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 Post subject: Was Shamanism the oldest form of religion on earth?
 Post Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:26 am 
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My name is Ben. I am courious as to your opinion on this. I know Shamanism is worldwide, from Africa, Europe, Northern/Southern America and elsewhere. Do you think shamanism was probably the oldest form of religious expression? Why or why not?


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 Post subject: Re: Was Shamanism the oldest form of religion on earth?
 Post Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:46 am 
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I'd say yes, most definitely...except it's not actually a religion in my view.

For me a religion is codified and has a hierarchy, where shamanism tends to be individually practiced in each shaman's unique way.

Later it became a religion in some cases, as in bon in Tibet. In Siberia where many think shamanism originated, shaman centres in towns sprang up after the soviet collapse.

Some of those centres have begun writing down how it should be practiced and in some places the apprenticeships which used to be on a one to one basis are now conducted in classes. So that moves it towards a religion.

But looking back to the evidence of early shamanism on petroglyphs - and in Werner Herzog's excellent new movie Cave of Forgotten Dreams - it does seem that shamanism was the earliest form of spiritual activity.

Of course we don't really know, because clearly only a fraction of human activity has come down to us in actifacts.

And not that it really matters very much apart from boasting rights for participants.

Would shamanism be any less valid if it was second...or third?

Mackenzie Blyth


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 Post subject: Re: Was Shamanism the oldest form of religion on earth?
 Post Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:03 am 
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It's generally believed that the first "religious" beliefs were animist. Animism, by its very nature, all but requires a shamanic view of the world and pretty much guarantees the rise of shamanism. As for whether shamanism was the first religion (oldest form of religion) that's generally considered to be the case (if you equate animist beliefs with shamanism), though there is no direct proof to establish this as solid fact.

In fact, animism (anthropomorphically defining the world) is considered an early stage in human cognitive development (2-4 years of age) and could account for the consistency in its appearances world wide in disparate and disconnected regions (giving rise to a number of theoretically based cognitive studies and researches to study the similarities of disparate and disconnected cultures and the ways they evolved superficially similar systems and beliefs, though without contact.)

Sir E.B. Tylor made animism famous in his work "primitive cultures" and Marrett refuted the generally accepted idea of animism with his theory of mana (taken from the Oceanica cultures like the Mauri), which lay all but forgotten for a long time.

That should give you some sources to look up and follow if you really want to follow the line of inquiry.


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 Post subject: Re: Was Shamanism the oldest form of religion on earth?
 Post Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:04 pm 
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Yes, I believe that shamanism was the first religion (if you want to call it a religion). If you go back to the time when humans were still hunter-gatherers many thousands of years ago, their way of life was shamanism. They had elders of their tribes that had special knowledge of the world beyond the normal senses. These special people of the clan were able to provide wisdom for healing medicines, foretell the future, communicate with animals and trees, and contact deceased ancestors for guidance. These "shamans" as we know them today thrived until more organized spiritual practices began sprouting up. Then, as the modern religions emerged, shamanism was outcast and seen as an evil act.

But, what many of the modern religions do not recognize is that their core system of beliefs emerged from these humble and archaic beginnings of shamanism. All religions that developed later on were taken from the religious beliefs that were present before. They would just change the names or the stories to fit the current set of religious dogma.

In my book, The Linear Heritage of Women, I talk about this in more detail. You can find more information at http://www.arvin.net/linear.htm.


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 Post subject: Re: Was Shamanism the oldest form of religion on earth?
 Post Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:59 pm 
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hquest_98 wrote:
their way of life was shamanism. They had elders of their tribes that had special knowledge of the world beyond the normal senses. These special people of the clan were able to provide wisdom for healing medicines, foretell the future, communicate with animals and trees, and contact deceased ancestors for guidance.


Is this the new definition of shamanism? Very broad brush strokes.

Confusion about what exactly is shamanism aside, think about the resources available to early man. They were limited in expressing themselves to each other and certainly limited in what they could leave their descendants (us) to work with. (agreed with Mackenzie)


To change perspective, a child struggles to understand that other people have different feelings and thoughts to her own, or even that other people physically see different things. (up until the age of appproximately 5, when this starts to change.) Our first understanding of the world is macro/microcosmic, not animist.

It's not until later life when we realise that other people have different thoughts that we get carried away and try to apply this to everything. (animism)


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 Post subject: Re: Was Shamanism the oldest form of religion on earth?
 Post Posted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 9:11 am 
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Yes, I do have a very broad view of shamanism. I have, however, done extensive research on early humans and more specifically, the pre-historic Celtic culture. Evidence shows that the early peoples that inhabited the British Islands thousands of years ago had animistic traditions that were most likely passed down through oral tradition (including animism, various medicinal practices, spirituality, etc.).

I don't think I quite understand your interpretation of comparing children and the lack of animistic thought at an early age and what this has to do with shamanism. Perhaps I'm just not reading you correctly, but my studies of early childhood education and child psychology classes that I have taken clearly show that children under the age of five do not understand a macro/microcosmic world. They take an idea that they have and apply it to everything they understand, which is totally self-centered.

In any case, I would like to hear further from you about the research you have done. You may have studied from different sources than I have and I would be interested in reading some of your material.

Heidi


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 Post subject: Re: Was Shamanism the oldest form of religion on earth?
 Post Posted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 8:56 pm 
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Reading too much into the Official Psychology Stance on Animism, especially modern views of Paiget's work on Cognitive Development, is misleading. Contention about developmental stages rages as people attack the concept of animism as a stage of development, either on the grounds that is only a sign or symptom of some other developmental stage, or because they want to refute the idea that animism is a developmental stage of human perception at all.

It is true, from a psychology point of view however, that animistic perspectives are symptoms of other features, namely agency awareness, cause and effect, pattern recognition, object permanence, and visual imagination within social animals. It can be seen as nothing more, and usually by opponents, as the erroneous transference of internal agency recognition (imposing our own sense of self awareness) onto the world around us, in particular those things that either give us trouble consistently or in such a way as we take it personally, or on forces scientifically considered non-sentient like wind, tides, the moon, mountains, etc...

Then there is the inconsistency in the responses. Not that the responses given by children are inconsistent, but that not all children are prone to animistic responses which is, at best, inconclusive.

How does this play into the development of animism, and thus shamanism?

If we agree that the cognitive stages of development are more or less innate, despite the inconsistencies, then we can assume a fundamental developmental perception is at work. If humans have a need for belief (which I do see as something of a misnomer) then the need for belief would feed the existing perceptional tendencies and thus give us plausible causative.

I, myself, prefer to see the innate need for belief as a human need to understand and control the surrounding environment directly confused and tangled with our social needs, thus the earliest forms of belief would actually be more of a perception of reality based on the available cause and effect observations through limited and often extremely insightful philosophies of reality that promoted community bonding.


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 Post subject: Re: Was Shamanism the oldest form of religion on earth?
 Post Posted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 9:15 pm 
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Children might not have capacity understand the macro/microcosm theory, and I wouldn't expect it of a child. The self centered view of applying a single idea to everything is based on... everything being a reflection of the self, and everything being an aspect of the self. The universe revolves around me because I am the universe.

I apply this to early mankinds beliefs simply by changing perspective. The animist perspective is a very common unconcsious pattern in todays modern world for adults and older children. So we assume that it is a natural development, but perhaps it develops this way because of the environment and society. Things which would have been vastly different in the era relating to 'earliest religion.'
I hope this clarifies my perspective.

hquest_98 wrote:
the pre-historic Celtic culture. Evidence shows that the early peoples that inhabited the British Islands thousands of years ago... ...through oral tradition

Excuse my pedantry, I am sure it is unwarranted.How do you reconcile evidence with oral transmission?
Pre-historic Celtic culture did not exist in England... It is good to agree that it is indeed celtic culture and not celtic people, but that culture expanding through england during a period of time that has been documented.

I agree that spiritual and magikal traditions were almost definitely via oral transmission, especially in England, and that animism was one of these. The first religion or faith in England however was the death cult, of which animism develops. (from questions such as where did Fred bloggs soul go, specifically?)
edit I don't mean to invalidate animism as being a sign or symptom, I am sure that like most things it develops from and into, or has parts and is part of. Interested in how the F.bloggs question relates to storm ravens post.



I hope you have enjoyed reading my material, and that we can continue to share.


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