Pygmy Kitabu by Jean-Pierre Hallet
In preparation for the forthcoming revision of Christ Con, I am reading the book Pygmy Kitabu
by Belgian sociologist Dr. Jean-Pierre Hallet, who lived off and on for some 60 years among the Efe Pygmies
of the Ituri Forest in the Congo.
Dr. Hallet was a sober and well-educated scientist who spent considerable time studying every aspect of the Efe people, including their religion, myths and spiritual notions. I briefly wrote about the Pygmies as part of the last chapter in Christ Con, entitled "Evidence of a Global Civilization." Naturally, bibliolaters, apologists and others who never bothered to read Hallet's account have made ignorant and untoward comments about the Belgian anthropologist
because he describes a number of Pygmy religious and spiritual ideas as the older and primordial source of much Judeo-Christian ideology. His commonsensical observations based on a knowledge of pre-Christian and pre-Judaic religious concepts have caused apoplexy in certain quarters, with vitriol and calumny tossed his way, such as the offensive libel that he did not know his subject matter and that he ignored possible influences from missionaries and other sources.
In Pygmy Kitabu
, Hallet analyzes his subject matter very well, including whether or not Judeo-Christianity could have influenced the Pygmies. Hence, in reading the book I wondered whether or not his critics had themselves even read it before they presented themselves as "experts" on his work. From their remarks, it seems impossible that they could have read the book. Instead, it appears they read a summary and then assumed Hallet had ignored the possible influence of Christians in the area, when in fact he addresses the subject quite thoroughly, even describing his ongoing battles with them in their attempts at "Christianizing" the Pygmies, essentially bringing the latter numerous problems, including ill health because of efforts at forcing suffocating Western clothing on them in the rainforest.
In his decades of observation of the Pygmies, Hallet had plenty of time to sort out what was original to Pygmy tradition and what may have been external influences. He is also certain that the Pygmies rejected the efforts of the missionaries, as they claimed they already possessed many of the germane "Judeo-Christian" or "Abrahamic" concepts but that they actually lived them and had done so for eons, long before the "First Contact" of 1870 by German explorer Georg Schweinfurth (Halley, 13)
As Hallet explains, up to that point, the Congolese Pygmies had been isolated from any external contact since the time of the Egyptian prince Herkhuf's expedition to their territory, some 4,000 years ago. He insists that, since that time, the Pygmies remained uninfluenced by the outside world, even expressing contempt for many of the "superior" ideas foreigners to their lands attempted to foist upon them. For example, they resisted various forms of technology, such as ways to make fire, even so primitively as rubbing sticks together. (Hallet, 4) Under such circumstances, it seems impossible that the Pygmies would simply throw off whatever religious, spiritual and mythical traditions they had possessed for thousands of years in order to adopt Christianity. Moreover, the fact is that little of what the Pygmies contend to be their native religious traditions dating back many thousands of years, long before the Bible was ever written, is difficult to believe as part of primary and obvious human philosophical perceptions.
Interestingly, Hallet wrote Pygmy Kitabu
in significant part to demonstrate these contentions of "biblical" religious concepts being an indigenous part of one of the world's oldest cultures. The book is some 416 pages of proofs of this contention, the subtitle being, "A revealing account of the origin and legends of the African Pygmies." In demonstrating this thesis of "biblical" religious ideas originating in primordial times with the Pygmies, eons before Judaism and Christianity were created, Hallet begins with an analysis of the Pygmies as an archetypal humanity, one of the oldest races on Earth and a sort of "missing link" between earlier hominids and taller homo sapiens. In this regard, he says (4):
Scientists and scholars such as Wilhelm Schmidt, H. Brynn, J. Kollman and Paul Schebesta have postulated that the taller human races evolved or developed by mutation from small and anatomically primitives Pygmy-like ancestors, just as the enormous dinosaurs evolved from chicken-sized reptiles and the modern horses sprang from tiny Eohippus. The present-day African Pygmies have even been described as the still-surviving parent stock of Homo sapiens--ancestors from prehistoric times who like the coelcanth and other "living fossils" have lasted into modern times.
In determining the value of Pygmy legend, therefore, Hallet remarks:
Because their culture is so very ancient and primordial in style, the Pygmies can give us a unique insight into the manners and mores of our prehistoric ancestors.
So determined to remain with their old ways were the Pygmies that, again, they viewed the use of "friction firesticks as a newfangled, rather blasphemous invention."
After proceeding through a mindboggling discussion of skin color, race and facial features, revealing that the Pygmies are very Caucasian in some aspects (5ff), Hallet continues with his analysis of the religious traditions of the Efe people. In this regard, he describes the Pygmy god as "a very tall, elderly and sternly dignified white man with a long wavy beard" (Hallet, 8 ), a strange description for a native people, as most often, it seems, native peoples will envision gods that look like themselves. Of course, they will also perceive anthropomorphized forces of many shapes, colors, forms and both genders, and, while the Pygmies may have had a tall white man as a main god, the Egyptians placed the Pygmy at times as the top god (as evidenced by the Metternich stela, discussed below). This Efe god figure, obviously, does sound very Judeo-Christian, which is one of the points of Hallet's present work, to demonstrate that these are not in fact Judeo-Christian concepts but, rather, long predate the alleged appearances of Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
In presenting Pygmy beliefs, Hallet also discusses the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley, the originator of the famous query, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Says Hallet (12):
In his classic work In Darkest Africa, published in 1890, Stanley very perceptively described the Ituri Forest Pygmies as "the oldest types of primordial man." He even compared a Pygmy couple to those traditional human ancestors, Adam and Eve.... toward the end of his pioneering trip through the Ituri Forest, he remarked: "The Pygmies showed by their conduct that they are related to all that is best and noble in human nature."
Interestingly, DNA studies have demonstrated a "Genetic Eve" from which much of humanity can trace descent, from a tribe located in Southeastern Africa, not very far from where the Pygmies have thrived for thousands of years.
Over and over again, we hear about the great character of these little people, and, again, it would seem to be calumny of the highest order to suggest that they were lying about their religious and mythical traditions, as it would be likewise in making the same pronouncement of "deceit" or "naivete" concerning Dr. Hallet.
Regarding the Pygmies' religion, Hallet states (13):
Some of their most important legends and customs strikingly resemble Old Testament equivalents. The Ituri Forest Pygmies, for example, recount a creation legend that almost exactly parallels the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. There is, however, no possibility that the Pygmy religion was "borrowed" from Jewish, Christian or Mohammedan sources. Egyptian records that date back nearly five millennia--more than a thousand years before the estimated date assigned to Moses--prove that the Pygmies played a major and deeply mysterious role in shaping the earliest religion of the country whence the Israelites made their famous exodus.
Osiris, an ancient Egyptian divinity who has often been compared to the Judeo-Christian Christ, was represented as a Pygmy in faience figurines of Ptah-Seker-Osiris, the triune god of the Egyptian resurrection. Bes, the Egyptian god of music and dancing, was pictured as a Pygmy and represented as the supreme divinity on a monument known as the Metternich Stele. Pyramid texts call the Pygmies by the pious epithet "Dancers of God." The pyramid text of the sixth-dynasty monarch Pepi I declares: "He who is between the thighs of Nut is the Pygmy who danceth like the god and who pleaseth the heart of the god before his great throne." Nut, the goddess of heaven and mother of Osiris, has been compared to the divine mother of Christian theology and to the goddess Athena, whom the Greeks anciently revered as the "Virgin Mother of Heaven." The Pygmy legend cycle features a similar personage called Matu, the mother of God.
As we can see, there is much "Christian" doctrine in the pre-Christian Egyptian and Greek religion/mythology, which may logically also be found in the Pygmy religion, as an even earlier and more primordial expression.
Speaking of the time between the expedition of Prince Herkhuf and that of Georg Schweinfurth, Hallet remarks (13):
During the 4,000 years that separate Herkhuf and Schweinfurth, the Pygmies had no contact with any people who might have "diffused" to them Judeo-Christian ideas. They nevertheless practiced a lofty monotheistic religion that closely parallels our own.
Having studied many of the world's religions dating back thousands of years, including the complex theology and mythology of Egypt, I can verify that numerous "Judeo-Christian" concepts precede their purported origin as "divine revelation" to Hebrew, Israelite and Jewish prophets and son of God. Since the virgin mother concept, for one, unquestionably predates the Christian era by many thousands of years, there exists little reason to suppose this "oldest of races" adopted this belief from Christianity
, rather than being one of its earliest founts. The same can be said for the concept of an original couple, such as "Adam" and "Eve," which is quite logical for anyone who has observed reproduction and wondered about the origins of humanity.
There is nothing remarkable about a giant male deity somewhere "out there" either, as the same can be found in Egyptian religion. Indeed, it would make sense if the Egyptians themselves were reflecting these older African traditions, especially since DNA studies evidently reveal a common human ancestor not far from where these myths are claimed to originate. The notion of the Pygmy religion - or its apparent and more complex offshoot in Egypt - being "monotheistic" seems paradoxical; however, many theologies, including the Christian and Muslim, perceive a single divinity as the source of all of creation, with numerous expressions, such as gods, goddesses or angels.
There is much more to this fascinating subject, including that while he has been disparaged, seemingly by individuals who have not even read his work, Hallet has extraordinary credentials and a truly exemplary career in which he sacrificed much for his passion. In this regard, he remarks:
In Congo Kitabu, I wrote about the very strange "echoes of Genesis" I heard among the Efe Pygmies of the northeast Iture. But I am neither a secret agent of the Vatican nor a sentimental philosopher riddled with romantic fallacies. During my eighteen years in Africa, I was a bush sociologist and agronomist for the former Belgian government of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. I worked with 650,000 African blacks of seventeen different tribes. I did everything from diagnosing plant diseases to delivering babies. I am the only white member of the Bwame Secret Society, a fraternal organization of the Lega Negro tribe dwelling in the Maniema district of eastern Zaire. I am an initiated warrior of Kenya's Nilo-Hamitic Masai tribe and a blood-brother of Rwanda's tall Tutsi or "Watusi." In 1955 I single-handedly set out to relieve a desperate famine among the pygmoid or part-Pygmy Mosso tribe of Burundi. I emerged from this episode single-handed after a dynamite explosion blew off my right hand just above the wrist. It was a very small price to pay for the lives of several hundred Mosso families.
I see nothing outrageous, illogical or irrational about what Dr.Hallet has claimed regarding primitive religious ideas dating back thousands of years and originating significantly with one of the world's oldest races, the Pygmies. Indeed, I am quite certain that these ideas do indeed predate Judeo-Christianity by thousands of years, having their origin in observations of the natural world. Hallet's extraordinary career and dedication to humanity are highly respectable and his claims very plausible.