not for the saving of souls but for the preservation and welfare of society

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Religion, he [Taylor] suggested, originated in the experience of seeing the dead in dreams.

Religion, he [Smith] believed, did not arise in the explanations of animism but in activities that cemented the bonds of community. In other words, Robertson Smith saw religion as rooted not in speculative myths about the nature of things but in rituals that essentially worshiped divine representations of the social order itself: “religion was made up of a series of acts and observances … [it] did not exist for the sake of saving souls but for the preservation and welfare of society.”5

While Tylor’s theory of ritual sacrifice implies a type of “gift” model, according to which human beings make offerings to ancestors and spirits in return for blessings, Robertson Smith boldly interpreted the Semitic sacrificial rite as a festive “communion” between humans and gods that has the effect of sacralizing the social unity and solidarity of the group. Hence, for Robertson Smith, ritual is the primary component of religion, and it fundamentally serves the basic social function of creating and maintaining community. He relegated myth to a secondary place, somewhat akin to its place in Müller’s theory, by arguing that myth evolved as an explanation of what the rite was about when the original meaning was forgotten or confounded. In almost every case, he argued, “the myth was derived from the ritual, and not the ritual from the myth; for the ritual was fixed and the myth was variable, the ritual was obligatory and faith in the myth was at the discretion of the worshipper.”7 (Pg.4)

The first was the “myth and ritual” school associated with Sir James Frazer’s famous work, which argued that in order to understand a myth one must first determine the ritual that it accompanied. The second was the sociological approach to religion associated with Émile Durkheim, for whom religion was a social creation that exists, as Robertson Smith had noted, “not for the saving of souls but for the preservation and welfare of society.”9 A third interpretive approach, the psychoanalytical school founded by Sigmund Freud, adopted Robertson Smith’s notions of totemism, primal sacrifice, and the social origins of religious authority, guilt, and morality. For the psychoanalysts, Robertson Smith’s unequivocal emphasis on the importance of ritual pointed to modes of analysis and interpretation that look beyond what people themselves think about what they do or believe. In this way, Robertson Smith pioneered what has been called an “anti-intellectualist” understanding of human behavior, that is, behavior rooted in irrational impulses and not simply reasoning according to a primitive form of logic. (Pg.5)

Hooke and his colleagues reconstructed a set of rites synchronized to the seasonal cycle of planting and harvesting in which the king was first humiliated and then symbolically killed, after which he descended into the underworld. He subsequently arose to reestablish order on earth through formal combat with the forces of chaos. Upon his victory over chaos, the king reclaimed the throne, celebrated a sacred marriage, and pronounced the laws of the land. According to Hooke, the symbolic enactments of these events were accompanied by the recitation of the story as an extended narrative account of creation itself. Although critics challenged the historical accuracy and scope of this interpretive reconstruction, it became a powerful model of sacred kingship that scholars attempted to use in other cultural areas as well. (Pg.6)

The Cambridge school of classicists systematically developed this theory by arguing that folklore and literature derive from the ritual activities of ancient sacred kings, not from actual history or the folk imagination, as people had long believed. (Pg.6)

Harrison saw ritual as the source of myth; myths arose as spoken and somewhat secondary correlates to the activities performed in the rite. (Pg.6) And (ritual) is the primary component of religion, and it fundamentally serves the basic social function of creating and maintaining community. (Pg.4)

WE&P by EZorrilla.

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