The Origin of All Religious Worship - Charles-François Dupuis (1795)
One of the very best things about books is that they can transport a reader anywhere and to any time. Most people love old fiction works specifically for this reason. I adore older non-fiction books, especially ones that deal with deep exploration of a given subject. I especially enjoy finding and reading the old books used as references for the more modern works I read. I have read widely in comparative religion and mythology over the past decade. There are few seminal works, and Dupuis’ “The Origin of All Religious Worship” is one such masterwork. It has taken me months to digest it all.
People remember the French Revolution alongside the American one as a battle to usurp monarchy and instill democracy. While this is technically correct, what they were fighting against was the power that the European monarchies and the Roman Catholic Church had consolidated in the 1500-1700’s. For centuries, the super-rich aristocracy and the super-rich Papacy joined teams to control nations and to plunder their wealth for themselves. The scientific method along with obsessive rationality led French leaders to denounce the church, the evils they commit under the guise of “religion,” and everything they teach. In order to have evidence against the church, to fight the centuries of lies and obfuscation, geniuses like Dupuis sought to study just why the church acts as it does, and where they got their theological ideas. Before the modern study of comparative religion and mythology, Dupuis set out to explore the historical past of religious worship. What follows in this book is a detailed excoriation detailing why everything taught by all priests from all religions is sadistic and willful untruth seeking to blind the eyes of the people. It is awesome.
Since truly ancient times, the only real concern of humanity has been to study the heavens. Once the ancient humans understood that the seasons were cyclical, that around the same time each year the days would get longer, signaling the return of spring and summer, they began to understand the world around them and their place in it. There was a large, overarching pattern to the world and humans lived in harmony with it. One hundred thousand years ago, there was no thought of “rational” versus “spiritual,” or of “natural” versus “supernatural.” These are all recent inventions. The world of ancient humans was equal parts what they saw and experienced, what they dreamed, and what they imagined.
Dupuis goes back as far as recorded history lets him, considering he lived in the late 1700’s. While there existed civilizations before the ancient Egyptians, their culture amalgamated and absorbed the wisdom of all the previous millennia. Ancient man would describe what they saw in the heavens through allusion, metaphor, and anthropomorphism. They saw patterns in the stars, which, to their eye, never changed. These became the constellations. Initially meant purely as a visual code to describe the locations of the stars, the constellations helped mark the passage of the year. The Sun would rise in the sky in front of a different constellation every month for a year, and then repeat itself. During parts of the year, the daylight hours grew compared to the nighttime hours, and at the opposite end of the year, the nighttime hours grew while the daylight shrank. At two specific points each year, the ancient sages noted that the hours of day and night were equal. These are now referred to as the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes.
The Spring equinox seemed a perfect time for ancient humanity to designate as the beginning of the yearly cycle. It marks the day that the warmth and life-giving properties of the Sun start to increase in influence over the Earth (at least for the people in the Northern Hemisphere. Throughout much of human history, most of our species has lived above the equator. This includes the ancient cultures of Egypt, India, China, and Mesopotamia. It is because of this that astrology and such things are north-biased. The stars that are visible from the southern hemisphere are different from those that make up what most humans call the Zodiac and were one of the reasons ancient sea-faring humans understood the Earth is a sphere.) Fall and Winter were times where the Sun’s living force diminished. In Spring and Summer the Sun’s energies were in full power.
Our recent ancestors did not know of the procession of the stars, something that occurs because our Earth is not only rotating, but also wobbling in space. Our ancient forebears knew better. Before around 14,000 years ago, the Spring equinox Sun would rise in the constellation of Taurus, or the Bull, and the Egyptians would sacrifice the apis Bull on that date, signaling the new year. For the past few thousands of years, the Spring Sun rises in Aries, or the Ram. On the Spring Equinox, Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ, a stand-in for the Sun in its yearly journey. Ancient Hebrews would sacrifice lambs, and the Christ is symbolized by the ‘Lamb” for this very reason. In a few thousand years, the Spring Sun will rise in Aquarius and humanity’s gods will be altered to match. Each human culture shared this information through their myths and legends. Ancient stories of Heracles/Hercules were poetic representations of the Sun’s path through the constellations each year. Each of his Labors correspond to a different constellation. Dupuis describes this in depth, even explaining how the ancient poets included stars adjacent to the constellation in the epics, disguised but understandable to those with astronomical knowledge.
Other of our collective human myths are analyzed by Dupuis, each one shown to be a poetic and allusion-filled description of the path of our Sun as it rises in front of a different constellation each month. From the ancient Vedas of East Asia, to the Osiris myths of Egypt, to the Dionysian myths of the Mediterranean, to the Zoroastrian founding myths, all are shown to be, at their core, astronomical in nature. He shows how every religion’s main stories come from an attempt to explain the workings of the Heavens, with each god, all the way up to Jesus, being a stand-in for our beneficent and all-powerful Sun, the true life-giver of our world.
It is this idea that is the basis for the main thrust of this work. Charles-François Dupuis had grand goals when he set out to write this book. He wanted to provide clear and irrefutable evidence that the many man-made religions and cults that exist in our history took as their basis either a willful or an ignorant misunderstanding of what the ancient poets wrote in the legends. The genius of our ancient sages lay in the ability to describe the world around them in a way that could be transmitted and repeated by oral means. These stories eventually became codified by scribes writing in clay or papyrus.
Dupuis points out one thing that corrupts ancient wisdom. As long as there have been humans, there have been some among us who seek to increase their wealth and/or power by using our collective knowledge to control and train the rest of us. These are the sacerdotal classes; whether shamans, rabbis, magi, or priests, and their sole reason for existence is to create the illusion that they are the only ones capable to providing a lowly human with the divine truths. Before priests, all humans were equally informed and aware of these universal truths. The Sun provides warmth and life. The Earth completes a full cycle every year. Winter is followed by spring is followed by summer, etc. We are all part of the whole. The sun is divine. We, like all life, contain a piece of the divine within us, and when we die, that energy will dissolve back into the universe. This used to be basic wisdom, sacred wisdom, showing the interconnectedness of everything in creation. The ancients did not differentiate between good things and bad things. Anything and everything could be either, at any time, depending on how and who was utilizing it. Our living spark comes from the Sun and returns to the Sun after death.
Before priests and the sacerdotal classes could use the old wisdom to control the people something else had to happen. This is something that is hard to pin down, but Dupuis has done a masterful job of it. The ancient oral wisdom, allegories meant to provide information about the heavens and the yearly cycles began then to be interpreted in non-allegorical ways. Instead of understanding that the heroes of myth, Osiris, Heracles, were stand-ins for the mighty and all-powerful Sun, “wise men” began to postulate that they were real, actual people, humans who had lived and been so inspired as to become like gods themselves. A second and critical jump was the dogmatic assertion that, since the Sun/God was all good, there are things in the universe that are all-bad. They created polar enemies, Ormuzd and Ahriman, Jehovah and Satan, to foster the lie that the universe is a constant battle between that which is good, and that which is evil. Of course, the priests/rabbis/cult leaders/shamans/gurus were the only ones among us all to know the “true path” to divinity, and to avoid eternal damnation. It is the oldest grift in the world, to demand that someone behave as you ask in life, while promising riches and peace in death, promises they know they cannot deliver. In this manner, all form of religion manages to leech the wealth and riches of the populace, continuing to this very day. Most religions seem to think the living Earth is a pit of despair, abounding in horrors, and that the only true life is the “eternal” life that they promise after death. This is a sick and twisted view, directly opposite of the wisdom our ancient ancestors tried to impart.
One of the beautiful things about this book is how Dupuis shows respect and admiration for the ancient sage poets that initially composed the solar myths we have all worshipped and fed off of for millennia. Their ability to describe, in poetic form, the passage of our Sun around the zodiac, is just one of the many bits of knowledge the ancients wished to pass down. Many secret societies teach how to read these old myths, how to understand the scientific and natural wisdom the ancients hoped to pass on. This was something of the reason why the Templars, Freemasons, and other such societies are viewed as a threat by the church. Who knows how much more the ancients knew? Modern humans, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, have been around for somewhat over 100,000 years. The genus Homo Sapiens itself, has been around for over 1,000,000 years. The ancients seemed to understand this, many of them describing the great circumnavigations, whether labeled ages or Vedas that the world lives through, each covering tens of thousands of our years. This was not idle fiction. They wrote about it to share it with us, thousands of years later, the cyclical nature of existence. It is Dupuis contention that these legends and myths have everything to offer us today, if only they could be divorced from the religions formed to use the ancient wisdom to take advantage of us, keeping them rich, fat, and comfortable, while they preach abstinence, austerity, and forgiveness.
This work was completed around the time when modern humans started to ignore myth and legend to instead focus on industrial and material matters. The American Revolution had helped overthrow the ancient and false idea of the Divine Right of kings, and the French revolution tried to free the nation from the king and the powers of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church has engaged in mass murder and genocide in France many times, seeking to exterminate any enclaves of what they termed “heretics.” These were the initial freethinkers, dangerous to the status quo of a massive church, wealthier and more powerful than any single nation on Earth. Dupuis stood for all of us when he wrote this work. The Church has killed writers and philosophers for far less.
I am so glad I found this book. It came at the right time, which is one of the magical things about books. Sometimes, the exact book you need to read will come into your life. Twenty years ago I would not have managed to complete this book, much less grok the immensity of its scope. Dupuis truly is one of the greats, a hero to freethinkers and a bright guidepost to anyone seeking understanding of our deep mythical past.
(This book can be downloaded as a PDF here: http://iapsop.com/ssoc/1872__dupuis___origin_of_all_religious_worship.pdf )