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?