I can’t say that any major religion has actually directly damaged my life as such.
I do however often find myself working with people who have chronic illnesses, for whom life has been made exceptionally difficult by their, or their parent’s religious beliefs.
It’s for them, that I’m going out to bat, it’s because of them, that I was drawn to research the history of religion.
Let’s examine firstly the idea of “Belief.”
The Dictionary definition is as follows:- an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof.
Most dictionary definitions damn Religion from a scientific perspective right out of the box.
As we move to a more scientific way of looking at life, as we have done from the 1950’s onwards, people are deserting Religion in their droves, for this very reason.
Science seems to offer a “religion” of it’s own. It suggests a way of being and understanding, that has now taken the place of religion for many people.
The flawed thinking here is that Science has the answers. The fundamental tenets that “hold” science together are themselves just beliefs.
There’s still no “Unified Theory” that would allow us to bring the two main branches of science into agreement yet. (Although my friend Dr Jude Currivan has presented one, restating the laws of Thermodynamics, that does just this. Sadly, Science seem to be too riven to be able to accept answerers such as hers yet..)
Science is in fact just layer, upon layer of beliefs, compacted so hard, that it looks “more real” than religion right now.
There’s a simple thought experiment that goes like this.
“Can you prove that you exist?” – it’s the basic “Brain in a jar” idea.
Can you prove to me that you and I are not brains in jars, in the laboratory of some sadistic Alien? Maybe we are some “lab rats” wired to complex computers, having simulations run through our heads?
No matter which way you wrangle and wriggle, it’s not possible to state 100% that this isn’t true or possible.
These days 3D simulations can be totally immersive, and encompassing; our little brains can lose themselves so deeply in a game, it’s really like being there and living it!
A cinema film, shown at 25 frames per second can draw us in so deeply, that we are for an hour or two totally absorbed in another world.
It wouldn’t take that devious an alien to dupe us into believing that everything we do is real, when it’s all a simulation being run through or little brains!
(It would be nice if those Alien’s could tidy up some of the questions that Science skips over, Near Death Experiences -NDE’s, Levitation, telekinesis and Crop-circles to name a few!)
Back to the Root of Religion then.
For a while, I was working on the root of language, to try to find the root of religion.
Thus far studies seem to suggest that a language existed called Proto-Indo-European, or PIE for short.
It seems likely that humanity migrated from North Africa, to the Steppes of Russia, and finally back or concentrated more, in the areas of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Israel and Egypt.
Thence they spread out to India and east, and Europe (over a supposed “landbridge”) to the Americas.
There are many competing theories, but this seems to be the nub of it.
Migration is not a linear thing, it’s very messy.
Just yesterday a new species of Homosapien was discovered in China.
It seems fishy that the well developed people of South America, would have had to effectively travel via Canada, to get to Argentina too. (I prefer to think that the roots of humanity were already sown, when the continents divided, it seems to make more sense.)
Now we are tracking lots of different strains of Humans, it would seem more obvious that we were also evolving in different ways in different parts of the globe simultaneously.
We haven’t even factored in Thor Heyerdahl and his Kon-Tiki expedition in 1947, where he essentially sailed a bale of Hay 8000 kilometres across an ocean!
I feel sure our ancestors figured out boats, and fishing pretty quickly, making migration even more messy to track.
There are many studies of early “religion” – which group these practices as Shamanism.
A Shaman was a tribal medicine man.
Through trial and error, and observation of nature, one individual would be given the duties to look after the others. If you understood the skies, the plants and the animals, then people would trust you to guide them. This core knowledge would be passed on from generation to generation, and from tribe to tribe through marriage or war no doubt.
Many things have been written in the last one hundred years (and before) of the function of hallucinogenic plans in the Shaman’s Pharmacopeia.
If you think about it, lead a totally normal life, then the Shaman gives you a cup of mushroom tea, and for a while, you are in a Technicolor version of nature, where animals and ideas swirl round you.
(Sorry, I’m delving into youthful personal experience here!)
You’d have to be pretty impressed by this character – provided he didn’t inadvertently kill you!
There’s much made of Siberian Shamans. A Disney caricature of a mushroom grows abundantly in their region (Tall white stalk, bright red cap, with white dots on it..)
It has very powerful hallucinogenic effects.
It seems that they were picked in the run up to the Winter solstice. The Shamans would hang these bright mushrooms in the trees to dry. They would be delivered by the Shaman to his clients, who would then hang them in socks over the fireplace to dry further, before eating them.
Anything sound familiar there? Happy Christmas!
Be it Mushrooms, Amazonian Plants or Marijuana, we’ve been using psychedelics in a sacred way for millions of years.
Just look at a bar, anywhere in the world on a Friday night after work! We LOVE to get “out of our heads” for a little while. Reality can be so upsetting and drab sometimes! Barman, drug dealer and Shaman, it’s a pretty thin line these days!
Back to languages then.
PIE was universally spoken, it’s thought, by the bulk of people living in Anatolia (Asia-minor)
At some stage (about 3200 BCE) we start to use “symbols” for convenience, and we have the emergence of Cuneiform.
This symbolic language allowed transactions to be registered and laws to be written down.
At this time the Sumerian empire is pretty much the first to emerge and organise.
Eventually Sanskrit evolves from their civilisation, as the first written language.
Cuneiform seems to give birth to three of four major strands of language – Sanskrit, which seems to spread east eventually becoming the root of many India languages (And Hinduism)
and to the west, where it forms the basis of Egyptian Hieroglyphics amongst others.
The movement of languages is just as complex as the movement of peoples – clearly one carries the other! Nothing is clear-cut, but these broad brush-strokes give us basic understandings.
The oldest surviving documents on earth are basic understandings of Man’s interactions with “god”
We have the Sumarian based Vedas, that emerge as Hinduism in India including the wonderful Upanishads. A little later we find the “Book of the Dead” and similar funereal practices from the Egyptian language.
If I were asked to summarise the content of The Upanishads in one short pithy sentence, I would point to the Sanskrit phrase “Tum tvat asi” – which translates as “I am that”
The Upanishads tells us that we ARE god, that the whole Universe is made of Awareness.
Game, set and match for me. The earliest understanding of Religion on our planet is “Don’t get caught up in any religion, because YOU are god!”
Quite literally the ONLY sin on Earth, is NOT knowing that you are god. (And so am I of course..)
The unfortunate outcome of this for the Judeo-Christian line is that with Egypt as it’s stem, we discover that the stories in our Bible, are mostly appropriated from Egyptian mythology, and not real events in Israel
(Although, there are few clerics who will accept this fact.)
How about we study the Egyptian god Horus for a few moments?
I’m going to lift a passage directly now, from an article by J. Warner Wallace
What if I told you there was once an ancient religion whose God was conceived by a virgin named Meri and had a stepfather named Seb (Joseph)?
What if I told you this God was born in a cave and his birth was announced by an angel, heralded by a star and attended by shepherds? (On the 25th of December)
He attended a special rite of passage at the age of twelve (although the ancient texts describing this God are silent about His life from the age of 12 to 30).
At 30 years of age, this God was baptized in a river (His baptizer was later beheaded).
He had 12 disciples, performed miracles, exorcized demons, raised someone from the dead, and even walked on water.
They called Him “Iusa”, the “ever-becoming son” and the “Holy Child”.
He delivered a “Sermon on the Mount”, and his followers recounted his sayings.
He was transfigured on a mount and eventually crucified between two thieves.
He was buried for three days in a tomb and rose from the dead.
His followers called Him “Way”, “the Truth the Light”, “Messiah”, “God’s Anointed Son”, “Son of Man”, “Good Shepherd”, “Lamb of God”, “Word made flesh”, “Word of Truth”, “the KRST” or “Anointed One”.
He was also known as “the Fisher” and was associated with the Fish, Lamb and Lion.
According to this ancient religion, this God came to fulfill the Law and was supposed to reign one thousand years.
Sounds a lot like Jesus doesn’t it?
According to those who deny the existence of Jesus, however, this description is of a mythological precursor to Christianity, the Egyptian God named Horus.
In J. Warner Wallace’s article, he goes on to debunk these claims! (But there’s no smoke without fire! Having listed the claims so well, he tells us it’s all about atheists who are just trying to make Christianity look bad – There are none so blind as those who will not see, I say!
The old testament tells us how long the Israelites spent in Egypt…
Here come the Sun!
The other aspect that seems conclusive is the Worship of the Sun.
It rises every day, and sets every night. Ancient man understood the power of the Sun to give life.
Father Sun, Mother Earth, everything springs from their interaction.
If you were going to tells stories round a campfire, these would be the things you personify.
Everything on Earth is a balance of Yin and Yang, male and female or life and death.
The Sun has been worshipped as the source of life in every part of the world, deeply, from prehistoric times.
The Stars have been our guides to planting seasons, the Heavens divided into 12 regions and personified too, give us our calendar.
(I’ll just insert a simple reference here “The Sun of god, and his 12 disciples…sorry, should that be spelled son..?) Every major religion has its solar deities.
Everything is steeped so distantly in the past, that we will never be sure.
What we can be sure of is the feeling of authenticity.
Each of us can sense at the deepest level, when we are being lied too.
We can read a lie in another’s face with great ease.
There’s something at the depth of modern Religion that no longer rings true for many of us.
The easiest thing is to NOT bother looking too deeply.
Just to take the word as gospel.
(Hey, don’t look into the “Gospel” story too deeply either or you’ll find that about 76 other “gospels” were “redacted” from the bible during the Nicaea Decree, because they didn’t fit with the story that Pope wanted people to believe!)
If you don’t ask the question, then your apple-cart will never be upset.
You can go to your grave believing whatever your parents and priest told you.
(Remember the definition of “Belief?”)
It’s up to you, if you can’t be bothered to seek the truth, then remain in the darkness nobody will force you!
The other path, is to realise yourself.
Let’s not get confused with Spirituality here. There’s as much of a mis-understanding of the nature of True-self and the path thereof in Spirituality as there is in Religion!
In most cases, we have just taken the Mumbo-jumbo out of the Church, and practiced it in our own home-made temples! I’m really happy about the freedom that this has brought us, but there’s no new clarity.
The Upanishads tells us – YOU are god, and so am I.
Until we realise total awareness for ourselves, then the rest is all still bull-shit.
Meditate yourself to sleep, dance round fires, drink Ayahuasca until you shit and puke yourself stupid, tell yourself that smoking Ganja will awaken you (No different to sleeping..)
Do yoga and Qigong till you are blue in the face..
There’s only one game in town, and that is self-realisation.
Ask yourself “Who am I?” ..and don’t stop until you’ve sliced yourself into 1000 pieces, until you’ve burned away the rubbish, until you’ve stripped “reality” (Whatever the hell that might be!) away until nothing is left..
Then my friend you are getting closer!
(Also, next time you are outside – give thanks to the Sun!)