Order and chaos with special reference to Mende religion
This thesis examines, by cross-cultural comparisons, several religious traditions with respect to the theme of order and chaos. Special attention has been given to a specific world-view, that of the Mende of Sierra Leone. The Order refers to integral relations, structural array, harmonious functions and normative standards which constitute a sacred universe instituted and regulated by superhuman powers. Chaos, the complementary but antithetical element in the cosmos, represents aspects of anti-structure, anarchy, and disharmony in opposition to order (Chapter X). The discourse divides into two distinct, but related, sections which conflate and concentre in a common theme. Part I provides an overview of the motif in religious experience and an introductory framework intended to further exploration of the theme in Mende religion. This portion proffers a purview of the study and sets forth its phenomenological perspective (Chapter I); describes the establishment, mediation, and cataclasm of sacred order (Chapter II); discusses cosmos and chaos with a particular focus on space and time (Chapter III); and examines dimensions of the theme in ritual and ethics (Chapter IV). In Part II, the thrust shifts from synthetic survey to an analysis of the theme in Mende religion. The Supreme Being (Ngewo) and his feminine counterpart, Mother Earth, represent the ground and mainstay of order (Chapter V). Ngewo mediates the divine order to the human plane through the agency of spirits (ngafanga) and hale, a supernormal power invested in objects and sodalities (Chapter VI). Whereas disobedient or pestilent actions disrupted the primeval order lived in proximity to Ngewo, chaotic spirits, witches, and sorcerers menace the present order (Chapter VII). Mende cosmology (Chapter VIII) and ritual (Chapter IX) are also examined with reference to the theme.