Firstly, apologies, I have been remiss in my weekly blogging. I managed to get what feels like a superbug and it quite literally knocked me off my feet for a few weeks. Hopefully I am now on the mend and will again be my blogging self once more.
For any theists who may chance to find this post be aware this has a PG rating :
PG – Pre Genesis Myth. For all you little christian soldiers out there this is where you put your hands over your ears and start singing kumbayah.
For everyone else, please read on, let us take a trip backwards in time minus the Delorean and enjoy the ride.
My interest in religion has never been on whether it is real or fiction, I won’t waste time on foregone conclusions. The fascination is why and when man chose to produce the gods and the myths. It would seem we don’t like to be orphans, I suspect for most theists that is how they would feel if their belief system was taken away from them.
Religion, therefore, was created by man in his infancy, a comfort blanket, a father figure and by the more leadership led a control mechanism.
Theists the world over are of the assumption the gods have always been with us , which is simply not the case. Of course, this is understandable how else could they persist in their belief of their various “creation myths” and sky fairies.
DOMESTICATION FROM HUNTER GATHERER’S
The truth is we appropriated the cosmos when we became ‘domesticated’. One of the most decisive turns in ‘pre-history’ and religion came about directly from this sedentism and domestication. When we evolved from being hunter gatherers to a residential community.
With a sedentary life, we went into the realms of having time to think about our surroundings and with house building seeing the boundaries of our being, then to look beyond at our place under the stars. Creating a community where decisions had to be made within a moral framework detailed for communal living.
In his ‘Origins of the Modern Mind’ published in 1991 Merlin Donald outlined several stages in the development of human culture and cognition.
- EPISODIC STAGE – primate cognition
- MIMETIC STAGE -Early Hominids to Homo Erectus. Early tool production and non verbal communication
- MYTHIC STAGE – taking us to Homo Sapien. Complex language skills, hunter gatherers of the late Palaeolithic period.
- MATERIAL SYMBOLIC – where use of material goods took on a symbolic importance, this occurred about the time of agricultural/Neolithic revolution and sedentism.
- THEORETIC STAGE – ‘institutionalised pragmatic thought’. by the development of storage of the kind of theory that gives this stage its name. This involves the beginnings of writing.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SYMBOLISM TO OUR ANCESTORS
With the onset of domestication and sedentism our ancestors made the attempt to make sense of the world; to situate their society within the wider reality of the cosmos.
With the onset of sedentary living, worldly goods took on new meaning. They did so with the human propensity to give meaning to inanimate objects, so that these things became symbols embodying power and wealth.
Humans created wonderful new and meaningful structures – structures so intelligible and so persuasive that they could, for their adherents give purpose to life itself. The formulated structures of such reality and factuality that they could command large inputs of labour in the realisation. On occasion even require offerings of human sacrifice. These were invented concepts, yet concepts with a terrible reality and factuality – the powers of divinities constructed through ritual and speculative thought and the temples and effigies which they encapsulated.
Many societies came to think in therms of supernatural dimensions, developing the use of symbols to communicate with the other world, and to mediate between humans and the world beyond – the birth of religion. Material symbols had an important role in the process, and they give us a way of monitoring the growth of ritual and practice. The study of early religious development is most based on material evidence of symbolic behaviour and ritual practice.
We can see the development of explicit symbolic systems, the adoption of local standards which require decisions of an arbitrary nature. Many early communities went to considerable trouble to observe the annual movements of the stars and planets, which they incorporated into their belief systems…. the very belief systems that your sky fairies come from
We have the monuments by which societies tried to grapple with the realities of the natural world. Stonehenge in the Southern England, is one such monument. The rest circle of the upright stones with their lintels, was erected around 2500 BCE, contains a horseshoe set on a central axis. This axis lines up with the rising of the midsummer sun ( and in reverse direction, of the setting of the winter sun)
Stonehenge is one of the consequences of sedentism and shared work, it was also a deliberate attempt to align the human society with the cosmos. We can even say it was an attempt to harness the very workings of the cosmos to serve within their ritual practices. The designers of Stonehenge were able to create the stage-set, for the earths greatest shows and placing themselves in the role of director of ceremonies. We can see similar attempts to observe to cosmos in societies world wide.
Another human condition was occupying their minds and indeed it still does today – our life cycle. Our life cycle was an understandable pre-occupation, deliberate human burial seems to have been practiced prior to our Africa dispersal of 60,000 years ago. The inclusion of grave goods within the burial indicate concerns after death.
In any case they indicate a material engagement with the circle of life and death and may be an attempt to have an influence on that cycle through ritual. Later in development we see the powerful nexus, where religion sanctifies the exercise of centralised power, ensuring the control of the economy. High prestige valuables were channelled towards religious rituals and controlled by the ruling powers.
EARLY SECULAR STATES
It is clear that the role of ruler was an important one in reaching out to divine order. Some may see that as the function of a state religion, but there were certainly early states in which the early world was not necessarily seen as a microcosm of some celestial order. Indeed there are some early states where there was no ‘state religion’.
The great cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro for all their urban order, lack indications of the search of cosmic harmony. There are public works, granaries, baths but where are their royal burials. Where is the iconography relating to divinities or cosmic forces?
It is the case that there has been found polished stones 40 centimetres in height that may have symbolic significance but they could simply be of their ancestors. there isn focal point in the community for group worship of a deity. There is no explicit hint of a divine obsession as in other societies.
As Gregory Possehl said:
The feature that i find of the most interest is that the religious institution of institutions of the Harappan did not express themselves in the same grand monumental way that most other archaic urban systems seemed to do. We have yet to find an Harappan temple, there are no pyramids of ziggurats. There is no abundance of evidence for a religious ideology portrayed on seals, figurines or other objects. Religion seems to have been a private practice, it did not involve priests, high priests or institutions. We may also have a situation of considerable religious diversity within the Harappan civilisation.
The Mycenaeans were another society that did not have a pre-occupation with the cosmic order. There was virtually no discernible symbolism towards the sun and moon. A shrine was found a few metres away from a grave, but it had to be said it was a modest affair. Religion did not occupy a central role in Myceanaen society, its constitution definitely implied the concentration of valuables in the hands of the rich and powerful, but there seems to have been no monopoly of control over the sacred.
THERE YOU HAVE IT THE INVENTION OF RELIGION.
SIMPLES WHEN YOU KNOW HOW😉
Theism is a childish need to have everything answered to make you feel better, even if it is to dishonestly fill in the openings. It is misleading to use mythology for your ‘god of the gaps’ with no validation of said hypothesis. As noted earlier the fascination is not whether gods exist, the real fascination is the imagination used by our ancestors to fit the ‘unknown’ into a bearable reality.
There is a calmness in atheists that ‘god believers’ will never attain whilst under the slavery of their indoctrination. It is simply a letting go of rigid beliefs that keep you back from enjoying the real beauty in this life.
Man made Himself – Gordon Childe
The Evolution of Urban Society – Robert Adams
Understanding Early Civilisations – Bruce Trigger
Archaic States – Bruce Trigger
The Domestication of the Human Species – Peter Wilson
Origins of the Modern Mind – Merlin Donald