ELEMENTARY FORMS OF RELIGIOUS LIFE PDF
The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. EMILE. DURKHE. A New. Translation by . KAREN E. FIELDS. Page 2. Page 3. Page 4. Page 5. Page 6. Page 7. Page 8. Expand view. Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, trans. Karen E. Fields, New York: The Free Press, (in English). PDF | This is the first collection of essays to be published on Durkheim's master- piece, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. A classic of.
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𝗣𝗗𝗙 | In his preface to the Conclusion of Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, the editor of the Russian translation discusses a. The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, by Emile Durkheim This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and. Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg.
Almost immediately, however, another difficulty arose -- even the crudest religions of which we have any historical or ethnographic knowledge appear to be the products of a long, rather complicated evolution, and thus exhibit a profusion of beliefs and rites based upon a variety of "essential" principles.
To discover the "truly original" form of the religious life, Durkheim observed, it is thus necessary "to descend by analysis beyond these observable religions, to resolve them into their common and fundamental elements, and then to seek among these latter some one from which the others were derived. This was a problem for which two contrary solutions had been proposed, based upon the two common elements found universally among the observable religions.
One set of beliefs and practices, for example, is addressed to the phenomena of nature, and is thus characterized as naturism; while a second body of religious thought and action appeals to conscious spiritual beings, and is called animism. The problem of accounting for the confusing properties of the observable religions thus resolved itself into two mutually contradictory evolutionary hypotheses: either animism was the most primitive religion, and naturism its secondary, derivative form; or the cult of nature stood at the origin of religion, and the cult of spirits was but a peculiar, subsequent development.
Animism According to the animistic theory, the idea of the human soul was first suggested by the contrast between the mental representations experienced while asleep dreams and those of normal experience. The primitive man grants equal status to both, and is thus led to postulate a "second self" within himself, one resembling the first, but made of an ethereal matter and capable of traveling great distances in short periods of time.
The transformation of this soul into a spirit is achieved with death, which, to the primitive mind, is not unlike a prolonged sleep; and with the destruction of the body comes the idea of spirits detached from any organism and wandering about freely in space.
Henceforth, spirits are assumed to involve themselves, for good or ill, in the affairs of men, and all human events varying slightly from the ordinary are attributed to their influence. As their power grows, men increasingly consider it wise to conciliate their favor or appease them when they are irritated, whence come prayers, offerings, sacrifices -- in short, the entire apparatus of religious worship.
Reasoning wholly by analogy, the primitive mind also attributes "second selves" to all non-human objects -- plants, animals, rivers, trees, stars, etc. In the end, Durkheim concluded, "men find themselves the prisoners of this imaginary world of which they are, however, the authors and models.
Doubts concerning the first were already raised by the observation, to be discussed later, 44 that the soul, though independent of the body under certain conditions, is in fact considerably more intimately bound to the organism than the animistic hypothesis would suggest.
Even if these doubts were overcome, moreover, the animistic theory presumes that dreams are liable to but one primitive interpretation -- that of a "second-self" -- when the interpretive possibilities are in fact innumerable; and even were this objection removed, defenders of the hypothesis must still explain why primitive men, otherwise so unreflective, were presumably driven to "explain" their dreams in the first place.
The "very heart of the animist doctrine," however, was its second part -- the explanation of how souls become spirits and objects of a cult; but here again Durkheim had serious doubts. Even if the analogy between sleep and death were sufficient to suggest that the soul survives the body, for example, this still fails to explain why the soul would thus become a "sacred" spirit, particularly in light of the tremendous gap which separates the sacred from the profane, and the fact that the approach of death is ordinarily assumed to weaken rather than strengthen the vital energies of the soul.
Most important, however, if the first sacred spirits were souls of the dead, then the lower the society under investigation, the greater should be the place given to the ancestor cult; but, on the contrary, the ancestor cult is clearly developed only in relatively advanced societies e.
But even if ancestor worship were primitive, Durkheim continued, the third part of the animist theory -- the transformation of the ancestor cult into the cult of nature -- is indefensible in itself. Not only is there little evidence among primitives of the complicated analogical reasoning upon which the animist hypothesis depends; neither is there evidence among those practicing any form of nature worship of those characteristics -- anthropomorphic spirits, or spirits exhibiting at least some of the attributes of a human soul -- which their derivation from the ancestor cult would logically suggest.
For Durkheim, however, the clearest refutation of the animistic hypothesis lay in one of its unstated, but implied, consequences; for, if it were true, not only would it mean as Durkheim himself believed that religious symbols provide only an inexact expression of the realities on which they are based; far more than this, it would imply that religious symbols are products of the vague, ill-conceived hallucinations of our dream-experience, and thus as Durkheim most certainly did not believe have no foundation in reality at all.
Law, morals, even scientific thought itself, Durkheim observed, were born of religion, long remained confounded with it, and are still somewhat imbued with its spirit; it is simply inconceivable, therefore, that "religions, which have held so considerable a place in history, and to which, in all times, men have to receive the energy which they must have to live, should be made up of a tissue of illusions.
What sort of science is it, Durkheim asked, whose principle discovery is that the subject of which it treats does not exist?
Naturism In sharp contrast to animism, the naturistic theory 46 insisted that religion ultimately rests upon a real experience -- that of the principal phenomena of nature the infinity of time, space, force, etc.
But religion itself begins only when these natural forces cease being represented in the mind in an abstract form, and are transformed into personal, conscious spirits or gods, to whom the cult of nature may be addressed; and this transformation is allegedly achieved by language.
The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life by Émile Durkheim
Before the ancient Indo-European peoples began to reflect upon and classify the phenomena of nature, Durkheim explained, the roots of their language consisted of very general types of human action pushing, walking, climbing, running, etc. When men turned from the naming and classifying of actions to that of natural objects, the very generality and elasticity of these concepts permitted their application to forces for which they were not originally designed.
The earliest classes of natural phenomena were thus metaphors for human action -- a river was "something that moves steadily," the wind was "something that sighs or whistles," etc. Once these agents had received names, the names themselves raised questions of interpretation for succeeding generations, producing the efflorescence of fables, genealogies, and myths characteristic of ancient religions.
Finally, the ancestor cult, according to this theory, is purely a secondary development -- unable to face the fact of death, men postulated their possession of an immortal soul which, upon separation from the body, was gradually drawn into the circle of divine beings, and eventually deified.
Leaving aside the numerous criticisms of the philological premises of the naturistic theory, Durkheim insisted that nature is characterized not by phenomena so extraordinary as to produce a religious awe, but by a regularity which borders on monotony. Moreover, even if natural phenomena were sufficient to produce a certain degree of admiration, this still would not be equivalent to those features which characterize the "sacred", and least of all to that "absolute duality" which typifies its relations with the "profane.
And in fact, the earliest objects of such rites were not the principal forms of nature at all, but rather humble animals and vegetables with whom even the primitive man could feel himself at least an equal. It is true, he admitted, that primitive peoples reflect upon the forces of nature from an early period, for they depend on these forces for their very survival. For precisely this reason, however, these forces and the reflections upon them could hardly be the source of religious ideas; for such ideas provide a palpably misleading conception of the nature of such forces, so that any course of practical activity based upon them would surely be unsuccessful, and this in turn would undermine one's faith in the ideas themselves.
Again, the important place granted to religious ideas throughout history and in all societies is evidence that they respond to some reality, and one other than that of physical nature.
Aside from the human individual and the physical world, there should be some other reality, in relation to which this variety of delirium which all religion is in a sense, has a significance and an objective value. In other words, beyond those which we have called animistic and naturistic, there should be another sort of cult, more fundamental and more primitive, of which the first are only derived forms or particular aspect.
The peculiar set of beliefs and practices known as totemism had been discovered among American Indians as early as ; and though repeated observations for the next eighty years increasingly suggested that the institution enjoyed a certain generality, it continued to be seen as a largely American, and rather archaic, phenomenon. McLennan's articles on "The Worship of Animals and Plants" showed that totemism was not only a religion, but one from which considerably more advanced religions had derived; and L.
Morgan's Ancient Society revealed that this religion was intimately connected to that specific form of social organization that Durkheim had discussed in The Division of Labor -- the division of the social group into clans. As the same religion and social organization were increasingly observed and reported among the Australian aborigines, the documents accumulated until James Frazer brought them together in Totemism But Frazer's work was purely descriptive, making no effort to understand or explain the most fundamental aspects of totemism.
All these works, however, were constructed out of fragmentary observations, for a true totemic religion had not yet been observed in its complete state. This hiatus was filled, however, in Baldwin Spencer and F.
Gillen's Native Tribes of Central Australia , a study of totemic clans almost definitively primitive; and, together with the studies they stimulated, these observations were incorporated within Frazer's four-volume compendium, Totemism and Exogamy The initial contribution of The Elementary Forms to this rapidly growing literature was simply its methodological approach. As a member of the "anthropological" school, for example, Frazer had made no effort to place the various religious systems he studied within their social and historical context; rather, as the name of the school implies, he assumed that man has some sort of innate, religious "nature" regardless of social conditions, and thus "compared" the most disparate beliefs and rites with an eye to their most superficial similarities.
For this reason, two facts from different societies cannot be usefully compared simply because they seem to resemble one another; in addition, the societies themselves should resemble each other -- be varieties of the same species.
At their rites, as had Robertson Smith and the early Frazer? Or at their beliefs, following Tylor and Frazer's later work? The fact that myths are frequently constructed after the rite in order to account for it suggested the first; while recognition that rites are often the sole expression of antecedent beliefs argued for the second.
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On this contemporary controversy in the scientific study of religion, Durkheim ultimately leaned heavily toward the second alternative; and on the ground that it is impossible to understand a religion without a firm grasp of its ideas, his discussion of Australian totemism in The Elementary Forms thus began with its beliefs.
This name, moreover, is taken from a determined species of material objects an animal, less frequently a plant, and in rare cases an inanimate object with which the clan members are assumed to enjoy the same relations of kinship. But this "totem" is not simply a name; it is also an emblem, which, like the heraldic coats-of-arms, is carved, engraved, or designed upon the other objects belonging to the clan, and even upon the bodies of the clan members themselves.
Indeed, it is these designs which seem to render otherwise common objects "sacred," and their inscription upon the bodies of clan members indicates the approach of the most important religious ceremonies.
The elementary forms of the religious life
The same religious sentiments aroused by these designs, of course, are aroused by the members of the totemic species themselves. Clan members are thus forbidden to kill or eat the totemic animal or plant except at certain mystical feasts see below , and the violation of this interdiction is assumed to produce death instantaneously. Moreover the clan members themselves are "sacred" in so far as they belong to the totemic species, a belief which gives rise to genealogical myths explaining how men could have had animal and even vegetable ancestors.
Durkheim thus rejected McLennan's interpretation of totemism as a form of animal worship; for man belongs to the sacred world himself, and thus his relations with his totem are much more like those uniting members of the same family. How, then, were these beliefs to be explained? Totemism, in short, is not a religion of emblems or animals or men at all, but rather of an anonymous, impersonal "force," 62 immanent in the world and diffused among its various material objects.
But, surely, such a conception surpasses the limits of the primitive mind?
On the contrary, Durkheim argued, whether it is described as mana, wakan, or orenda, this belief in a diffused, impersonal force is found among the Samoans, the Melanesians, various North American Indian tribes, and albeit less abstracted and generalized among the totemic clans of central Australia. And quite aside from its purely religious significance, Durkheim argued that this was the original form under which the modern, scientific idea of force was conceived.
How might such a belief arise? Obviously, not from sensations aroused by the totemic objects themselves, Durkheim argued, for these objects -- the caterpillar, the ant, the frog, etc. Of what, then, are they the symbols? Durkheim's initial answer was that they symbolize both the "totemic principle" and the totem clan; but if this is the case, then surely that principle and the clan are one and the same thing: "The god of the clan, the totemic principle," he insisted, "can therefore be nothing else than the clan itself, personified and represented to the imagination under the visible form of the animal or vegetable which serves as totem.
It was insisted, for example, that a society has all that is necessary to arouse the idea of the divine, for it is to its members what a god is to his worshippers. It is both physically and morally superior to individuals, and thus they both fear its power and respect its authority; but society cannot exist except in and through the individual conscience, and thus it both demands our sacrifices and periodically strengthens and elevates the divine "principle" within each of us -- especially during periods of collective enthusiasm, when its power is particularly perceptible.
It is this succession of intense periods of "collective effervescence" with much longer periods of dispersed, individualistic economic activity, Durkheim suggested, which gives rise to the belief that there are two worlds -- the sacred and the profane -- both within us and within nature itself. 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. To the classical formula Primus in orbe deos fecit timor -- the fear-theory defended in various ways by Hume, Tylor, and Frazer -- Durkheim thus added a decisive, if not entirely original, dissent.
In the last decade or more, Durkheim scholars have discovered several major thematic tracts in The Elementary Forms which have become key points of theoretic interest beyond the theory of religion. The first of these tracts concerns the theory of knowledge which, at the outset of the work, poses the question of how knowledge is obtained from the objective world Godlove ; Lukes Here, Durkheim's discussion constitutes a formal argument concerning how groups actually congregate, given that their immediate economic necessity prevents them from being in a constant or perpetual state [End Page ] of assembly.
In certain respects, Durkheim's discussion here rivals the theory of social cohesion first articulated in the The Division of Labor and poses, in more dramatic terms, the question of group formation that is activated in the process of social assembly.
A third theme has only recently come to light and has to do with Durkheim's formal opposition to seventeenth and eighteenth century rationalist philosophy Morrison, The question here is: why should Durkheim enter into opposition to seventeenth and eighteenth century rationalism while putting forward a theory of religion? The answer is that, in the philosophical climate of the day, Durkheim had to demonstrate that society was a structure that must first exist in the objective order, and then secondly show how it exists in the subjective order.
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content: Social Forces Emile Durkheim. Translated by Karen E.
Free Press, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Translated by Carol Cosman. Oxford University Press, No society can exist that does not feel the need at regular intervals to sustain and reaffirm the collective feelings and ideas that constitute its unity and its personality. The initial contribution of The Elementary Forms to this rapidly growing literature was simply its methodological approach. Piacular rites, in contrast, deal with the more tragic aspects of life.
But then, pace Durkheim, there is no necessary relationship between the "simplicity" of a society however that is defined and that of their religious beliefs and practices; nor, for that matter, is there any necessary relationship between religion and totemism generally wakan and mana have no discernible relationship to the "totemic principle".
Just as biological evolution has been differently conceived since the empirical discovery of monocellular beings, therefore, religious evolution is differently conceived depending upon what concrete system of belief and action is placed at its origin. On the contrary, Durkheim argued, whether it is described as mana, wakan, or orenda, this belief in a diffused, impersonal force is found among the Samoans, the Melanesians, various North American Indian tribes, and albeit less abstracted and generalized among the totemic clans of central Australia.
His sociology offers an incredibly rich array of challenging ideas that remain thought-provoking to this day, not only but especially on the relationship of individual and society. These two extremes of the religious life thus reflect the two extremes through which all social life must pass.
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