Conclusions and Speculations

In this section I have allowed myself a certain latitude in summarizing and speculating upon the various factors involved in the growth of modern cults in northern California and Oregon.

First, a brief comment concerning terminology may be pertinent. It is apparent from the material presented in this study that, strictly speaking, the 1870 Ghost Dance and Earth Lodge cult cannot be called messianic movements, since the appearance of no great savior was anticipated. More properly they might be called adventist or revivalistic cults. No single leader can even be considered mainly responsible for these religious phenomena. They were the creation of many religiously minded individuals of varying cultural backgrounds. The Ghost Dance and Earth Lodge cult depended for their strength more upon febrile psychology than upon established in- stitutions. As the cults developed, imaginative personalities attempted to create, especially in the Bole-Maru, a new system based on foreign and aboriginal ideas. It represented the last flash in that area of creative Indian culture and the last attempt to establish native values.

Diffusion has been obviously one of the major processes that func- tioned in the history of the modern cult movements under consideration. I feel that the processualists have failed to stress the importance of this old anthropological concept. It is one that has been used incessantly by both anthropologists and historians, yet we have relatively little detail about the manner in which it functions. On the whole, it has been made a tool for historical reconstructions rather than being recognized as a major cultural process itself deserving of study. Until diffusion as a process is clearly understood through the study of historically substantiated cases, it seems premature to use it as a tool in cases where history fails us. Different types, varying velocities, and different mechanisms of diffusion are to be expected. In the examination of the material on the modern cults, several factors affecting diffusion suggested themselves.


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The 1870 Ghost Dance


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