The human story, at its base, holds a fairly simple framework.
An ape-ancestor, both a puzzle-solver and obsessed with time, stumbles over persistence hunting and ends up inventing both a great way to catch dinner and the curious social technology of telling a story.
A few million years or so later, this results in a flowering of the human tree, one of the branches being homo sapiens. Homo sapiens uses this amazing tool to get into the heads of the landscape: both animals (its original purpose) and energetic flow patterns (winds, plants, landscape features).
Somewhere along the line, they meet up with cousins from another continent, wolves, and the two co-evolve for a time, resulting in wolves around the planet and humans using pack technologies to form tribes.
This dynamic set up a repeating meme, where a group of lonely, curious or shunned humans would enter a new landscape and then completely adapt themselves to it, becoming pretty much literally an extension of the land itself.
In turn, barring a major disaster (super-volcano explosion, meteor strike, invasions of Triffids from Beyond the Stars), the tribe could self-perpetuate its presence in the landscape in perpetuity.
Putting it in a slightly different light, seeds moved in and used behaviors to affect themselves physically between generations to fully become the People of the Land. Time would then begin, stories would flow. All would be well.
Seeds went out, adapted to the environment, became the world.
Civilization, on the other hand, was an upheaval of that story.
The foundation of civilization revolved around a traumatic break with the world, a mega-death that broke the idea that the culture was a part of the land.
For Sumerians, that was unexpected seasonal flooding from both freshwater and seawater sources. For the Aztec, it was being chased from their homelands until they were deep into swampy territory next to a lake.
From there, civilized cultures would start a hyper-specialized form of gardening–farming–where they would rip up everything so that the land would be forced to provide them and them alone with food.
This created a war-mentality where one class would have to protect the food, one would have to grow and distribute the food, and one would have to make sure the constant input of manpower needed to make this work would keep on coming.
If you were to ask people about their deepest held spiritual beliefs before the coming of civilization, they’d probably look at you like you were crazy. Their beliefs came out of their interaction with the land; it formed quite naturally from that dialogue over generations.
If you asked them specifics–like “Where do we come from?”; “Why are we here?”–they would have stories they could absolutely share with you. However, the frame was different. Life was a whole thing, not to be divided between ‘spirit’ and ‘not-spirit’ in a way that is generally understood now.
There’s a reason for that.
Civilization also faced similar questions: “Why are we here?”,”Why are we putting so much effort into this crap?”, etc. By all accounts, farming was a pretty shitty life. Like, on the scale where you felt sick and had deformed kids level of “shitty.”
And building cities, even worse. Especially the smell. The diseases. Living with animals that you now considered property and not friends. Faith–the ongoing dialogue between people and the greater world–was pretty much screaming “stop doing this!”
Someone, somewhere along the line, who really wanted to keep their job, came up with an idea. Faith used to be the comfort that you could take in knowing that a process much larger than you worked. Maybe, if you spent your entire life examining that process, you’d understand it better, but even if you didn’t that currently invisible mechanisms would still work fine.
The new definition of faith by Mr. Go-Getter placed the emphasis on the invisible part of the mechanisms, arguing that (a) the invisible was more important than the visible and (b) if the invisible grew visible, it was no longer worthy of being called “faith.”
This boiled down to “we (the folks in charge) know you hate this life. But trust us: invisibly, this way of life is AWESOME!” Spoilers: That explanation worked just fine for a while, but inevitably, people got fed up with it.
As more people grew dissatisfied with this explanation, they had to come up with more and more invisible gifts to heap upon the deserving. You could serve in the afterlife (heck… sometimes that’s how you GOT an afterlife), it was a battle between good and evil and evil was all the lazies (a good afterlife only coming to those who served well).
Spirituality grew further and further away from perceived reality and gods dwindled from a multitude to handfuls per culture to finally two. Even two wasn’t low enough. People were still miserable and trying to figure a way out.
This is where things get complicated.
Judaism comes in, in this world of divine kings and games of ‘our god is better than your god’ and awkward attempts at unification (“We’ve got to unify to fight the Bad God!” — Zoroaster, summarized). The common narrative is that the Jews responded to this polytheistic world by creating the idea of monotheism.
What if there is another way to look at this?
So here lies the context around Genesis. The Jews had battled their way out of generational slavery. They were a long ways away from their homeland, with not a lot of hope that they would successfully return. The kids were used to being forced to worship the gods of one (or more) of the same kingdoms who had enslaved them. How do you deal with that?
The Jews reacted by creating a clear pathway back to their land. An immediate-return religion.
YHVH — also known as the Tetragramaton, the name given to the Hebrew tribal deity. Loosely, it translates to “everything”.
Angel — taken from the Greek word “angelos” meaning messenger. Originally supposed to be “daimon”, which was a spiritual helper but the term was not used because it had both negative AND positive aspects. Applied to two different terms in the Bible: the Word of God, which encompasses emanations of YHVH so powerful it took physical form, and to the Elohim, which can be translated as ‘sons of god’
How do you explain to your kids that, even though they’ve spent their young lifetime watching Mom & Dad bow to a Golden Calf, that this is now wrong? How do you explain to them that the land they have never seen, never experienced, is so much better than where they were at? You tell them this:
“Look, my child. The universe loves us. It got us out of captivity. It protects and shelters and feeds us right now. And the gods in this universe? Well, if they rise up against us, the universe itself will shout out ‘I like these people! Leave them alone.’
So here’s some ground rules. There’s the Elohim and then there are foreign gods. You’re only going to truly know the Elohim once we return home. Until then, don’t bow down to these representations of gods.
How is a single god more important than the favor of the universe? Don’t worship them. You’ve got enough to do! And once we get home. Once the home is ours again, we are in the hands of the Elohim once again.”
They spent forty years in the desert, basically, a full couple of generations, to set this mindset into their descendants, which is a hell of a sacrifice. And obviously things didn’t work out exactly as intended. I am secure in saying that if I laid this down at the feet of many Jews, they’d be scratching their head.
But look at how absolutely utterly magnificent an attempt this is at trying to preserve a tribal legacy from the depredations of a foreign land and aid in coherence in getting home. A way to preserve the embers of your spirituality so it can be fanned into the open flames of the heart, in an unknown future.
In that aspect, it worked. Jews, as a tribal people, have a resilient and coherent society even today, synagogues helping to cement that cohesion even while the only temple to the Elohim can exist in Jerusalem.
It was an amazing, mostly successful attempt and I’m honestly in awe of it. It’s also sadly at the heart of the reason why they are persecuted (civilization really has a serious hatred for tribes, especially successful ones).
With that, I’m going to need to move on to where it all went awry.
About the time Yeshua was up to his/her hijinks (if you haven’t read Jesus & Alinsky yet, here you go)), the Romans were trying out a new unity spiritual technology of their own: rebranding. They’d conquer a place, usher in some roads, and start lecturing on how their gods were pretty much identical to the local ones.
So, if you wanted to continue your ways of worship, you simply had to call your gods by the Roman equivalents. And celebrate the Roman holidays too. And respect the Roman worship because, you know, your gods and the Romans were the same.
Rebranding worked great for a time but like all the other attempts at explaining why our ‘world’ was crappy, it started to fall apart as the Empire slowly did.
Here’s where Saul of Tarsus steps into the picture. Saul’s a sad man. He’s a Roman but his Dad really talks about how cool it is to be a Jew. It gets so contentious, Saul finally ends up going out and hunting down Jewish apocalypse cults, like this Yeshua cult that says the Roman Empire sucks and it’s going to fall horribly because it’s filled with lechers and perverts and just generally terrible people.
Saul gets a head injury and somewhere in the recovery period figures out his job was actually a bout of teen angst and decides to ‘become Jewish’ instead.
In context, consider how easy would it be for you, tomorrow, to become Maori or Saami or Tongva or Lakota.
Saul takes the Roman concept of rebranding to ridiculous heights, claims spiritual superiority, and takes the message of a tribal religion and applies it to the Empire. It probably would have stopped somewhere in there, except that Constantine spotted that it was a great way to unify his rapidly disintegrating empire.
“The Universe is OUR god. That means it’s so much bigger than your gods. And it likes us because Saul says so and Saul, who is now named PAUL like a good Roman, has talked to the Universe lately. Entry fee is: belief is Iesu. Thank you for playing.”
The above is likely not a direct quote from Constantine.
You really can’t get more detached from direct observation than saying ‘the universe loves ME more than it loves YOU’ and while this sham worked for a while, it ended up in the same division that claimed all the attempts to unify spirit. And as it did it gave birth to the ultimate twins of detachment.
Welcome to the spiritual technologies known as Science and Theosophy.
Science is the madness that results from faith being so long divorced from common practice. It looks at the last few thousand years of devastation and, instead of questioning the cultural wounds imposed on the people, says:
“There are forces in this universe but they are IMPERSONAL ones. They don’t care for us and they probably don’t even think or aren’t alive or aren’t of any importance.”
Tribal people from over forty thousand years of observation roll their eyes at its ignorance.
Theosophy is the rationalization that occurs when you are trying to fit all of those personal forces into a framework where they flat don’t fit. Theosophy appeared at the heart of the Spiritualist Movement in the late 19th Century and is best recognized today through both New Age and Waldorf movements. Theosophy wants to say:
“We are all part of a primitive space-time, the lowest of the low, and every ill we get, we deserve. In fact, we’ve asked for it. This is elementary school for gods. We (and the ongoing march of civilization as it progresses) are an “unfolding consciousness” (actual quote, btw) and once we’ve learned enough lessons, we will uplift from this precocious plane and enter the real Reality.”
And tribal people bang their head on the wall as theosophists try to sell dreamcatchers — summoning charms SPECIFICALLY made for the Spider God of a certain tribe — as special nightmare stoppers that these theosophists claim they ‘made in their past lives as native american shamans’.
So what is the takeaway from this entire post? E pluribus unum? Infinite diversity, infinite combinations? Perhaps it’s something as simple as highlighting both a seductive but dangerous (and ultimately futile) spiritual technology meant to unify the planet AND an attempt by one tribe to preserve their identity long enough to return to its roots. Only one of these technologies is worthy of study
The other only exists to be discarded, except as a warning to future generations and a lesson of history.
Some concepts lifted from this article: http://discuss.rewild.com/t/the-trouble-with-one-long-post/2183 originally published on rewild.com January 2nd, 2017