Science and human sacrifice (4)
Casely Hayford made only passing mention of human sacrifice. But one can draw certain inferences, from his assertion that Ashanti priests attended traditional “seminaries,” for a period of three years. Human sacrifice was such an important ritual, that its exclusion from the curriculum is hard to imagine.
Nor is it likely, that priests would not be taught the survival value of this ritual and trained to conduct it methodically, according to perfectly rational rules—which they customarily masked through religious mystification.
“Mystification” refers to deliberate acts, designed to diminish or obscure people’s understanding of what they see and experience. This element of “deception” (as Hayford called it), is integral to almost all religious practices, ancient and modern.
It is not just for the musical part of the liturgy, for example, that expensive pipe organs are installed in some churches. BBC once reported on an Anglican church in the U.K., in which the largest pipes emit sound at infrasonic frequencies.
Worshippers cannot hear this low-frequency sound, it noted. So there is no musical justification for using these pipes. But there is a psycho-physical reason: The sound waves stimulate the bodies of worshippers, who think they are having a religious experience!
The psychological stratagems of the modern Western clergy (burning incense, sprinkling water, blowing powder, rubbing oil, etc.) were all inherited from the pre-Christian Juju men of Europe and Asia!
The Pope, for instance, is referred to informally as “Pontiff,” which is derived from “Pontifex Maximus”: The title of the ancient priest-kings (witch doctors!) of Italy. According to the Catholic Answers Forum, “the first Pontifex Maximus originated… around 753 BC with the original Kings of Rome”.
What I am getting at is this: The Black Man doesn’t have to run away from his past or be a shamed of his culture. Traditional African religion, in particular, does not differ, in its fundamentals, from the religious beliefs of other peoples.
In his study of Bantu philosophy, Father Placide Frans Tempels, a Catholic priest, found that the values enunciated in the Christian Ten Commandments were also basic to traditional religious systems in the Congo.
The dancing and incantations of the traditional African priests, the throwing of bones and cowry shells and other rituals, are nothing more than forms of mystification. Unfortunately, it is mainly this religious aspect— the mystification—the modern ritual/traditional killers have retained.
In pre-Colonial Africa, religious ceremonies may have provided the context, or the occasion, for ritual killing. But the selection of the victims was, for the most part, guided by rules and informed by inherited knowledge that, in some way, facilitated war-making and/or reproduction: Fundamental survival interests.
I remember reading a passage in a highly controversial book, published in 1967, called “Report From Iron Mountain,” which stated explicitly what Hayford had only implied, in his chapter on “Fetish” worship.
Without getting into the continuing debate over the origins and purpose of this extremely interesting volume, its correlation of human sacrifice with the warrior ethic intrigued me. The passage postulated that societies in which human sacrifice was practiced on a large scale, tended to be imperial and war-like.
Thus while Hayford had prompted me to look beyond the religious façade, beyond mystification, “Report From Iron Mountain” pointed me to science—ultimately to evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology.
In other words, our ancestors were not “mindless savages”. The link between human sacrifice and war is very obvious and very simple: Psychological preparedness.
If a man belongs to a culture, in which the priest can command him to make the ultimate sacrifice at any time, the hazards of the battlefield pale into insignificance!
To be continued.
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