The Age of Myth – Chapter One

“They must find it difficult . . . those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”   G. Massey, Egyptologist.

 

The basic truths of human nature are the principles within us, which are the natural laws of the human dimension and include fairness, integrity, human dignity, service, and potential. These are the guidelines for human conduct. We all possess these truths and are creatures subject to all the basic laws of animal behaviour, because morality was inherent in humanity long before we achieved reason.

Too many of us think we are above these biological controls. That somehow thousands of years of genetic legacy is now beneath us because we think we have evolved so much, just in the past few hundred years, that we now reside above all those who came before us. Yet many people today are living unfulfilled lives because of such grandiose new motives and self-conceited ideas, which try to make us seem to be so much more than just a biological species. Our day to day lives get acted out, but it often seems something is missing, yet many of us feel we are more powerful, more innovative, smarter, and more financially well off than every other creature on the planet that has ever been. Our attitude has changed to where we now feel that reflecting on the past as being somehow offensive and hurtful. Meanwhile our character, the spirit within us, is being replaced by personality. We think we are growing and developing, but find ourselves ever the more disappointed and frustrated. We stopped listening to whom we are sometime in the last century and have become ignorant to our human nature.

Even before civilizations and organized religions, we knew that to attain love one must give their love to others to know what love is. That one could only be creative if they shared their creativeness with others; that only through the act of giving of something could one experience having; and to kill a fellow human being was wrong, no matter the reason. These are the fundamental truths that have guided us but are now being held suspect, by fear, faith, consumer-capitalism and even ourselves. Slapping one’s knee and shouting “I knew I shouldn’t have said that!” or “I knew that was going to happen” are cop-outs. We ignore our gut instincts and allow them to be shaped by others. Reality is we are an exploratory species now living in sedentary tribal groups, which stultifies our growth because our cultures and religious beliefs follow rigid patterns of behaviour and thought, thus restricting development and only promoting more needing and wanting. Such suppression of our fundamental urges is what is currently eating away at our souls and making us physically, mentally and morally sick. So much fear, spin and doubt has been cast into our hearts and minds that it keeps us illiterate functionally and spiritually.

Civilization has become a consumer and corporate world, with many religious beliefs continuing to hold onto the premise that their God is a supreme being who created the world in six days and who is to be feared. If indeed this is the case and that creation was the final goal, why was it not reached right away, all at once? Why was perfection not realized at the beginning? It could be because God is not a supreme being at all but instead is simply a word representing the definition of life.

If the adage “by our nature we are moral beings” is true, when did it all start to go askew? Perhaps when we stopped listening to the basic principles within ourselves and instead focused on the voices in our heads. Many believe, everything started to get confusing at the dawn of civilization and the invention of writing, five thousand years ago. It was a time when the human ego and the ability to view oneself apart from nature began to develop even more, where our mental processes started to separate from instinctive ones. Communication and dissemination of knowledge became symbolic and took the form of myth; though within these myths lay absolute truths concerning the processes of the natural world.

A myth is not always a lie, it also expresses something fundamental about how we perceive the world and human life as it really is. It also communicates to us our values and how we should live in the world and finally, myths show how we do in fact live in our worlds, through our lifestyles. Prominent anthropologist Clifford Geertz, formulates that a myth, in effect says “we live (or ought to live) the way we do because the world is the way it is. And because the world is the way it is, living as we do (or ought to) is uniquely satisfying and fulfilling.”

With civilization and the written word we became citizens and workers, and our villages became cities. And because politics, art, religion and even history are conscious, self mediating processes, they each dwell between the realms of spirit and life, idea and reality, just like our personal worlds do.

Pre-history, before the written word, is where our cultural origins are found, through science, archaeology and oral traditions, and is where the collective cultural heritage of all of humankind lies. Up until the mid 19th century some believed the Bible’s version of the world to be about 6,000 years old. By the end of that century the first humans were believed to be about 100,000 years old. Today, according to modern scientific archaeology, natural sciences, geneticists, and geology, and using radiocarbon, radiation exposure, and potassium argon dating techniques, we emerged in East Africa at least 2.5 million years ago, while the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, with the first life-form appearing on its surface within a billion years.

The dedicated work of anthropologists; studying humanity and it’s culture, archaeologists; systematically studying the lives and cultures of ancient humankind through the use of scientific and controlled techniques, physical anthropologists; studying the evolution, behaviour and biology of humankind and geneticists; opening up new doors nearly every day concerning what we are made of, where we are from and that we are all related, have all combined in teaching us much of our collective past, and with the laws of association and superposition, are revealing many truths of our history. Like Newton, Da Vinci, Hugo, Galileo, Einstein and all the others that came before and since, they believe that the importance of seeking truth is not in the divinity, but rather in the belief of the supremacy of direct knowledge over faith. What has come more into the light is the importance of culture as the distinctive adaptive system used by humans to evolve. It is humankind’s way to adapt to our varied environments, instead of being rigidly held in check and suffering.

All animals, including humans, adapted to their environments through biological evolution. If it adapted it survived, if unable to, it evolved into a new species, moved away or died. With humans, culture is the traditional system of belief and behaviour that is understood by an individual. Culture is both, our own version within a social group and the version shared by everyone collectively as a group. When animals die, their experience dies with them, with humans, when we die our experience continues on in our culture. The ongoing phenomenon of culture usually changes very slowly over time, which is what has allowed us as a species to adapt and evolve. Today, culture has reached such a fast pace that we, as a species, are finding it ever more difficult and confusing, because we can no longer adjust or keep up to it.

Though the strides in scientific, psychological and social disciplines in the last ten years have been incredible, we should be moving quickly to retrieve what knowledge we may find of our past before we continue to blindly, and at an ever quickening pace, “pave over paradise” amidst a global climate crisis.

In the first century AD, the most valuable library in the world was in Alexandria, in the north central part of Egypt, on the delta of the Nile River. It held more than half a million papyrus scrolls, in several temples which contained much of the wisdom and science of the previous thousand years, including the works of the Egyptians, Babylonians and the writings of the Greek philosophers. A Christian bishop entered these greatest of libraries and put them to the torch, destroying everything, because he thought himself to be expelling paganism. From 16th century Catholic missionaries destroying all records of the history and cultures of the peoples they exterminated in the Americas, to today’s industrial activity, road construction, urban sprawl, strip mining, deforestation, archaeological looting, bulldozer, crane and plough, we are erasing untold truths and more comprehensive knowledge of our past. In 2001, the Taliban destroyed two statues of the Buddha, both more than 38 meters tall and carved into the side of a mountain, nearly two thousand years ago, at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. It seems curiosity about our past will always outstrip our ability to find out more as time goes on, and more is lost.

Archaeology in the past few decades has made some truly “worthy of belief” discoveries. Advancements made via technology are opening chapters of history that we did not know about, with archaeology finally reaching depths that we have not reached yet, raising new answers of what we know of our past. This is why history is important. If we forget or not try to understand what the past tells us, it has been proven time after time, like a big carousal, we will continue to make the same mistakes.

The Achilles heel of archaeology is that only a tiny fraction of all organisms leaves fossil traces anywhere. Most fossils of Hominoid specimens come from sediments dating back a few million years ago, but in many areas where fossils may be, their access and discovery are blocked because of the continuing movements and cracks of the earth’s surface. There is also much evidence hidden beneath dense plant growth, forests, jungles, and man-made structures, and considering that at the height of the last ice age, 13,000 years ago, sea levels were about 350 feet lower than today means many traces of human presence is deep underwater. Finally, there is the reality that anything from the past, if it wasn’t a rock, has dissolved back into the earth.

As to human fossils, they give us evidence of size, proportion, and muscular development. Studying fossils has given us an understanding of the three most important phases of human evolvement; walking upright, a mandible thumb and increased brain size. What they cannot give us, and is based on an informed hypothesis, are facial features and how they thought, which is the most important to us.

To understand the evolvement of humans spiritually and culturally, one has to look back farther than when we first became citizens of civilizations, back to when we were still small families of hunters and gatherers and eventually farmers. Back to a time when the wisdom we desperately crave today, was ripe and fertile. Back to where everything that happened and existed was born of the same energy. Life was moment to moment, where a human being was not separate from creation but one with it and held great respect for nature; where life was brutal but not necessarily portrayed as such, for it was life. Back to the time before the development of the human ego, where a newborn child, a flower and a shiny rock still brought smiles to our faces and we were not criticized for doing so, nor did we feel guilty.

To be continued………..

 

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