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Ancient Sun Cults: Understanding Religious Rite e in Terms of Developmental Psychology

Georg W. Oesterdiekhoff

Published: 2007/09/01

Abstract

Animistic attitudes towards natural objects as prevailing forms of understanding nature and reality are found in all pre-modern societies. The sun and moon, like other physical objects, are understood in terms of animate and conscious beings or persons. Ancient peoples felt that they had a personal relationship to the heavenly bodies, worshipped them as gods and offered them sacrifices to feed them. The sun cults of the Aztecs and the ancient Egyptians, chosen as typical examples to demonstrate these phenomena, can only be explained in the context of animistic, magical belief systems. Developmental psychology of cognitive structures explains the prevalence of these belief systems as parts of the cognitive development of mankind. Thus, developmental psychology can explain the ubiquity of animistic thinking and sun cults across pre-modern societies as far back as the stone ages. The rise of formal operations among the educated classes in 17th century Europe accounts for the surpassing of magical-animistic thinking and the rise of mechanical philosophy, of the mechanical theory of heavens and of the physical sciences. The beginning of physical sciences is the end of animistic thinking and solar cults.

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