Belief; the great divide
It seems probable, despite theological cavils, that Petronius was right in his
saying, Fear first made the Gods. In the words of the more recent hierologist John M. Robertson;
"we may be sure that primitive man took to himself the credit of his successful
attempts to work the mechanism of nature for his own advantage, but when the
machinery did not work he ascribed the fault to some over-ruling supernatural
power..... It was the violation of [previously exploited] sequences, and the
frustration of his expectations, by which the belief in supernatural power was,
not created, but first called forth."
John is fairly close to the mark, and I shall discuss this presently, but first
let's remember he wrote the above about 100 years ago and since then the
improvements in technology and the discoveries in archaeology along with the
recovery of many ancient texts clearly show the evolution of modern Christianity
and Islam evolved from Zoorastraism. Both represented a misunderstanding of Vedanta and were
strongly influenced by a rapidly evolving patriarchal capitalism making
religions took for social and political control.
The simplistic development of religion
We know again from the archaeological evidence that human like beings have
inhabited parts of Africa for some 7 million years and that they lived in social
groups. Of course, we know not much about these people but there is some
evidence that some of these groups were engaging in some ritualistic practice.
Science tells us that modern people like ourselves have only been in
existence for some 200,000 years, however here I am not so concerned with our
physical revolution, I am more interested in the evolution of our spiritual
Leaving ourselves aside for a moment, please consider that animals adapt
themselves to seasonal changes to either migrate or hibernate depending on their
situation. Animals also react to environmental phenomenon and many have the
intelligence to seek or even to create shelter.
Our distant ancestors would have behaved in a similar way by taking shelter in
caves and perhaps migrating with the herds of animals that were the most
important food source. We must of course assume that our ancestors were not
stupid, we know they sheltered in caves, we know they were successful hunters
and gatherers and over time they learned how to create shelters, improve their
hunting and gathering technology and eventually developing agricultural methods.
John M. Robertson asserts that fear is the origin of all religion, I would agree
but also add the element of desire, after all, we pray for protection from what
we fear and we pray to have what we desire. Primitive man of course was subject
to the whims of nature, they had to flee when the flood came, find shelter in
the storm and no doubt they witnessed many natural events that they feared like
thunder and lightning. As we know ourselves, there are things we fear, and we
hope or pray that these fears are not realised.
I have no doubt that from the very beginning of human like society, that the
value of giving was appreciated. This seems to be a core element, which stems
from the fact that we give to our children so that they may become strong so
that the children will be kind and supportive towards their ageing and less
strong parents who still have value within the community.
At some point the wish or desire to be saved from disaster, and the desires for
those elemental things like good hunting and a full belly, a strong capable
spouse resulted in fervent prayer and offerings. Of course living close to
nature, observing the seasons, the movements of the moon and tides, and perhaps
the correlation between the full moon and the female reproductive cycle must
have come into the People's awareness at some time. The fact that the moon
seemed to have power over other things, and that in the animal kingdom the
strongest rules over the weak would have impressed early mankind.
In this scenario, wishes and desires became prayers and from prayers the
offering of a gift evolved as an exchange between man and the elements. During
different periods of history, offerings became sacrifices with the notion that I
will give up what I treasure in order that perhaps the lightning will spare a
life or provide good hunting etc. And the practice of offering and sacrifice
remains alive and well in modern religions.
From the earliest beginnings mankind has been seeking some stability and control
over nature and in that sense, little has changed in millions of years, however,
over this time mankind has been learning about the forces of nature and the
relationships between all life forms. Over time hunting technologies improved,
the use of herbs as medicine evolved and eventually the practice of agriculture
was invented and developed which gave rise to the development of permanent
settlements and a rapid increase in population.
No doubt as tribal culture developed, individuals would be assigned different
roles in the community depending on their level of skill and aptitude like the
strongest hunter, and it seems most probable that by some fate certain
individuals would have more of a capacity for leading prayer rituals, or knowing
where to find the best game, or knowing what herbs to use to remedy different
illnesses or injuries and the culture of the Shamen was born.
As larger communities developed the Shamen and or those with the interest began
putting their heads together in order to understand and more accurately and
consistently influence events of nature as well as improve their knowledge of
the human condition and ways of easing suffering. During this period some 10 to
20,000 years ago, we see the development of trade and the sharing of ideas as
well as continuing growth of the human population.
We know that Zoroastrianism and Vedanta were founded some time before the
600BCE, and I suspect that the development of these two faiths emerged out of
the culmination of the Shamenistic knowledge which had developed up until this
There are of course many who believe that our physical, mental and spiritual
development has been influenced by extraterrestrials forces, however at this
time there is insufficient proof, although one should not entirely dismiss the
As to some over-ruling supernatural power, from all my own research and
understanding, there is no absolute over-ruling supernatural power unless there
are sufficient people to believe, and when sufficient people believe, some
supernatural power may manifest for them for a short time. The only power, (and
power here is really the wrong word) is to be found in the strength and scope of
being human. And for all the priests and prophets, only Jesus and Buddha asked
the people to do as they did and determined in their own hearts and minds the
validity of their teachings.
Read Part Two
The Story of Omar
Origins of religion
Origins of religion_1
East vs West
Women in Islam
Polygamy in Islam