Paper 87 The Ghost Cults Page 963
Envy is a deep-seated human trait; therefore did primitive man ascribe it to his early gods. And since man had once practiced deception upon the ghosts, he soon began to deceive the spirits. Said he, “If the spirits are jealous of our beauty and prosperity, we will disfigure ourselves and speak lightly of our success.” Early humility was not, therefore, debasement of ego but rather an attempt to foil and deceive the envious spirits.
The method adopted to prevent the spirits from becoming jealous of human prosperity was to heap vituperation upon some lucky or much loved thing or person. The custom of depreciating complimentary remarks regarding oneself or family had its origin in this way, and it eventually evolved into civilized modesty, restraint, and courtesy. In keeping with the same motive, it became the fashion to look ugly. Beauty aroused the envy of spirits; it betokened sinful human pride. The savage sought for an ugly name. This feature of the cult was a great handicap to the advancement of art, and it long kept the world somber and ugly.
Under the spirit cult, life was at best a gamble, the result of spirit control. One's future was not the result of effort, industry, or talent except as they might be utilized to influence the spirits. The ceremonies of spirit propitiation constituted a heavy burden, rendering life tedious and virtually unendurable. From age to age and from generation to generation, race after race has sought to improve this superghost doctrine, but no generation has ever yet dared to wholly reject it.
The intention and will of the spirits were studied by means of omens, oracles, and signs. And these spirit messages were interpreted by divination, soothsaying, magic, ordeals, and astrology. The whole cult was a scheme designed to placate, satisfy, and buy off the spirits through this disguised bribery.
And thus there grew up a new and expanded world philosophy consisting in:
1. Duty—those things which must be done to keep the spirits favorably disposed, at least neutral.
2. Right—the correct conduct and ceremonies designed to win the spirits actively to one's interests.
3. Truth—the correct understanding of, and attitude toward, spirits, and hence toward life and death.
It was not merely out of curiosity that the ancients sought to know the future; they wanted to dodge ill luck. Divination was simply an attempt to avoid trouble. During these times, dreams were regarded as prophetic, while everything out of the ordinary was considered an omen. And even today the civilized races are cursed with the belief in signs, tokens, and other superstitious remnants of the advancing ghost cult of old. Slow, very slow, is man to abandon those methods whereby he so gradually and painfully ascended the evolutionary scale of life.
6. COERCION AND EXORCISM
When men believed in ghosts only, religious ritual was more personal, less organized, but the recognition of higher spirits necessitated the employment of “higher spiritual methods” in dealing with them. This attempt to improve upon, and to elaborate, the technique of spirit propitiation led directly to the creation of defenses against the spirits. Man felt helpless indeed before the uncontrollable forces operating in terrestrial life, and his feeling of inferiority drove him to attempt