This astounding book might be the last piece of the religion puzzle I have been working, for as long as I can remember.
Jungleman, the omniscient narrator, tells how the Yanomamo Indians lived and suffered because of their association with bad spirits. I would describe it as a classic study in anthropology, not necessarily meant to be of any significant religious importance, but full of religious implication nevertheless.
The Yanomamo had always known of the Great Spirit, who made all spirits, but believed that he was too dangerous to approach. They were surprised that (A) the nabas (white men) knew of the Great Spirit and insisted that the Indians throw away their lesser spirits and let the Great Spirit in, and that only then would they be happy; and (B) that so many of the nabas, even though they knew of the Great Spirit, had not, themselves, let him in, and therefore were not happy. A few of the nabas were reasonably happy, in the knowledge of the existence of the Great Spirit, even though they had not actually let him in. But the Indians who had not let the Great Spirit in and continued their association with their lessor-mostly bad--spirits suffered (and the degree to which they suffered is the most astounding part of the book) for centuries with their eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth warrior mentality, killing their enemies, stealing and raping their women, and far worse.
Among the things that ran through my mind as I read Spirit of the Rainforest:
1. The now-extinct 15th Century pre-Columbian Arawak Indians, who associated themselves with good spirits-called Zemis--and lived in peace for 10,000 years and were happy
2. The continuing tragedy of the Israelis and Palestinians under their eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth rule
3. The teachings of Jesus