The Urantia Book

The History of Urantia

Brilliant Evening Star

85. The Origins of Worship

4. Worship of the Elements

85.4.1 Mankind has worshiped earth, air, water, and fire. The primitive races venerated springs and worshiped rivers. Even now in Mongolia there flourishes an influential river cult. Baptism became a religious ceremonial in Babylon, and the Creeks practiced the annual ritual bath. It was easy for the ancients to imagine that the spirits dwelt in the bubbling springs, gushing fountains, flowing rivers, and raging torrents. Moving waters vividly impressed these simple minds with beliefs of spirit animation and supernatural power. Sometimes a drowning man would be refused succor for fear of offending some river god.

85.4.2 Many things and numerous events have functioned as religious stimuli to different peoples in different ages. A rainbow is yet worshiped by many of the hill tribes of India. In both India and Africa the rainbow is thought to be a gigantic celestial snake; Hebrews and Christians regard it as “the bow of promise.” Likewise, influences regarded as beneficent in one part of the world may be looked upon as malignant in other regions. The east wind is a god in South America, for it brings rain; in India it is a devil because it brings dust and causes drought. The ancient Bedouins believed that a nature spirit produced the sand whirls, and even in the times of Moses belief in nature spirits was strong enough to insure their perpetuation in Hebrew theology as angels of fire, water, and air.

85.4.3 Clouds, rain, and hail have all been feared and worshiped by numerous primitive tribes and by many of the early nature cults. Windstorms with thunder and lightning overawed early man. He was so impressed with these elemental disturbances that thunder was regarded as the voice of an angry god. The worship of fire and the fear of lightning were linked together and were widespread among many early groups.

85.4.4 Fire was mixed up with magic in the minds of primitive fear-ridden mortals. A devotee of magic will vividly remember one positive chance result in the practice of his magic formulas, while he nonchalantly forgets a score of negative results, out-and-out failures. Fire reverence reached its height in Persia, where it long persisted. Some tribes worshiped fire as a deity itself; others revered it as the flaming symbol of the purifying and purging spirit of their venerated deities. Vestal virgins were charged with the duty of watching sacred fires, and in the twentieth century candles still burn as a part of the ritual of many religious services.

5. Worship of the Heavenly Bodies

85.5.1 The worship of rocks, hills, trees, and animals naturally developed up through fearful veneration of the elements to the deification of the sun, moon, and stars. In India and elsewhere the stars were regarded as the glorified souls of great men who had departed from the life in the flesh. The Chaldean star cultists considered themselves to be the children of the sky father and the earth mother.

85.5.2 Moon worship preceded sun worship. Veneration of the moon was at its height during the hunting era, while sun worship became the chief religious ceremony of the subsequent agricultural ages. Solar worship first took extensive root in India, and there it persisted the longest. In Persia sun veneration gave rise to the later Mithraic cult. Among many peoples the sun was regarded as the ancestor of their kings. The Chaldeans put the sun in the center of “the seven circles of the universe.” Later civilizations honored the sun by giving its name to the first day of the week.

85.5.3 The sun god was supposed to be the mystic father of the virgin-born sons of destiny who ever and anon were thought to be bestowed as saviors upon favored races. These supernatural infants were always put adrift upon some sacred river to be rescued in an extraordinary manner, after which they would grow up to become miraculous personalities and the deliverers of their peoples.

6. Worship of Man

85.6.1 Having worshiped everything else on the face of the earth and in the heavens above, man has not hesitated to honor himself with such adoration. The simple-minded savage makes no clear distinction between beasts, men, and gods.

85.6.2 Early man regarded all unusual persons as superhuman, and he so feared such beings as to hold them in reverential awe; to some degree he literally worshiped them. Even having twins was regarded as being either very lucky or very unlucky. Lunatics, epileptics, and the feeble-minded were often worshiped by their normal-minded fellows, who believed that such abnormal beings were indwelt by the gods. Priests, kings, and prophets were worshiped; the holy men of old were looked upon as inspired by the deities.

85.6.3 Tribal chiefs died and were deified. Later, distinguished souls passed on and were sainted. Unaided evolution never originated gods higher than the glorified, exalted, and evolved spirits of deceased humans. In early evolution religion creates its own gods. In the course of revelation the Gods formulate religion. Evolutionary religion creates its gods in the image and likeness of mortal man; revelatory religion seeks to evolve and transform mortal man into the image and likeness of God.

85.6.4 The ghost gods, who are of supposed human origin, should be distinguished from the nature gods, for nature worship did evolve a pantheon - nature spirits elevated to the position of gods. The nature cults continued to develop along with the later appearing ghost cults, and each exerted an influence upon the other. Many religious systems embraced a dual concept of deity, nature gods and ghost gods; in some theologies these concepts are confusingly intertwined, as is illustrated by Thor, a ghost hero who was also master of the lightning.

85.6.5 But the worship of man by man reached its height when temporal rulers commanded such veneration from their subjects and, in substantiation of such demands, claimed to have descended from deity.

7. The Adjutants of Worship and Wisdom

85.7.1 Nature worship may seem to have arisen naturally and spontaneously in the minds of primitive men and women, and so it did; but there was operating all this time in these same primitive minds the sixth adjutant spirit, which had been bestowed upon these peoples as a directing influence of this phase of human evolution. And this spirit was constantly stimulating the worship urge of the human species, no matter how primitive its first manifestations might be. The spirit of worship gave definite origin to the human impulse to worship, notwithstanding that animal fear motivated the expression of worshipfulness, and that its early practice became centered upon objects of nature.

85.7.2 You must remember that feeling, not thinking, was the guiding and controlling influence in all evolutionary development. To the primitive mind there is little difference between fearing, shunning, honoring, and worshiping.

85.7.3 When the worship urge is admonished and directed by wisdom - meditative and experiential thinking - it then begins to develop into the phenomenon of real religion. When the seventh adjutant spirit, the spirit of wisdom, achieves effective ministration, then in worship man begins to turn away from nature and natural objects to the God of nature and to the eternal Creator of all things natural.

85.7.4 [Presented by a Brilliant Evening Star of Nebadon.]