Rare and Antiquarian Books
RIVERS OF LIFE 3 Volumes with Chart (1883)
RIVERS OF LIFE 3 Volumes with Chart (1883)
Forlong, J.G.R. Rivers of Life. Or Sources and Streams of the Faiths of Man in all Lands; Showing the Evolution of Faiths from the Rudest Symbols to the Latest Spiritual Developments (Three volume set including separate folding chart). London: Bernard Quaritch, 1883.
First Edition. Three Volumes (plus chart). Hardcover. Quarto. The two large text volumes are beautifully bound in half morocco over gilt edged marbled boards (by Bennett, New York). Top edge gilt. Marbled endpapers. [xli], 565, [vi], 659 pages, with index and errata list at end of each volume. Illustrated with 17 full page plates on card stock (all present), and 339 text drawings. 2 colored maps are present (a second century map of the world showing movement of early races and faiths, and a large foldout of Ancient India and adjacent areas showing early tribes, their sacred places, etc.). In addition to the text volumes is the very large, and often-missing, color Synchronological Chart of the Religions of the World representing different currents (Faith Streams) which is linen-backed and folded, housed in a separate folder inside a beveled slipcase covered in brown cloth. The chart measures 7.5 feet by 2.25 feet and is in excellent condition. The ‘Explanatory Note to Chart of Rivers of Life’, originally issued as a loose sheet (again, often missing) has been neatly affixed to the back of one panel of the chart and can be perused easily without it going astray. Bindings are strong and secure. Volume one has one tiny corner bump to rear board and there is one small closed tear to the large fold-out map of India. Two plates in volume two have light moisture stains to top of plate but are in the margins (see photos). Otherwise THIS SET IS IN FINE CONDITION It is a very well preserved set and one is not likely to find a nicer or more attractive copy. A scarce title and exceptionally rare in this condition - even more so with the large chart included.
This is Forlong’s massive work of comparative religion and the natural evolution of existing faiths, with its uninhibited sexual interpretation of religious rites and ceremonies throughout history. Forlong puts forth the idea that all major religions can be traced back to six main streams of worship which go back to the beginning of mankind’s history. The 6 streams are mainly solar and phallic in nature (Mr. Crowley, please pick up a white paging phone). Volume one details each stream: Tree Worship, Phallic Worship, Serpent Worship, Fire Worship, Sun Worship, and Ancestor Worship. Crowley did include this work in his list of "Books for Serious Study" (Curriculum of the A.A.) calling it "an invaluable text-book of old systems of initiation”.
Volume two continues with chapters on the early faiths of Western Asia (being Chaldea and Assyria), faiths of Western Aborigines in Europe and adjacent countries, and faiths of Eastern Aborigines (Non-Aryan and Semitic).
The chief object of the accompanying Chart is to show the gradual evolution from rude material and elemental symbolisms to abstract and spiritualized conceptions. This is accomplished by streams of colors, one each for the six forms of worship mentioned above. It is interesting to see how many of the streams converge and travel together at certain periods throughout history, allowing one to detect patterns in relation to forms of worship, locales, and time periods. Along each stream are the names of gods and attributes, as they became prominent, etc. Two chronological columns (beginning in 10,000 B.C.) with text are present on either side of the chart. The left side shows principal characters, cities, and leading religious events (historical and mythical) throughout history. The column on the right shows dates of religious writings, temple constructions, dogmas, languages and other principal matters. The whole thing is like a board game of the gods. Its remarkable in every way.
The amount of esoteric material that Forlong has presented here is staggering. And the sexual nature of it all goes beyond the work of Payne-Knight, and Jennings. An incredible amount of research went into the work. And though much of his research was gathered from his own travels and fieldwork (especially during his lengthy stay in India), he additionally relied on numerous authorities in his research. A long list of works cited (separated by subject) are at the beginning of volume one.