This chapter analyses how the idea of the High God is applicable on the African and American scene respectively. Widengren gives a pervasive reading of contemporary (and sometimes pre-colonial or traditional) African and American ethnographic material and tries to link his typology of the hauptmotiv of the High God to the archaeological and oral traditional material from these two continents. Widengren seldom, however, distinguish between indigenous, pre-colonial or contemporary African and American cultures. He does not discuss migrations, religious shifts or syncretistic processes. What Widengren should have done in order to make his effort more worthwhile was being more careful with the source material and how the comparisons are executed. It would also have been helpful if he more clearly had demonstrated how the “African” and “American” thoughts regarding the concept of the High God was linked to the Iranian historical cultural context.
This paper looks at the relation of natural history, in its guise as an observational genre and one which tended to offer competing explanations of its phenomena, to the discourse of practical divinity. Natural history is here intended as a genre in which the practice of observation is accorded a significant place and a genre which lends itself to the accumulation of competing explanatory accounts of the phenomena ('polycausal'). In particular, it examines the relation of the cognitive and the practical with respect to a rather unusual instance of that discourse. It attempts to site the work of practical divinity vertically (to its own tradition), horizontally (to the local contexts of John Abernethy) and orthogonally (to the Baconian project of descriptive enquiry as a basis for philosophical enquiry).