THE evolution of religious observances progressed from placation, avoidance, exorcism, coercion, conciliation, and propitiation to sacrifice, atonement, and redemption. The technique of religious ritual passed from the forms of the primitive cult through fetishes to magic and miracles; and as ritual became more complex in response to man’s increasingly complex concept of the supermaterial realms, it was inevitably dominated by medicine men, shamans, and priests.
In the advancing concepts of primitive man the spirit world was eventually regarded as being unresponsive to the ordinary mortal. Only the exceptional among humans could catch the ear of the gods; only the extraordinary man or woman would be heard by the spirits. Religion thus enters upon a new phase, a stage wherein it gradually becomes secondhanded; always does a medicine man, a shaman, or a priest intervene between the religionist and the object of worship. And today most Urantia systems of organized religious belief are passing through this level of evolutionary development.
Evolutionary religion is born of a simple and all-powerful fear, the fear which surges through the human mind when confronted with the unknown, the inexplicable, and the incomprehensible. Religion eventually achieves the profoundly simple realization of an all-powerful love, the love which sweeps irresistibly through the human soul when awakened to the conception of the limitless affection of the Universal Father for the sons of the universe. But in between the beginning and the consummation of religious evolution, there intervene the long ages of the shamans, who presume to stand between man and God as intermediaries, interpreters, and intercessors.