The Story of Everything: A Synopsis of The Urantia Book
Paper 87: The Ghost Cults
Early men feared death because death meant the creation of a new ghost. Ghosts were thought to have supernatural powers, but not supernatural intelligence. Attempts to trick ghosts led to many strange behaviors, some of which continue in today's world. Some people still imagine that an outward pretense of piety can win the favor of God.
Primitive men believed that angry ghosts were sources of grief and misfortune. They avoided houses where death had occurred, and this ritual delayed early tribes from building permanent villages. People observed silence during mourning to encourage the ghost to leave. Wives were sometimes buried alive with their dead husbands, and slaves were buried with their masters.
Sometimes months were spent in the inactivity of mourning. Tools, weapons, and other property were destroyed for the use of the ghost. Ancient funerals wasted enormous amounts of resources, and it was a great advance when the notion of inheritance replaced burning and burying the dead person's property.
Divination, sooth-saying, astrology, magic, and many other strange practices developed from early people's attempts to trick ghosts. Children were kept inside after dark, people were afraid to yawn, and phallic cults appeared. Women were veiled. The advancement of art was stifled because beauty supposedly incited the envy of ghosts. Ghost cult rituals were designed to ward off bad luck. Later men attempted to court good luck by bribing ghosts; humans still tend to bargain with deity. Cursing and finger crossing are remnants of ancient ghost cult rituals.
Cults throughout history have had both positive and negative results for human civilization. Cults retard social progress but preserve ceremony; they can either stifle or enhance philosophy. Cults serve as skeletal structures around which the living body of personal spiritual experience grows.