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Friday, May 21, 2010


If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I've been on a spiritual quest for some time. I've been collecting interesting advisors along the way, people who come from a whole spectrum of belief systems and who are (mostly) happy to help quench my insatiable curiosity.

Recently, I have added a Rabbi to my collection. One of the things she spoke of was "the Spark".

Biblicly speaking, the spark is what God breathed into Adam to give him life. One might take this literally and believe that there were no human beings before Adam, but there are some difficulties in believing that. My friend told me that she believes that the moment God breathed life into Adam is really a metaphor for the awakening of man - it is the time when we as a species became spiritually aware.

This spark idea really rang some bells inside me.

The spiritual beliefs I have been researching most recently are the oldest ones around. Some say these beliefs - which I'll call Shamanism, since that is the closest label I've found to date - may go back as far as the Paleolithic Era, but it is commonly accepted to go back at least twelve thousand years.

It is assumed that the first ritualistic Shaman practices began at a time when people were switching from living as nomadic hunter-gatherers to living in early tribal farming communities. It’s really impossible to know for certain that it doesn't go back even before that because when people were still nomadic, they didn't have specific burial sites or home-sites, and so not many artifacts can be found.

Modern scientists, having found shaman burial sites that go back twelve thousand years, believe that people began to develop rituals and spiritual beliefs because moving from being nomadic to being communal farmers would have been a huge, traumatic lifestyle change. The scientists speculate that people needed the comfort of a spiritual belief because they were making such a dramatic societal change.

A more spiritual perspective might be to say it happened the other way around. Instead of developing a belief in God or Spirit(s) out of fear, perhaps it is Spirit that gave mankind the wisdom to move towards what they were meant to be. Perhaps that was a moment when God breathed into man and told him, "You are more than what you see around you. You can create a world far beyond what you've so far found."

Perhaps it is a natural progression to move from surviving on what could be found and taken from the land to living like people as we are today – building villages, growing what we need, and herding animals so that food would be available all the time and not only when something happened by or when we could track it down.

However, if this is a natural progression, then why are human beings the only animal that have developed in this way? Something set us apart, at a time when we were little more than the wolves who hunted beside us.

If God – however you see God – created everything, and if God decided it was time to give man an inkling of his true nature, then this spark breathed into early man, would have set him apart from everything that came before - not physically, but spiritually. If something this incredible happened, it would certainly have made it into the stories that were passed down from that time on.

I believe our modern day beliefs come from these early stories - and if we look at only the things that are common among all religions and beliefs, we will find the true aspects of those original stories.

If you believe that God breathed life into mankind – gave him spirit or soul – then you believe that at least one human being walking on this planet was connected to God in a way that is more profound than what most of us see in our daily lives. It seems likely to me that if there was one, there have been others, throughout the ages, who have also been given a clue to the infinite, and a job to pass that on.
You could use the term prophet, savior, clairvoyant , mystic, or shaman. Abraham, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Krishna, the Dalai Lama, and who  knows how many more?

So, it’s the old chicken and egg question. Did mankind develop and progress without help and then develop early religion during a time of stressful change – or did God instill this ability to change into man - and only man?


  1. Very interesting. When did religion start?

    I say it goes back to before the nomadic life in the from of communal consciousness. Back to when nothing walked on land. Think a school of fish going where they go as one. Before words.

    It might go back further when there was not life before light hit matter and there was no energy.

  2. I've always been interested in Shamanism. I'm not as curious as you are...I realize how fleeting my time here is...and want to soak up every ounce of goodness I can while I'm here. I'm striving to have balance in my life...

  3. Michael - yes, wonderful! I love the way you push it here. We don't know. Science tells us what scientists guess, but anything that far back is based on assumptions, and we know what assuming gets us.
    I love the concept of group conscience as well. I believe we are all still connected at that level but we are so caught up in the material world that we don't see it.

    Sherry - I think I understand what you're saying. I am in a very interesting and heated email discussion with a rabbi. It's quite fascinating since she is so knowledgable about her own religion and I am entirely going on intuition and what I've gleaned from reading, watching, etc. She has always been in one faith. She always knew who she was and for her, it fit. She asked me why I want to go back to the dawn of history to try and understand a religion that is not understandable.
    I said I don't want to understand it, I want to live it.
    She said, why would you be drawn to a religion in which you require a go-between - you don't need anyone to speak to God for you.
    I said I don't want to find a Shaman... I want to BE a Shaman.

    More on that later...

    thanks for reading and speaking your mind

  4. "I said I don't want to find a Shaman... I want to BE a Shaman."

    That made me laugh. "I don't need a source I am a source."

  5. Yes! we are all a source... all on our own and yet we are never really alone.

  6. The religon = trauma argument has always puzzled me because for me, relgion = awe and wonder.

    I've always thought our capacity as humans to see something wondrous in life beyond the practical actions of eating, working, birthing, nurturing, and sleeping is what has given rise to religion. Some people are more aware of this wonder than others, giving the appearence that some have a purer connection. Those who have such an awareness also find it hard to communicate their awareness except by creating situations that are evocative and open-ended. This leads to the development of story and ritual.

    There is a darker reason I think as well for the tendency of many religions to promote the idea that "awareness" is the property of a select few. Wonder also gives a person power. On one hand, stories and rituals allow us to evoke and share wonder, but they also allow us to substitute the means to wonder with the actual possession of wonder. It is a small step for people to start attributing power to the rituals and stories themselves rather than to the wonder and healing they evoke. Thus story and ritual can be abstracted away from their evocative purpose and used as tools to obtain and hold onto power.

    I think all religious traditions with a well developed community have this double dynamic. This includes even old/modern religions like paganism because anytime human beings join in community our political nature starts showing forth. On one hand there are people who want to share both a personal and a historic sense of wonder. On the other hand there are people who want to take power.

    As for the development of Shamanism corresponding to the development of non-nomadic lifestyles. I wonder if the development reflects the fact that as people settle, political power becomes much more significant because relationships are long lasting. If you don't like someone you can't just get up and leave.

  7. hi shen, I too have been interested in shamanism. But haven't learned much about it. But if you haven't already heard of her, or maybe I've mentioned her before, I read a book once I bet you would like called "soul retrieval" by Sandra Ingerman who is a shamanic healer. Amazing book dealing with healing from trauma using shamanic healing techniques.

  8. Elizabeth, I don't know how I missed this comment til now - I love that first line: Religion = Awe. The entire response is so well-thought out and well-said, and I agree with you just about point for point. It is the power aspect of organized religion that seems to be the problem. In wanting to have the power, many religious leaders put stipulations on the relationship others can have with God - for instance, one must go to confession to a priest instead of just confessing their sins directly to God. This puts the priest in a position of power. that is just one example, from one religion, but it is the kind of thing that happens all the time.

    It's impossible to say what first triggered man to develop a spiritual connection - I guess I just prefer to think that it was God. It feels right to me to think that. I feel a connection, and I believe others do, and if someone felt this kind of connection that long ago, it would certainly explain the development of religion as well as anything else I've ever heard.

    Katie, I need to look for that book, You have mentioned it before... one of these days I will have time to read whatever I want. I'm compiling a list of books so that when that time comes I will know which way to turn. thanks for suggesting it!


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