Jnana-Yoga : - 1-2.


Two theories have gained some acceptance amongst modern scholars.

One is the spirit theory of religion, the other the evolution of the idea of the Infinite.

One party maintains that ancestor worship is the beginning of religious ideas; the other, that religion originates in the personification of the powers of nature.

Man wants to keep up the memory of his dead relatives and thinks they are living even when the body is dissolved, and he wants to place food for them and, in a certain sense, to worship them.

Out of that came the growth we call religion.

Studying the ancient religions of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Chinese, and many other races in America and elsewhere, we find very clear traces of this ancestor worship being the beginning of religion.

With the ancient Egyptians, the first idea of the soul was that of a double.

 Every human body contained in it another being very similar to it; and when a man died, this double went out of the body and yet lived on.

But the life of the double lasted only so long as the dead body remained intact, and that is why we find among the Egyptians so much solicitude to keep the body uninjured.

And that is why they built those huge pyramids in which they preserved the bodies.

For, if any portion of the external body was hurt, the double would be correspondingly injured.

This is clearly ancestor worship.

With the ancient Babylonians we find the same idea of the double, but with a variation.

The double lost all sense of love; it frightened the living to give it food and drink, and to help it in various ways.

It even lost all affection for its own children and its own wife.

Among the ancient Hindus also, we find traces of this ancestor worship.

Among the Chinese, the basis of their religion may also be said to be ancestor worship, and it still permeates the length and breadth of that vast country.

In fact, the only religion that can really be said to flourish in China is that of ancestor worship.

Thus it seems, on the one hand, a very good position is made out for those who hold the theory of ancestor worship as the beginning of religion.

Swami Vivekananda
To be continued  ...