dimanche 2 février 2014

Territorialité, l'origine de la religion ?


Nous autres humains, animaux sophistiqués, avons un besoin profond de nous sentir en sécurité, protégé. Traditionnellement et éthologiquement, c’est le territoire qui remplit cette fonction. Un territoire est un espace de vie délimité, qui permet aux habitants d’une espèce de s’alimenter, de s’accoupler, de construire des nids et de se reproduire. Le territoire est délimité de différentes façons, notamment par le marquage et la défense du territoire contre des intrus.

Un territoire, c’est évidemment des ressources, mais aussi et surtout un ensemble de femelles. Ce sont donc des mâles qui défendent et maintiennent un territoire contre l’intrusion d’autres mâles. Il y a également une compétition entre mâles du même territoire. Notamment pendant les périodes de reproduction. La présence d’un mâle puissant et protecteur (dominant) est un facteur de paix et d’harmonie dans un monde autrement bien agité.

Comment reconnaître un mâle dominant ? Par son comportement exhibitionniste de puissance, c’est-à-dire par des actes symboliques. Il mangera en premier et aura droit aux meilleurs mets. Il peut s’accoupler préférentiellement avec les femelles fertiles. Les autres femelles et mâles lui doivent des gestes de soumission (présentation etc.). Tout cela doit être bien visible et ostentatoire.

Une région ou un pays est alors au fond un vivier de femelles, délimité par les mâles. Les mâles dominants maintiennent la cohérence du groupe en préservant le même type de génome au sein de celui-ci et en le défendant contre les intrusions. Le territoire sera marqué à ses limites (T. mtha’ ‘dul), ou à d’autres endroits stratégiques (rochers proéminents, arbres, ressources en eau), de préférence en la présence d’autres membres du groupe, par des projections urinaires, fécales ou des secrétions hormonales.

Dans les temps anciens, les divinités grecques étaient représentées par des colonnes de pierre ou de bois, informes, placées à côté des routes, et notamment à l’emplacement de carrefours. Les passants y déposaient de petites pierres ou les arrosaient (« marquaient ») avec de l’huile. Plus tard, on ajouta une tête et un phallus à ces colonnes. On les appela herma(i) (ἑρμῆς/ἑρμαῖ). Le dieu Hermes, un dieu phallique, fut associé à la fertilité, la prospérité, les routes et les limites (y compris entre la vie et la mort). Ce phénomène n’existait pas seulement en Grèce, mais partout où vivaient les animaux sophistiqués que nous appelons les humains. Hermes (ou le mâle alpha équivalent) est alors le garant de la culture dans un territoire bien délimité. Il se charge de la fertilité et de la prospérité du territoire.

Ce qui dans un territoire humain, sert de marquage, c’est le Verbe, la culture et le culte, qui sont sous la protection de mâles alpha. Confucius nous a appris qu’il faut continuellement se réapproprier le passé, ne pas se couper de celui-ci, et le ré-actualiser à travers des rituels et des cérémonies. On retourne au rite, « parce que le rite est lui-même retour. Il est réappropriation. Il jette un pont entre présent et passé et établit une continuité entre les âges. Il nous reconnecte à notre « être basique ».

Y a-t-il d’autres façons de reconnaître nos besoins basiques, sans reproduire sans cesse des schémas anciens (territoriaux) qui nous poussent à fonctionner dans de petits tribus sous la direction de mâles alpha ?


MàJ 11052015 Voir aussi le phénomène fascinus

2 commentaires:

  1. Hope a comment in English is OK.

    I think this is an interesting idea with some merit. However I would be more convinced if you could show that small human groups, especially hunter gatherers, follow the patterns of other social animals - i.e. the fairly strict hierarchies of say chimps or gorillas. My sense is that despite the obvious fact that we have leaders, that they are much less hierarchical humans that live in small groups than we observe in other animals, and much more cooperative. Although it is usually men who "lead" as such, they tend to do so enmasse as a council. Rather than one male it is usually the elder men who make formal decisions for a group. Isn't this quite different from any other social animal? One sees it to some extent in chimps, but on a much simpler scale where a single male will have one or two allies who help him maintain dominance.

    To my mind the idea of an alpha-male is a reality in chimps and gorillas, but a metaphor in human beings.

    Thus I also wonder how this model copes with female leaders in general and religious leaders in particular. They are quite common these days. Do you suggest that they are merely acting as surrogate alpha-males? Are they simply women with masculine characteristics? Or is there another dynamic?

    It seems to me that the dynamics of chimp groups at least, is tailored to mediating the much greater physical strength and aggression of males. This strength is useful in defending the group from other chimp groups who might encroach on the territory of the group taking resources and in all likelihood killing infants sired by other males. The group structure allows the useful qualities of strength and aggression to co-exist with a harmonious and effective group dynamic. Intra-group male-male confrontation is largely ritualised in all mammals I think. It seems to me that you are playing up to feminist stereotyping of masculine qualities to some extent here - that aggression evolved to dominate females, whereas a Darwinian perspective is more neutral - it see the pluses and minuses of selecting for large aggressive males. In fact groups lead by large aggressive males live to pass on their genes much more successfully than other combinations. It benefits females in reproductive terms to choose large, dominant, aggressive partners to some extent, as long as they are also well integrated group members. But what worked for our hunter-gatherer ancestors might not work well for urbanised, over-stimulated, alienated moderns.

    I followed the links on herms which was very interesting. However I'm left wondering about the distinction between a shrine to a god and the god qua god. I'm certainly no expert in Greek myth but I have always understood the gods to be largely anthropomorphic (with the proviso that gods like Zeus could appear in animal forms). For example, in Sanskrit liṅga doesn't mean "penis". It means 'sign, characteristic, token' (though I believe the etymology is obscure). It is frequently used in this sense, particularly in the field of logic where liṅga (the sign) and liṅgin (the possessor of the sign) are fundamental terms. The phallus is simply the token of Śiva, but does not suggest that Śiva is anything other than an anthropomorphic god - Śiva is not a giant penis in the sky, but always a man-shaped being. The penis is also the most noticeable or reliable sign of masculinity. And so liṅga 'token' takes on the meaning 'penis' only in an applied sense. I wonder if a similar distinction applies here?

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  2. Thank you for your input Jayarava. Your point about the alpha-male being a reality in chimps and gorillas but a metaphor in human beings seems on target. I simply noticed a similar pattern between the marking of territory by animals and how the Tibetan territory considered as a female rākṣasa lying on her back (previous blog) needed to be « marked » by phallic symbols in order to subdue « her ». I also wrote about the divine madman (Drukpa Kunlay) and the phallic cult represented through this Dionysiac figure in Bhutan. In hagiographies he is portrayed as a sort of alpha-male restoring order with his phallus and blessing Bhutanese women by copulating with them. At the same time the Bhutanese still nowadays consider women as inferior births, excluding them from public action, because this would attract the evil eye (T. ltas ngan).

    I have no competence in these matters, but I will give it a go, nonetheless. I do realise there are lots of gaps in my thinking, which is intuitive, but I will try to fill them up as I go along. I am merely speculating as always.

    As for leading in « council », I think we should perhaps empty that term of its possible contemporary (democratic) notions, and consider it rather as a « pack », as in pack-hunting, than as wise men deliberating around a fire. The difference is perhaps that instead of leading as an absolute alpha-male, the human alpha-male leads in a pack (the majestic we ?). I will come back later to a very recent exemple of a « council decision ». The alpha-male behaviour can be delegated to pack members, who are executors. Which means that the alpha-male position in human society can even be held by celibate males or females, as you suggest, with masculine characteristics, at least mythologically attributed.

    You point out that intra-group male-male confrontation is largely ritualised in all mammals. True, but real confrontations also exist. And when I have a quick look at intra-group male-male confrontation in human history, then the violence is very real and ruthless, including between siblings, parents and children. Or we may look at what happens in our own families :-)

    I admit that my blog is meant to be provocative, and there is discussion in France about equality of the sexes at the moment, so I am playing into that as well. But it seems to be a fact, without having a feminist bias, that images of female domination have been always present and are still influencing our way of thinking and feeling. As you say, what is true from a Darwinian perspective or « what worked for our hunter-gatherer ancestors might not work well for urbanised, over-stimulated, alienated moderns. »

    Aniconical gods seem to predate anthropomorphic gods. Also true for Buddhism by the way. Herms or similar representations of gods existed before anthropomorphic gods in different parts of the world. I enjoyed Until we have faces by CS Lewis, btw. (kami http://fudosama.blogspot.fr/2006/04/ta-no-kami.html, lingam). The word liṅga is translated mtshan in Tibetan, which means sign, name and sex. The phallus symbols (actually just a phallus, not a symbol) that one finds all over the place in Bhutan are called dbang-phyug chen-po or dbang phyug mtshan, meaning respectively Maheśvara (Śiva) and Maheśvara’s mark or sign, a phallus. So it’s possible that Śiva was venerated in his aniconical form of a phallus, before being represented anthropomorphically together with Mrs Śiva and young Master Śiva. Another aniconical form of Śiva is the colum of light/fire (jyoti).

    As for the contemporary example of council decision, see this very disturbing news item http://metro.co.uk/2014/01/23/india-gang-rape-woman-raped-by-13-men-in-subalpur-west-bengal-4274833/ Wise old men ordering the young men of a village to gang rape a girl that fell in love with someone outside the group, and somehow gang-raping her by procuration

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