[Note: Most of the graphics in this piece can be viewed in a larger format by clicking on the image.]

As shall be seen throughout this summary of the peoples of the world's quest for spiritual enlightenment or epiphany, the theme or general structure remains fairly constant. In its most general statement, mankind has been seeking a generalizable explanation for certain natural phenomena, for which no satisfactory scientific rationale exists at the time. In the earliest time, such events were ascribed to the pleasures and angers of supernatural beings, whom the populace attempted to appease by such acts as celebrations, leavings gifts at alters, and even human sacrifice (as depicted in the image to the right). In anthropology, animism can be considered to be the original human religion, being defined simply as belief in the existence of spiritual beings. The basis for animism is acknowledgment that there is a spiritual realm which humans share the universe with. The concepts that humans possess souls and that souls have life apart from human bodies before and after death are central to animism, along with the ideas that animals, plants, and celestial bodies have spirits.

Animism is not to be confused with panpsychism, which attributes both physical and mental characteristics to all natural objects, both animate and inanimate. In animism, the "soul" attributed to all things does not necessarily also create mental faculties. The British anthropologist Sir Edward B. Tylor developed the concept of animism in the late 19th century. Tylor regarded animism as the most primitive stage in the evolution of religion. He suggested that the contemplation of dreams and trances and the observation of death led primitive peoples toconceive of the Soul and of human spirits, and that these spiritual conceptions were then projected onto the natural world. Although he developed no fixed evolutionary sequence, Tylor postulated that a belief in animism led to the definition of more generalized deities and, eventually, to the worship of a single god. This evolutionary view of religion has been rejected by many 20th-century anthropologists, who tend to stress the collective, social aspects of Primitive Religion.

In fact, interest in Animus is sufficiently intense that a relatively high-circulation magazine called "Animus - A Philosophical Journal For Our Time" enjoys a rather large audience; the articles listed in the current issue include 9/11 and the History of Philosophy, Islam and the Principle of Freedom, Aristophanes on War: Acharnians, A Woman's War, and Dirty Hands, Cosmopolitan Value and State Evil: Reflections on Torture. The magazine is published on-line only, and articles are published in both html and pdf formats.

It is believed that Animus took formal shape sometime during the Roman Empire. Originally, it was believed that the Romans believed in a rather nondescript group of spirits with vague functions and identities. However, modern research has indicated that the Roman gods were well-defined entities with specific duties and functions in the spiritual life in the Roman citizens. Rites of the early religion were simple and exact. As Rome grew, the beliefs of those who were conquered were slowly integrated into Roman culture and religion. Many Greek gods and rituals became a part of Roman religion, and through study of Greek art, literature and mythology, many Greek gods came to be identified with Roman gods.

The early Romans had no religious temples or statues to honor the spirits or gods. The first temples and statues of gods in Rome were built by Etruscan kings. The first of these, a temple on Capitaline hill, was built to honor Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.

Contract With the Gods

On the most basic level, Romans saw their religion as a contract between man and the gods. For this reason, ceremonieswere performed with the greatest attention to detail; if mistakes were made, it was believed that the gods would no longer be compelled to uphold their end of the contract. Along with the idea of a contract with the gods came the practice of the votum - a specific vow to the gods. If one wanted a specific favor or blessing, he would promise to complete certain rituals or sacrifices if his prayers were answered.

Religion Within the Family

Within the family, the pater familias, or the head of the household, acted as its sole priest and authority. He oversaw all religious activities within the home with the help of his wife.

One of the most important aspects of the family religion was the family cult. Romans believed that offerings to their deceased ancestors were crucial to their happiness in the afterlife. Furthermore, they feared that if they neglected their duties to their ancestors, the unhappy ancestral spirits would haunt them and their families. Because of this, Romans felt that it was vital to see that their ancestors were well cared for during their lifetimes and in future generations. Carrying on the family name, then, was a major concern of the pater familias.

In order to ensure preservation of the family, marriage was viewed as a solemn religious duty. Before the wedding, the auspices were consulted to ensure the approval of the gods and a favorable marriage. The new wife was completely separated from her family and taken into her husband's family.

Proper worship of the household gods and spirits was unquestionably just as important as the ancestral cult. Prayers and offerings were usually performed in the space of time between dinner and desert, although some especially pious families chose to perform this duty in the mornings as well. These duties were carried out every day, and all family occasions were accompanied by ceremonies. Each gens (clan) had its own sacra, or rites, which were considered to be a necessity not only for the family itself, but also for the state.

Roman Priestly Colleges

Within Rome there existed several orders, or colleges, of priests. Some of them were devoted to one or more gods, such the Salii, who worshipped Mars, and the Salii Colini who devoted themselves to Quirinus (the deified Romulus). Several oversaw various public events or works. The pontifices arranged the calendar, and the augures performed the duty of interpreting the will of the gods through reading the auspices. The auspiceswere taken before any public occasion or action to ensure that the gods were pleased. One priestlycollege that was very important to Rome was the "Commission of Fifteen". They were in charge of the Sibylline books, which were said to not only document the history of Rome, but also to foretell its future.

Perhaps the best known priestly college was the College of Vesta, or the Virgines Vestales. The "Vestal Virgins" were charged with the duty of caring for the sacred fire at the Aedes Vestal (Temple of Vesta), and were selected from girls between the ages of six and ten years old, from families in which both parents were still living. They served for thirty years, spending ten years learning, ten years performing their duties, and ten years training new vestals.

The Gods of the Romans

A good number of the gods worshipped in Rome came from conquered lands. Many came from Greece, and and at least as many from the Orient.

  • Jupiter - The Father of the gods, and the greatest god. Also known as a god of light, the King of the Gods, and the Lord of Justice. He was called on by men to witness agreements.
  • Juno - Wife of Jupiter
  • Janus - God of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings. He was once the supreme god of the state but was later replaced by Jupiter. The doors of his temple were closed in peace and open in times of war.
  • Saturn - God of crops
  • Venus - Goddess of gardens and love
  • Mars - God of war and agriculture
  • Vesta - Goddess of the hearth
  • Minerva - Goddess of wisdom and patroness of craftsmen and guilds
  • Diana - Goddess of the hunt, originally a wood spirit from Aricia
  • Hercules - Originally from the Tibur, worshipped as a god of commerce
  • Mercury - God of commerce, originally from Cumal
  • Bacchus, Ceres, Proserpina - Greek gods brought into worship in Rome on the advice of the Sibylline Oracle
  • Apollo - God of healing
  • Aesculpius - God of medicine
  • Magna Mater - (Cybele)-originally from the orient, it was ordained that Romans should never be her priests once the nature of her worship became known

The Evolution of Roman Religion

After the origination of Roman religion from various sources and peoples,its importance waned as the study of Greek philosophy waned during the late republic. The importance of religion was renewed, however by Caesar Augustus. Roman religion grew as it blended with some Eastern and Oriental religions, and cults such as the Cult of Magna Mater gained followers. The Cult of Isis and the Cult of Mithras developed from Eastern religions.

During the Imperial Age, the Cult of the Emperor developed. The practice of deification allowed Emperors to be worshipped as gods, and the Cult of the Emperor started to take the place of the old state religion in the provinces, although in Rome itself it was not permitted to worship an emperor while he still lived.

Rome was home to many followers of Judaism, and the religion made significant progress in some parts of the Empire. Christianity later came from the East, and became popular with Orientals and the lower classes. As Christianity spread, the older religions slowly diminished.

Sources of much Religious Material:
Showerman, Grant, Ph D. Rome and the Romans. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1931.
Mills, Dorothy. The Book of the Ancient Romans. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1937.
Johnston, Mary. Private Life of the Romans.
Johnston, Mary. Roman Life. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1957.
Van Rheenen, Gailyn. Communicating Christ In Animistic Contexts. Pasadena: William Carey Library Publishers, 1996.

There is quite a lengthy treatment of animism in the on-line edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, much of it non-religious. Similarly, there is a fascinating essay on the interrelationship between ghosts and a belief in Animus. A short, butvery well-edited collection of animus links is also available.

Quite recently, a lengthy and authoritative book on Animus was published: Animus DelendiI [Desire to Destroy I] by Atila Sinke Guimar„es. It has just been the subject of a quite lengthy review by John Vennari, Editor, Catholic Family News.

Lastly, there is an absorbing web site on archetypes called The Archetypal Connection, which self-describes as follows: "This site is an educational Exploratorium dedicated to the archetypes. It is our psychological sandbox-- we invite you step in and share the fun. Every archetype is like a hologram of all that exists: every part contains the whole; and the whole reflects back to us an ageless, collective wisdom grounded in countless individual experiences. Its treatment of Animus throughout society and history is thorough and quite worth reading."

It was through the development and discussions of animus that the foundation was laid for more organized, modern religions in the relatively near future.

Links to other Spiritual Paths

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