be Born. It was their deity before most of them are converted to Christianity. For them, this deity is powerful in three area. It is the deity of the upper world called as Tuan Bubi Na Bolon, deity of the middle world known as Ompu Silaon Na Bolon, and deity of the lower world or the sea and thunder called as Tuan Panai Na Bolon.

Dayak tribes of Kalimantan also called supernatural powers with names related to Hinduism like Mahatara or Hatallah which is Islamic by influence. There are great possibilities that those names came later and replacing native notion of the power believed by the people while the idea of the unity of God has already been there before the arrival of Hinduism or the advent of Islam. If the native name for God could be brought up to light and not of those influenced by Sanskrit or Arabic, perhaps it would be closer to the opinion that the concept of unity of God had already exist in South East Asia region before the influence of Hinduism from South Asia or Islam from Middle East. 

From the discussion, scholars like Hoebel, Schmidt, and Lang opinion is that, the belief to one God is not the end of the evolution of human thought to God. Hoebel thinks that it is a mistake and it has flaw. Human since in the beginning of their existence had already know the Only God, the Greatest. How come that it turns out to be the belief of many gods? In the Man in the Primitive World, it says that: 

Andrew Lang suggested that the summary of the concept related to the Greatest Divinity sparked from the religious thinking which had already in existence since long ago. The existence of lower rank deities is due to the tendency of human to create myths or ancient Adam for human. It is a non-social belief to get few benefits from other companions. In this matter, it means that the Highest Essence the Purest is said as too pure to hold the role in the world, so the role was handed over and delegated to ghosts, spirits, and deities which is also formulated with pleasant, irrational and anomalous visions lowering the rank God into gods

That is how Lang suggested on how primitive humans reaching higher philosophical thinking. Human have also the ability to create lower level thoughts when it comes to their self necessities in the sense of detailed pantheism from wild world.

Lang further emphasize that monotheism had already exist since long. Human later adding here and there at the already existed belief until it turns out to be religions of many gods. It is from human tendency to create myths and inclination toward fairy tales which sometimes could be absurd to get attention and satisfying their listeners. Can we say, this could also apply to conspiracy theory? In Buddhism, there is a notion from lord Buddha Gautama regarding we should first stay in silence, observe, study and later we decide to believe or leave it. Because of this inclination, human created gods and goddesses, fairies, and ghosts. All of these figures and characters were given roles in stories mapped in their mind. Sometimes, it consists philosophical teachings which is embraced by the myth creators. In this development, the One God is still in vague in it. However, society prefer and paying more attention to gods and goddesses created by human mind until the "One True God" sunken down into the mist of ignorance of people who listens to myth. This is a factor which leads to polytheism.         

Regarding Prophethood, Prophets' Task, and Civilized Monotheism

Andrew Lang suggested that the development of civilized religion always struggles to bolster both the sovereignty of thinking and religious thinking. It works hard in order to place the God the Greatest at His position in human conceptional thinking. The concept in Abraham path is classified under this type of civilized monotheism. However, this Divinity concept could also be deviated with some small demands such as personal preference, ethnicity, or nationality of those who are called as 'civilized human.' 

Regarding prophets, Lang emphasized that they are reformers who struggles in order to bring back the God's sovereignty in the midst of gods' idolaters, which is the belief added and invented by human mind. These prophets worked hard in order to bring human back to the root belief and creed. The creed toward the Sovereign God, Absolute in Power incomparable to anything. According to Lang, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity teachings bridging human to their root creed.

But, the deviation of primitive human could also happen to advanced human. The proofs of this deviation could be seen whether in Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. The cause of deviations perhaps due to human's preference, human's desire, adaptation for tribal, ethnicity, race or nationality interests

Lang had shown that there is nothing to be surprised on primitive humans if monotheism could also revolutionized into animism, polytheism, and etc. Deviation does not happen to primitive humans but also to civilized and advanced humans.    

From this elaboration of Andrew Lang, it could be said that Tylor hypothesis regarding the evolution of human thought regarding religion is quite weak and not scholarly proved. Scholarly proves such as anthropology on the other hand states that monotheism or the belief toward One and Only God is the origin of humans' belief.    

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