Friday, November 27, 2015

The Golden Bough, A Lecture by Dr. Hisham Hawasli

DR. M. HISHAM HAWASLI - Al Faroog Mosque Atlanta

Dr Hawalsi's Golden Bough lecture is on anthropology, the study of man.

He first reviews the importance of context, background, and explores the context of how anthropology developed as a science.

Anthropology came out of the scientific revolution.

Copernican Revolution


The earth is not the center of the universe. Man is insignificant.


Marquis de Condorcet

French revolution. Concept of progression, things tend to go from bad to good.

Online Library of Liberty - Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet, Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind [1795]

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies - Marquis de Condorcet, Enlightenment proto-transhumanist

His most influential work from a transhumanist perspective was his book, Sketch for a Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mind, which he wrote when he was in hiding after the French Revolution and subsequently published posthumously.

In this book he argued that reason and science can and should be applied to better develop humanity’s intellectual and moral faculties. He thought that all facets of nature should be re-evaluated and conformed to the needs of human intelligence.

He wrote,
The time will therefore come when the sun will shine only on free men who know no other master but their reason; when tyrants and slaves, priests and their stupid or hypocritical instruments will exist only in works of history and on the stage; and when we shall think of them only to pity their victims and their dupes; to maintain ourselves in a state of vigilance by thinking on their excesses; and to learn how to recognize and so to destroy, by force of reason, the first seeds of tyranny and superstition, should they ever dare to reappear among us.

1859 Charles Darwin

He came up with the theory of evolution. This marks the beginning of modern thought, the new world picture. Nature became natural selection, the survival of the fittest. Darwin reduced man to the level of another animal.

Birth of the Modern

Apocalypse Now is a movie based on a book, the Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad about the darker nature of man. The book is about the colonization of Africa by European powers during the 19th century and is loosely based on Belgian genocide in the Congo.

The movie setting was during the American intervention in Southeast Asia. In it, a Colonel Kurtz went mad. Kurtz had two anthropology books in his possession: From Ritual to Romance by Willie Wetson and the Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer.

From Ritual to Romance by Jessie Wetson

From Ritual to Romance is a 1920 book written by Jessie L. Weston. The work is notable for being mentioned by T. S. Eliot in the notes to his poem, The Waste Land:
Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jessie L. Weston's book.
Weston's book is an academic examination of the roots of the King Arthur legends and seeks to make connections between the early pagan elements and the later Christian influences. The book's main focus is on the Holy Grail tradition and its influence, particularly the Wasteland motif. The origins of Weston's book are in James George Frazer's seminal work on folkloremagic and religionThe Golden Bough (1890), and in the works of Jane Ellen Harrison.
At the end of the movie, Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kurt quotes lines from T.S Elliot's poem, The Wasteland, before he is killed. 

Like other modernist models of history—Yeats’s gyres, Pound’s vortex, Joyce’s Vichian cycles—Eliot emphasize the current moment as one of crisis, either preparing for or recovering from a radical break in history. This radical break certainly has something to do with the first world war, but it is also an aspect of the modernists’ eschatological view of the world, that is their fascination with the problem of destiny and the last judgment. It is for this reason that Kurtz’s famous last words (“The horror! The horror!”) in Heart of Darkness ring through so much of later modernism. Eliot originally intended to use them as the epigraph for The Waste Land. As Conrad’s narrator, Marlow, says, “he had summed up—he had judged. ‘The horror!’ He was a remarkable man. After all, this was the expression of some sort of belief; it had candor, it had conviction, it had a vibrating note of revolt in its whisper, it had the appalling face of a glimpsed truth—the strange commingling of desire and hate.” The capacity to judge a civilization that teeters on the edge of chaos was highly prized by Eliot, as it was by Pound, Whose Cantos shares some of the features of The Waste Land, and by the other modernists who attempted their own epics.[1]

Birth of Anthropology

Anthropology is the general study of human nature. It focuses on studying primitive cultures that have not been contaminated by modern civilization in order to try and understand human nature. They try and find the common ground for human nature.

One of the first great anthropologists was Edward Tylor:

E. B. Tylor (1832-1917)

Edward Burnett Tylor, one of the founders the modern academic discipline of Anthropology, belongs to a generation of academics known as the Intellectualists which includes MüllerSpencer, and Frazer, all of who helped pave the way for the modern academic study of religion. Raised and educated among Quakers (known also as the Society of Friends) and possessing no formal higher academic education, Tylor left his father's business in his early twenties and began his scholarly career doing fieldwork in the mid-1850s in Mexico under the guidance of the amateur British ethnologist (a scholar of cultural origins and functions) Henry Christy (1810-1865). In 1875, Tylor received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University where he was keeper of the Oxford University Museum (1883) and Britain's first (indeed, the first in the English-speaking world) Professor of Anthropology (1896), until his retirement in 1909. Tylor--who famously defined culture as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society"--held an evolutionary view concerning the development of culture and religion, arguing that animism (belief in spirits) was the earliest form of religious behavior. Despite his interest in what was then commonly known as "primitive religion" (an interest motivated by the 19th century quest for the origins of religion), unlike some of his contemporaries, Tylor argued for a "psychic unity of mankind," assuming that, despite differences in the stages of their evolutionary development, all humans (past and present) shared common cognitive functions (such as a curiosity to explain unexpected events in their environment). The goal of anthropological study, for Tylor, was to develop a framework in which the evolution of culture could be explained and the nature of its origins understood.

Tylor wrote a famous work, Primitive Culture:

Archive Org - Primitive Culture by E.B Tylor

Tylor found that one common element of all civilizations was religion. Religion is an attempt to explain the world.

NNDB - Sir James Frazer

Sir James Frazer was a British anthropologist, folklorist, and classical scholar, best remembered as the author of the The Golden Bough. A classic in anthropology as well as in studies of comparative religion, magic, and folklore, the work has also had a tremendous impact on the fields of literature, psychology, and anthropology. In addition to introducing the world to a rich sampling of the world's cultural diversity, it also made readers profoundly aware of the parallels and commonalities existing between the religions and mythologies of various cultures, including between pagan beliefs and early Christianity. His work was a primary source material for the neo-pagan movement and influenced such notables as Carl JungSigmund FreudJames Joyce, and T. S. Eliot.

Frazer relied on earlier works such as Bullfinch's Fables:

Bulfinch's Greek and Roman Mythology: The Age of Fable by Thomas Bullfinch

First published in 1855, Bulfinch's Mythology has introduced generations of readers to the great myths of Greece and Rome, as well as time-honored legends of Norse mythology, medieval, and chivalric tales, Oriental fables, and more. Readers have long admired Bulfinch's versions for the skill with which he wove various versions of a tale into a coherent whole, the vigor of his storytelling, and his abundant cross-references to poetry and painting, demonstrating the relationship of literature and art. 

Frazer attempted to find shared elements and beliefs across all stage and evolutions of human societies. He came to the conclusion that there was a progression or evolution of beliefs. The set of human beliefs that explained the meaning of our existence progressed from magic, to religion with the writing down of scriptures and eventually to an age of enlightenment and science

Frazer stressed that you should not look at myths as bad science but study them to help one understand human thought. Frazer also stressed that many beliefs survive well past the point that they are relevant to a culture. One example is the Christmas tree which predates Christianity and is part of earlier European pagan beliefs. 

Frazer's work scandalized Europe when it was published because it placed Christianity in the same class as other myths. It was considered heresy and Frazer had to remove mention of Christianity from future editions. 

Modern Anthropology

Post Frazer, anthropologists went out into the field to study rather than simply being arm chair anthropologists. They also delved deeper into the human psyche in two main branches of this science:

Symbolic Anthropology

Symbolic anthropology or, more broadly, symbolic and interpretive anthropology, is the study of cultural symbols and how those symbols can be interpreted to better understand a particular society. It is often viewed in contrast to cultural materialism.[by whom?][citation needed] According to Clifford Geertz, "[b]elieving, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning."[1]


In sociologyanthropology and linguisticsstructuralism is the theory that elements of human culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure. It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel. Alternatively, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, structuralism is "the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract culture".[1]

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