In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

109 5 5 Anthropology Adam, Adamites, and the Science of Ethnology T he pre-adamites had certainly come to dwell with theologians and writers of popular apologetics. This does not mean, however, that they did not occupy other cultural spaces too. They showed up, for example, in works with little concern for accommodating theology to scientific developments. Indeed, the language of preadamism could function as nothing more than a means of challenging the august authority of the Old Testament in matters of anthropological history and to that degree at least perpetuated something of the skeptical impetus associated with the theory’s earlier incarnations. At the same time it also continued to feature in more dedicated scientific locations among those whose empirical inquiries remained, to one degree or another, fixed to biblical moorings. The diversity of opinions expressed on human origins in these arenas allowed for a variety of reactions to the pre-adamite proposal from different religious perspectives—with some espousing it, others dismissing it out of hand, and yet others allowing it as a possibility should the anthropological and archaeological evidence move decisively in favor of polygenism. This chapter charts this stretch of the story among those for whom pre-adamism remained necessarily polygenetic. We leave the transformation, effected to some degree by Darwin, of polygenetic pre-adamism into a monogenetic form until the next chapter. Before turning to the ways in which it persisted among professionalizing ethnologists, one particular use of pre-adamite discourse merits comment; in this case it simply served as surrogate for primordial polygenism and the 110 adam’s ancestors existence of ancient cultures predating recorded Hebrew history. Just the year before McCausland’s rendition of pre-adamism first appeared, another book-length work on the subject—this time written from a markedly different spiritual address—crystallized. A rambling, unwieldy, and repetitious compendium, Pre-Adamite Man first appeared in 1863 under the pseudonym Griffith Lee. In fact, it was the work of Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825–75), a medical doctor, human rights champion, mystic spiritualist, and supreme grand master of the American branch of the Rosicrucian Order (Fraternitas Rosae Crucis), a confraternity that continued to attract those with esoteric interests in alchemy, Gnosticism, magic, and the Paracelsian tradition. Randolph was a controversial figure, and his teachings on occult sexuality—perceived at the time as free love and, later, as the precursor of ceremonial sex magic—resulted in a brief period of imprisonment in 1872, before he was reportedly acquitted of all charges.1 His literary output was extensive; he was the author of some fifty books and pamphlets on health, philosophical arcana , magia sexualis, and the occult.2 In all likelihood Pre-Adamite Man’s initial pseudonymity was intended to protect its author from direct censure, for, as Randolph observed in the preface to the fourth edition, “the book has had mountains almost insurmountable in its path,” although—in his own opinion at least—it had “outlived adversity [and] become a standard authority in the world of letters.”3 Others didn’t think so. As one reviewer bitingly put it: “It is not worthy of perusal by Christian, Jew, or infidel. It is a work of great pretensions, but of no originality or merit . . . The thoughts . . . are exceedingly crude and disjointed; the statements even of pretended facts, are unreliable, and most of the quotations are inaccurate, and the style is awkward and often ungrammatical. As to the plan, there is none.”4 These drawbacks notwithstanding, the book’s general impulse is readily discernible. Its purpose was simply to lay out what Randolph took to be the standardevidencefromlinguistics,anthropology,archaeology,paleontology, and ancient history for the existence of humans long before the time frame that the biblical chronology for Adam could allow. Like other polygenists, Randolph rejected climatic accounts of racial differentiation. Commenting on the black race, for example, he noted: “Climate . . . therefore, had nothing to do in making him the hue he is; for in Africa, beneath the torrid sun, and in cold Icelandic regions, he and his children retain the same complexion . . . He must, therefore, be a distinct species of the genus homo; for, differing so totally from the sons of Adam, he could not have descended from the same source, and is consequently, and beyond all doubt, a Pre-Adamite Man!”5 Anthropology: Adam, Adamites, and the Science of Ethnology 111 This characterization, however, did not imply any inherent inability to progress ; indeed, Randolph insisted that the black race was destined for “power...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.