Genesis of spirituality

Mark, modified 6 Years ago at 11/6/16 4:34 AM
Created 6 Years ago at 11/6/16 4:34 AM

Genesis of spirituality

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This is the first time I've read such a fundamental investigation into spirituality. The book is "The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life" by Durkheim (1912). I was reading a summary which is still quite long. I'll try to extract some key points. For some context it is assumed that totemism is the oldest religous form we have knowledge about. I'd be interested to hear of other takes on this subject. What follows is taken from the website.

Briefly, the individual who is transported from his profane to a sacred existence in a gathering of the clan seeks some explanation for his altered, elevated state. The gathering of the clan itself is the real cause, though one too complex for the primitive mind to comprehend; but all around him, the clan member sees symbols of precisely that cause -- the carved engraved images of the totem -- and fixes his confused social sentiments on these clear, concrete objects, from which the physical power and moral authority of society thus seem to emanate. Just as the soldier who dies for his flag in fact dies for his country, so the clan member who worships his totem in fact worships his clan.

Totemism, in short, is not a religion of emblems or animals or men at all, but rather of an anonymous, impersonal "force" immanent in the world and diffused among its various material objects.

Durkheim observed, "is not merely a man who sees new truths of which the unbeliever is ignorant; he is a man who is stronger. He feels within him more force, either to endure the trials of existence, or to conquer them." The mere ideas of the individual are clearly insufficient to this purpose; and, in this sociological version of the principle extra ecclesia nulla salus, Durkheim thus insisted that it is the repeated acts of the cult which give rise to "impressions of joy, of interior peace, of serenity, of enthusiasm which are, for the believer, an experimental proof of his beliefs."

...the belief in the immortality of the soul and its subsequent reincarnations is literally required if the phenomena of conception and birth are to be explained. And in holding this belief, Durkheim again asserted, the primitive is not misled; for the soul is simply the individualized representation of the clan, and the clan does outlive its individual members. The belief in the immortality of the soul is thus the earliest, symbolic means whereby men represented to themselves the truth that society continued to live while they must die.