Rationalizing the irrational.
I have a very clear idea of why religion came about. The early humans were starting to grasp concepts which were hard to grasp in their primitive minds. We are talking around 160,000-40,000 years ago. As we evolved as a species, we grew a greater capacity to learn and understand action and consequence. We began to develop ideas about why things happened.
For example: We killed a deer. A big storm came that night and flooded the nearby river, washing out the valley. We must have angered the sky people by our actions. We must offer a sacrifice in return to appease them, and ask for permission to hunt the deer in the future.
It is understandable. As a primitive race, it is hard to see past the physical reasons why things happen. Weather being determined by climate patterns is a foreign idea, requiring complex reasoning which simply didn’t exist at that period in human history. Even though intellectual reasoning was beginning to emerge. Developmentally wise, the brain is built to rationalize, in whatever way it is capable of. Essentially this is were belief in the supernatural begins to conceptualize.
While there is nothing recorded during this early religious period, you can see glimpse of it left behind in the monolithic sites, and burial mounds of the Neolithic people around the world. It is widely believed the early modern humans passed down information verbally. As learned skills for survival, eventually evolving into ritualistic practices.
This left a lot of room to develop many unique rituals, based off of individual ideas on why the world works the way it does. Because each group has only their experiences, and environment to learn from.
Pictured above and to the right is an etching on a kerbstone at the Knowth mound in County Meath, Ireland. The meaning behind the etchings lost thousands of years ago. It is a shame we will never truly know the ancient rituals preformed by the ancient people, and the meanings they held.
The old ways were forgotten, as more turned from the ‘hedonistic’ Old Gods. Eventually, as civilizations develop, wars were fought over who’s God was the ‘true God’.
If you go by recorded history, the earliest know recorded religious works were in fact Islamic. Followed closely by Christianity. Which, according to some theology scholars, are just different interpretations of the same God.
A deity is shaped to fit the personal views of a vocal and charismatic ‘prophet’. (My view on all religions summed up in one sentence.)
Something old, something new, something borrowed…
It has been said on many occasions paganism ritual is present in Christianity. I have not studied Islamic faith extensively, so I don’t know if there is evidence of paganism in their teachings. Though, I would venture to guess there is.
As I said above, it is very much present in early, and modern Christian practices, and writings. God demanding the sacrifice of a son. Jesus’ birth coinciding with the Yule sabbath. The preforming of miracles. The messiah raising from the dead. The power of prayer and intention. The burning of sacred herbs. The banishing of evil spirits, and the belief in an afterlife. Having a priest consecrate, well anything, making it sacred through the power of touch and word, even dipping it in holy water. All rituals steeped in supernatural symbolism and belief.
When developing spiritual ideals, you fall back on the life experience you have acquired over the years. This includes the ritualistic practices and core belief systems you were taught from an early age. If those ideals don’t jive with your experiences as you age, you scrap what doesn’t fit, reshaping and molding it into something that does.
These early prophets still practiced the rituals they grew up with, but under a new God shaped to fit what they knew to be ‘true’ about the world. Then, in order to make it legitimate, they began writing it down; the way they wished it to be remembered. Behold the mighty power of the written word.
I think this is what draws me in; wanting to know more about the pagan roots of religion. That, and the nagging feeling that science can’t explain everything. The knowledge that even science has a corner in the supernatural realm (String theory anyone?), allows me to rationalize that maybe energy and auras aren’t too far fetched. Maybe practical and practicing don’t have to be separate concepts. Finding parallels between faith and science, isn’t difficult to do. You only have to care enough to look. A minor matter of molding and perspective.