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Religion and Ecology

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Well today in this lecture we would be looking at primarily the relationship between ecology and religions and which I have titled as religion nature and environment. Now for quite some time there has been a different understanding about ritual, if not religion and within this discipline of anthropology Emile Durkheim the French sociologist was the first to Maxim's of religions or the roles of rituals in general. Now even within anthropology the works of a Emile Durkheim is still seen to be the finer in that sense.

But then this presentation or these lectures on the relations between religion, nature and environment will be slightly different because it is I borrowed some of the works primarily on Roy Rappaport in some of his works which I have partly mentioned in the context of human, environment or cultural adaptations of which I have often cite examples about his work on pigs for the ancestors in which the sacrifices slaughter of pigs were being carried out. Now in this particular lecture we would be looking at how and why there is this need and essence.

Of this ritual and what ritual actually is and what is the embedded meanings to what ritual is how is it different from the notion of layman's understanding of ritual and apart from Roy Rappaport's work I also keep on citing some of the works, the kind of concepts and theoretical understanding which are being provided by others sociologists and anthropologist. Now in this particular lecture Roy Rappaport in away attempts to argue or bring out that religion in a way is central to the continuing evolution of life.

Now he tends to look at how human evolves over a period of time and then in the process, so is there refining of a religion in away. Now and in some way the way he parted ways from other anthropologists and sociologists and mostly Durkheim is he tends to in a way bring in the rise of
these modern scientists in relation to religion.

So in a way he attempts to distance himself from them by trying to more of follow a holistic approach because the earlier there was attempts to like defenses or separate the waste like sacred and profane and the kind of activities at the individual and the collective level is different but the Rappaport’s work in a way open up a new sort of aspect in terms of not just understanding the environment, but by injecting in this idea of ecology and its relationship with the human society it opened up a new awate altogether.

Now his book Ritual and religion in the making of humanity which in a way attempts to construe religious as well as about religions which in a way insistent religion can and must be reconcile with science. So in some way he attempts to bring religion which often is being considered to be obsolete and irrational by many of the natural scientists or scientists in general who are in a way trying to see it from more objectivist and positivist perspective. Now he tries to in a way refined what religion and religious life is.

Now he tends he employed his methods of adaptive and cognitive approaches in his study of the human kind and also by using these two approaches he come up with a sort of a comprehensive analysis of religious, how it evolves and the kind of significance by seeing it as a sort of coexistence with the invention of language and hands of culture as we know it. Now when he talked about that evolution of life he also talks about the differences between humans and animals and in what sense human is much more in a way a better positions to sort of engage in the modes of communications.

And thus animals and plants necessarily not engaged in this kind of transmissions or a sort of modes of communication. These are some sort of questions which we are in a way trying to look at and how does one make sense of rituals and the kind of meanings which are attributed and attached to it. Now in some way he also attempts to brought together the kind of.

how religion happens to be the main component and ritual in some way also constructs the kind of perceptions which we have around in our surrounding. Now we tends to sort of tech religioned Rappaport tries to situate religion and by bringing out this explanation or notion of religion he tends to teach with religion in this which is central in making of human kind adaptations to their environment or surroundings. Now what is so significant and important about religion, can a society really exist without a religion or not. These are for quite some time has been some of the pertinent questions which are being engage by many anthropologists.

And socialists in that sense and Durkheim’s work no doubt is some of the classic examples his work on the elementary forms of religious life which he had extend extensively studied about the rudimentary forms of religions in the context of the aboriginals in Australia. Now I will come to that in the later part, now if we tries to bring in this anthropological evidence which in a way allow to have or engage in a more comprehensive or holistic understanding of rituals as more of a practical matrix of religious life.

Now how do we in a way make sense of this tend to construct of religions compatible with the scientific laws in a way is quite challenging when you have the sort of in there in our interactions
or in our everyday life.

We are being guided by this idea of more of an Objectivist or a notion from the Western science so in which humanity in a way is ultimately responsible as that part of life on this planet in which we are able to imagine and think, how does one situate or how does one situate Humanity in the context of this planet when we talk about planet we are also looking at other things around us which are seen, unseen which we can touch, which can remain untouched So in essence religion if we talk in terms of the etymologically in a way binds us to the external force.

When we talk about external force we are talking about those things which are unseen. It not only stabilizes our meaningful interaction with the world, but also provides an a way out for our volatility. Now therefore why do we in a way sort of tries to negotiate and interact if not make sense of the external forces because there are times where not just the human species but other species the way in which we tends to react or adapt when we overcome some kind or encounter some kind of anxiety or fear.

So that sort of added critical junctures we tends to react and then find a way out to adapt ourselves to death situations, so that kind of situation might be the solution might be short term, it might be long term, so depending on our needs and necessity we tend to find a way out or a mechanism in order to adapt so that I will come to a later part now as I mentioned about.

Durkheim, what does Durkheim has to say about religion and what is the kind of differences which we will try to look into in the context of the ideas which are being espoused and posited by Roy Rapoport. Now for Durkheim religion in a way is sort of a way or a means to sort of a binding force between the known and unknown that is how one tries to build a bridge if not find a way out in order to have an interaction between these the known and unknown and he which is in away conceived as a profane world of ordinary experience as sacred.

Now in which there is this extraordinary world which is primarily assumed to be located outside the death experiences. Now as an individual we normally tends to negotiate if not encounter in our everyday life certain kind of work, certain kind of objects and, so many practices but there are things which are beyond this which normally or unconsciously we do not really look or tends to negotiate and that is one reason why there is what Durkheim in way tends to sort of draw a boundary between the gap which exists between that the profane and the sacred.

The sacred is something which remains unseen and which in a way is considered sometime or interpret as a myth or sort of supernatural forces which is into play. Now Durkheim in his attempts to understand what religion is, he also recognized that we normally conceive of these what we call a sacred in terms of the spiritual powers or more seemed to be as a religion or as God. Now what is ultimately unknown to artists are collective being in society. Now for Durkheim in a way when we talk about the supernatural or if not something beyond the individual thing.

He tends to equate it with society and his primarily focus is on the kind of solidarity which exists among the members in a society and to him that sort of the society in a way governs and sort of directs and individuals to engage with his everyday life. Now therefore to him this particular existence of God or the religion what we talk about is created by the society, so in a sense religion is something which is being created by nothing but by society itself. Now through this rituals to Durkheim he tends to a sort of possess an idea.

That we worship our unrealized power of this shared existence society and call it God, now therefore for him the society is sort of not just a binding force but it is seem to be something which is outside the individuals understanding and which is normally being presumed to be a religion if not the existence of some spiritual powers which we normally address as God. Now therefore we sometimes tend to objectify the spirit world as nature and also worship debt. And which in a way has he has given cite an example in the context of the Australian aborigines which is known as to totemism.

Now in totemism as I also discussed in the some of the lectures and give an example where in plants and animals are seen to be in a totem object and where an individual or society in a way attempts to objectify a particular plants or animals which in essence symbolizes the meanings or attempts to represent the society or maybe the individual. So in depth in such practices of how one tends to like make sense of the environment by sort of representing themselves by the use of this totem a cultural totem or so and so forth, where one society is being restricted of harming or even touching if not engaging in a different action to that particular object which is considered to be sacred if not reverence. Now his work primarily the classic work of Durkheim, the elementary forms of religious life in a way attempts to demonstrate.

That science Springs from the same desire to connect the known and unknown that spawned religion. Now Durkheim believed that the central task of ritual was to instill these collective representations in each of us that is in each and every individual. Now in a state of this spiritual ecstasy we tend to internalize the lessons which in a way bind us to each other in this social life so which he also talks about that bonding that is the he in a way attempts to sort of limit himself by discussing about the mechanical and the organic solidarity.

By trying to look into the attempts of the division of labor which exist in the pre-industrial and the post-industrial society. Now in a way that sort of close interaction of bonding which exist among the collective representation, if not the individuals now this is something which he has always tries to explain in his entire works. Now in this in relations with this particular ritual and religion he also tends to look at how it sort of function as religion function as the bonding of the social life but then he did not you know quite spell.

out the important conception of this in the context of a socialization process. Now because of what Durkheim does is the individual experience or the individual action is sort of different from the collective if not the social life or maybe he does not really tries to look into the kind of how an individual tends to gain these access or ideas about religion or this rituals as a process of socialization because many a times if you look at around the kind of rituals and ceremonies which normally ones attends or once performance functions.

We normally don’t question I am pretty sure that you hardly bothers even to ask questions of being part of any kind of ceremonies which are relating to your family, if not something which is it has a religious significance because you tend engaging in doing that because that is part of the kind of socialization process and which ultimately becomes a tradition. Now one does not really questions or find out what are the kind of innate meaning or you do not tend to go and quote what is being into that kind of practices.

Therefore what Rappaport is in a way is different from Durkheim’s understanding of relevant is because Rappaport tends to look at sort of the evolution of human life. And in that he tries to inject not just ecology as such, but also the socialization process in which he is different from Durkheim understanding of religion. Now Rappaport in a way give such kind of sort of an explicit explanation, when he tries to talks about ritual because he finds it in the ground when religion is made. N ow religion is not something which is independent of society or a collective life but religion in a way is grounded or the main foundation of religion is based on the society itself.

Now Rappaport also believes that one possible answer to the world’s crisis would be sort of a religion founded on a postmodern science which is grounded in ecology. Now in one sense he tries to not just explain religion simply in relation to environment but he tries to come up with a kind of insight or theory wherein he tries to address the kind of crisis which stool is witnessing because, if you look around there can be like numerous.

Crisis which are we facing but the in this particular course we are normally talking about or emphasizing more on the ecological and the environmental crisis, so perhaps now Rappaport’s in a way tends to bring in religion by in order to explain the kind of problems which we are facing, and it can be in a way an alternative way out. Now what the Rapoport has strongly talk about is rather than the from the astronomical point of view ecology in a way can find some kind of a solutions.

Because human society in a way is conceived of as being inside rather than outside life on this planet. So if we are to bring or find a solution rather than talking about something which is external or unknown to us it is important to situate the things in the context that is the planet art which we are talking about therefore, it is the ecology which a way it is much more instrumental and appropriate in order to bring these solutions rather than the experts which normally talks about something which is beyond the planet.

That is the Astronomy you all know what the astronomy does. Now in Rappaport usage humanity is in a way a personal quality a collective noun and more to do with a historical project, now by saying so here is the definition of rituals in a way does not draw a hard line between the sacred and the everyday between society and the individuals or for that matters between culture and nature. So this idea of the dualism of nature and culture as we have discussed in the preceding classes.

Lectures normally is because of the divisions if not when one tends to look at nature and culture for more Objectivist and western science paradigm so this sort of epistemology in a way evolved and personally I feel that Durkheim also in some way is still pretty much not coming out of that sort of notion of belief, now therefore Rappaport is in a way trying to more of an encompass if not a broader understanding of the relations between culture and nature and not just as simply a dualism or a dichotomy.

But there is certain threats which in a way has a connections so therefore his attempt in a way is to sort of beats the gap between the known and the unknown as we have discussed. Now how does he tries to explain or make sense of this what he call as the evolution of humans or humanity. Now if you look at the sort of the history maybe not lessons we confined to human but also even animals and plants. Usually every mammals of species in a way engage in some kind of transmission of Auto transmit information rather, and how does one communicate. Normally we ask a human feel that since the animals do not have language they do not communicate it is not that way and not the case rather they also by using certain kinds of science or different kinds of may be sounds.

They do engage in some kind of a transmission of information. Now normally we don’t attempts to make sense of that, but humans apart from animals and plants are superior or in a much more better position because of we possess certain kinds of languages and this language is also evolved and then through our interaction with other cultural groups we tends to in a way enrich a language and language can be in the form of maybe using of the symbols, science so and so forth.

Or maybe we can say the lexicons or you will know what the lexicographer do. Now and no doubt not every society has the culture of these written and only few societies who are considered to be much more at once and symbolize have this written form of languages others possess in a more of a very non-written and oral kind of information which is being passed on. Now with the use of these what we call as symbolic transmissions individuals in a way can learn from the account of others as well as strong their own direct experiences, you know this symbol or symbolic transmission of information in a way is something you learn from observing others as well as from your individual experiences and this learning in a way may be transformed in a more sort of recounting into the public domain that is the public knowledge which can in away further account to be preserved as a tradition.

Now therefore the depending on the cultural variations or from culture to culture there are different symbols or symbolic expression which is normally look into. Now in the some societies even the concept on the kinds of greetings is different. Now in some societies rather than hugging or maybe shaking hands it might be like slapping someone face, so that in a way is part of that cultural practices of being greeted in a more warmth and in a more cordial manner. Now to explore these notions of understanding in this world is not simply to engage in to simply discover what is there.

But the idea or the basic idea is to create what is present there when we talk about to create we are not sort of bringing out something new but we are trying to add some meanings to the already existing things which is here. Now in some way this is how we are in a way expanding our knowledge or in a way the our epistemology so that by expansion of these our ideas of understanding of making sense of things we tend to broaden our accounts the way we perceive things, understanding, abstractions, evaluations so on and so forth.

Now depending on the way we interact or the way we make sense of things around us we engaged in formulations of these sort of knowledge or understanding of things around us. Now therefore different human societies have different opinions or may be individuals have different perception or ideas about things around them. Now for instance in the earlier part of lecture I also talked about the concrete science where Levi-Strauss in a way tries to explain about the knowledge which the savage or the uncivilized people so called have. How are they trying to make sense or through the use of what particular ideas they are trying to make sense of their environment, now moving on we as a human being in a way sort of attempt to engage in certain kinds of mechanisms.

Of not just an environment but also adapting different kinds of strategies in order to make sense of things around us, as we had explained the abstractions, the understanding, evaluation, giving certain kinds of accounts and so forth. Now through these processes in a way these living systems or all sorts when we talk about the living system we are also talking about the organisms it can be the human societies and also the ecosystem or even the biosphere, which in a way maintain themselves in the face of these perturbations.

Now what is this perturbations it can be an instances of anxiety, fear or so and so, wherein you are being compelled to react, you have to act, in order to take hold of the situation. Now in the face of these perturbations simultaneous continuously in a way threatening them with disruption, death or extinct. So how does one react or sort of cope with these situations is something which we would like to in a way look at.

Now adaptive responses in a way to this perturbation includes both a short-term reversible changes of state and also primarily a long-term irreversible changes in structure. Now for instance if we look at the kind of say the deforestation for example maybe as a result of certain kind of development, processes like building, dams or roads and so and so forth. Now normally we happens to see uprooting of trees something.

Which is pretty much renewable but in the process there are some long-term effects where in the habitat of that particular environment is being affected or for instance the using of these chemicals and fertilizers in the context of through this scientific or technological advancement of agriculture, has a long lasting impact on the soil. Now which in a way is seen to be irreversible or maybe we can say the non-renewable, so this kind of actions which normally or how do we react to any kind of situations can have maybe a short-term reversible and a long-term irreversible changes in structure.

Now therefore one is to look at the kind of adaptation or adaptive mechanisms of how human in a way tends to make sense its surroundings. Now what then is changes in the structure or irreversible change in structure, there can be destructive transformation in some subsystems which in a way can make it possible to maintain more basic aspects of the system unchanged. This processes that in a way we can ask very fundamental questions about the evolutionary changes, what does this change in a way maintained unchanged what does this change maintained unchanged.

This is something which normally we talk about or often ask, if we are to look at this evolute change in some sense or maybe by allowing us to make sense of that the idea of this adaptation. Now let me move on the, now what is this idea of using the symbols.

And what does symbols sort of replicate and make sense. Language in a way is considered to be he foundations of human way of life, now to a layman if you ask what is language and then how does one effectively communicate by using language and or how does one communicate from someone who belongs to a different cultural group and then what could perhaps be the connecting or way of interactions. Now in order to have an effective communication it is important for someone that is to encode the meaning which is being attached to a particular words or language.

Now unless I am able to make sense of the information which is being passed on or the language is being able to encode by me, there would not be an effective communications between the provider and the receiver, the one who sent the message and the one who receives it. So in order to make sense of that effective communications the idea or language in away is important. Therefore language happens to be sort of the basic foundations of human way of life the way, we interact the kind of cooperation which is normally being expected back from the other members of the society.

Now this language supposedly must have in a way emerge from the through the process of this natural selection as part of the adaptive apparatus of the hominids. Normally language is being something which is also chosen by observing our ancestors or maybe which are normally handed down from our ancestors that is which is being passed on from the successive generations, which in a way is also a process of natural selection.

Now it has sort of accumulate order pass and then through our experiences the kind of knowledge or meanings which are embedded to it and then how does it is made public or known to the other members of the group, so that is how it expands and how it is evolve. Now Leslie White in a way has a different meaning or explanation of symbol, what he means by to be a language. Now it is not simply an evolutionary novelty which also enhances the survival chances of particular species, but the most radicals in a way innovation in the evolution or evolution itself since life first appeared.

Therefore this invention or development of language in a way is seen to be one of the most radical innovations of humankind, this is what Leslie White has to talk about in the context of what symbol is and then how language has evolved over a period of time. Now also humanity in a way is something different from other species which live and can only live in terms of meanings it itself must invent. Now even the kind of evolutions which takes place in a sort of making sense of things around us we tends to engage and inventing different kinds of language.

Now if you look at the English dictionary many of the language which are content or in the English dictionary many of the languages are more or less being bought from others like French, Latin and so and so forth. Now and today if you look at English language in a way is supposedly one of the most rich, so it in a way sort of evolved and then try to invent and Englishise that particular terms or concepts or maybe language from other culture group.

Now therefore that it happens to be sort of a very complex and radical innovations of a particular cultural group and mind you, there are certain societies where the language are on the words of extinction because of the kind of interventions from not just in and around the society but normally the cultural group which use that particular language is not normally in a collective setting rather it is scattered and then through the process of this modernization and so-and-so processes it tends to it becomes sort of endanger.

So like for example the primitive tribal groups and there are some societies which have these sorts of problems which are being normally witnessed. Now humanity in a way has to sort of encounter and negotiate in trying to understand but by participating in it is very sort of construction. Now this is how symbols in a way is part of making sense of language and it is only through this once participation it is very construction that we are able to make sense of that particular language.

Now in a way the kind of world when we talk about the world there can be a different world because of the cosmologies which we normally have. The wall in which supposedly human lives are not comprehensively constituted by the movement of say rocks, that is the tectonics material is because and also these organic processes. They are also not simply as we looked at or presumed made up of these rocks, trees, oceans. But it is more less being constructed out of this symbolically conceived and also performatively established cosmologies, institutions, rules and values. Now by saying so we are not belittling the existence of others constituents or processes but apart from that.

It is also important to look at how this sort of elements are being processes or it is being created. Now for instance the kind of institution which we are maybe the society which we are into and it holds values which guided us again is important and which in a way is symbolic to a particular society. Now for instance me in a society or in a family playing the role of a father is also important for the sort of how we perform or make sense or acted out in the society. And also the way we perceive our surroundings that is reverence to the kind of the objects, which are around us how do we sort of employ that particular metaphors of how making sense of things around us the plant and animal so and so forth. Now human worlds in this context are therefore in a way inconceivably richer than the world inhabited by other creatures. No doubt through the use of certain kind of meanings which are being attached we are not saying here the human world is superior in nature.

But of it is much more complex than which we ever thought because even a particular individual in the society is so much complex that it is difficult for someone to interpret once perception or thinking by merely observing on someone’s actions or a particular behavior. So therefore the human world or the human society is seemed to be one of the most complex species or creatures. Now it is human society in a way developed a unique culture, now what is this culture because it is unique because it constitutes such construct depth which normally includes not only a special understanding of the surrounding.

But other things unseen because which are unknown as well as those trees and animals and also the rocks which are normally being visible and which can be touched. Now why is it that something which is unseen so much playing an important role because every culture, every society attribute certain kind of meanings to a certain kind of objects if not something which is unseen? Now therefore it is where the idea of this religion and rituals happen to be like playing an important role in this.