To ponder this subject, it is required to place oneself back in the mists of time as a starting point. Since imagination is requisite, I beg the reader to allow for my imagination and to employ their own imagination while reading. Remember that your conceptions are as valid as anyone's due to the fact that none drawing breath at present were witness to the events we are considering.
We do have, for those who wish to peruse such information, written records that span about 5300 years. This is around the time when we moved from the Chalcolithic (copper-working) phase to the Bronze Age. Now, that is a mighty lot of written record and with a little diligence is more available now than ever before for us to examine. We will take in what has been written, fill in the blanks with our imaginations and use our own common sense to deal with anomalies.
In my own investigations and those of many a better scholar than myself, it becomes clear that for a starting point, man looked to the sun as a deity. A thin-skinned, naked creature with no claws or fangs. Unable to run and leap like those predators with which he had to contend. Obviously, it was worse at night as he shivered in the gloom contemplating the cold light of the moon and pondering the twinkling stars. What a blessed relief each rising of the sun must have been, long before the orb had been named.
You could say it was man's first best friend and I would add that fire came next and the wolf came third. The heavens began to be studied by night and day by some who had inclination and opportunity. This study yielded much information that was useful for many applications. The Chaldeans worked out astrology systems and began to name the orbs and groups of orbs they saw in the band of sky overhead.
At this point we may conjecture on the possibility of a previous civilization on earth, quite human but of greater antiquity and already privy to the knowledge being “discovered” in the paragraph above. Any student of the work of Michael Cremo will be put in a position of adding this possibility into their personal theory after examining his startling evidence on the antiquity of our species.
Thus, it may be that astrology and astronomy were “uncovered” rather than discovered by a few who survived a major natural disaster and carefully passed the information on to a select few with the purpose of controlling the rest. It would appeal to those among the herd who shunned manual labor and the uncertainty of self-sufficiency. Imagine pockets of different people surviving floods, droughts, or volcanic actions in various locations and other survivors who were at a “higher” state of civilization moving among them bereft of their constructs but possessed of their accumulated knowledge.
Whether the “first” astrologists of record were self-taught or tutored is of no consequence to our cogitations. We know that systems developed and were subsequently adopted and adapted to differing locations and cultures. The religious systems of our world today may be classified, divided into ever smaller groupings and traced backwards through written records and physical symbols to the shivering naked man worshiping the sun from the first paragraph.
The earliest motifs to be incorporated into the first and all subsequent myths were taken from actual created nature as observed and recorded by man. The apparent cycles of the sun, moon and the stars and the seasonal cycles driven by the travels of the earth around the sun and the moon around the earth in the vastness of the ocean of stars. By use of the concept of the circle, the right triangle and the straight edge, a form of sun-dial can be constructed.
Simple patient observation and a method of recording data will reveal to the operator that the sun appears to travel across the sky from east to west. Within the circle of a complete year it climbs a bit higher each day for half of the time, then it decreases altitude until a point is reached where it stops this motion. For three days it hangs, suspended, as it were. After this, it begins its journey again and climbs higher each day. At two points in the circle the length of darkness and light are equal. If we connect these points, we have a line which divides our circle into two equal halves. One point occurs in warm weather and one occurs in cooler weather. If we mark points were the sun climbed highest and where it appeared to stop or die, we will find that the joining of these two points creates a straight line which intersects our first line at a 90 degree angle.
We have the first cross within a circle symbol. It is the basis of many wonderful geometric and arithmetic truths which can be derived from it. The distance in the sun's height between the mid-summer and its opposite marks out the tropics, either side of the equator. If the operator made a mark for each sun rise on the circle, he would have inscribed 360 equidistant locations, except for the three marks made on the same location at mid-winter. These marks came to be degrees.
From the four points where the cross touched the circle came all the main holy days of all the cultures in all times. You may know them as Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall. From these basic beginnings, religions and religious practices are derived. There were differences of opinion as to how to deal with the three days mentioned and you may know them as Christmastime. Several different methods of accounting for them gave rise to differing calendars.
In mythology, where stories are created as memory aids to preserve observed data, one may discover many different characters hanging, dying or journeying in the land of the dead for three days, Odin and Christ being only two examples of many others. From the daily rounds of the sun came myths of heavenly struggles between light and dark, birth and death. From the moon, with “her” reflected light of the sun came concepts of male and female, yin and yang, father and mother and the son of their union.
It is my conjecture that different people in different locations made observations of creation as it stood and attempted to preserve the data via the mediums of eventual writing, mythology or stories which were peopled by characters symbolic of the natural phenomena which was observed. A growing store of this data was extrapolated into all the sciences as we know them. Anyone could have done it, it only required the desire to know, the patience to observe and the freedom from want.
I believe many people “discovered” fire every time they happened to be where lightning struck a tree. It was the men who figured out how to preserve the embers and eventually to create sparks at will from flints who became the first priests. The first wise-guys, if you will. Each new application of knowledge gave rise to greater security, freedom and enabled the observations mentioned above to continue.
A full stomach and a warm fire leads to contemplation of the stars. It is my belief that the constellations could have been named anything and could have suggested any shapes that the observers wished. It happened so long ago, that the motifs have become entrenched into the consciousness of the people who made it their business to name the stars.
Several differing astrological systems came to be in different times and places from Chaldea, to Mesopotamia to Egypt to India. It is very possible that these systems of mythology, belief and subsequent worship may well have been tailor-made to suit the particular tastes and varying degrees of sophistication of a given population after careful observation by a traveling priest class. In that way, any population could be brought into an already extant man-made system with minimum kick-back by simply adapting local motifs into the imported system via the “magic” of symbols and their many disguises.
Isolating certain individuals from amongst those to be brought under control by offering them special status, comfort or power would effectively perpetuate the control, as those chosen would be instructed or initiated into a portion of the “superior” knowledge of the conquering belief system.
To sum up the foregoing, I will say that all religious systems and all mythology share a common ancestry which is rooted in the dim past. The first “good guy” was the sun and the first “bad guy” was the darkness that fell each night. Good always triumphed over evil in the end but had to be contended with nonetheless.
If we take the Old Testament for a starting point, we can lay it over the other theologies and cosmologies and with a little work and some dictionaries we may begin to see a master pattern emerge in the motifs that present themselves. Repeatedly, we will come across the Father, the Mother, the Child, the good god and the evil adversary. Each system has its prophets and sages. At this stage we may begin to classify our religions into groups according to major differences. Differences not in names of deities but in beliefs and concepts.
For example, some believe in multiple gods and some in one god. Some believe in multiple lives and some in a single life with a possible afterlife which is of an entirely different nature. All the while we are classifying these beliefs we must constantly bear in mind that all these beliefs were conceived of by mortal beings and that all they had to use for inspiration and instruction was the very same created world they found themselves in regardless of how they interpreted the observations they made.
Some came up with male and female gods or a single male god or an androgynous god. As people grew into larger populations and contact between different groups occurred there was much borrowing from the available traditions as they mixed and mingled. At the earliest stages of religion, I concur with other thinkers on this subject, that there was a period of innocence wherein man stood in awe and respect of the created reality in which he lived.
The natural world was his cathedral, his every breath was a prayer and his relationship with his god had no intermediary, priest, medicine man, or Pope. There were no tithes, there was no Sabbath, there were no temples, there were no sacrifices. This came later and the mind of mortal man is clearly evident when I consider these additions.
Think for a moment the ultimate audacity of presenting a physical offering such as a basket of corn or a piece of meat to a deity that one professes to believe is the author and creator of the entire universe. A more likely scenario is the presenting of the same sacrifice or offering to a priest at a temple. This could be explained by a belief that only certain special men could communicate with the god or gods.
This transition from man and maker to man, middleman and maker marks a major turning point in the history of religion. In this way, the priests were free to study the created universe and derive their sciences. At the same time they could manage their flock while also conducting deep studies into the psychology of people and groups of people. Over time many alterations occurred.
One such alteration was the result of an insistence on perfection. Instead of accepting the world as is was, those who first traced the sun's journey through a year, were stymied and perplexed by the three days wherein it appeared to stop moving. Since the rest of the journey fit with mathematical and symmetrical precision into a circle of 360 degrees, something had to be bent to make it all fit. A very human mistake. Had they perceived that the earth traveled in an ellipse not a circle, this first alteration would have been unnecessary. It seems likely to me that the fact that the earth is tilted at 23 ½ degrees and not 23 or 24 and that it travels in an ellipse rather than a circle is a perfect design and affords some of the momentum and variety that we suffer and enjoy by turns down here on the ground.
All religions come with rules and observances. There are obligations and there are taboos. It cannot be argued that for men to live in large groups in relatively close proximity that there need be rules. What we call civilization cannot exist without rules. Outside of this way of living there are already the unwritten laws of nature. They are governed by common sense and were already in force long before the advent of religion.
Anyone reading this is living in the civilized world as constructed by man and hence artificial. We are living in an artificially man-made system with an ever growing set of man-made rules as well as the rules of our various adulterated religions. The schisms are legion but the roots are very few in number.
If one considered the usefulness of a single rule, such as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, it would soon appear that this single rule eclipses the necessity for thousands of others.
That is, if it were practiced. Therein lies the rub. Enter the ten commandments or Decalogue. A relatively compact set of essential common sense rules for peaceful coexistence of large groups of people. When one considers the late date of their appearance, one will have to admit that people had been observed for a mighty long time prior to drawing up this list.
We can see in recent history how the first Pope took these ten from the Christians and removed the one that had to do with bringing idols into church and split another one to make the finished document retain ten rules. In this way, he managed to induce his pagan subjects and his Christian subjects to accept a hybrid belief. That is how Sunday came to be the day of worship rather than the Jewish and Christian Saturday. Pagans worshiped the sun, regardless what name they called him.
The pagan gods and goddesses became Saints and life went on. Many practices came into being that had nothing to do with the Christian beliefs. This was brought to a climax when the business of selling absolution was challenged in Germany by the Rosicrucian Martin Luther. Christianity fragmented into a thousand shards, each claiming to be the true version and none resembling the doctrine of the founder.
This is found in other religions as well. Once a large enough following is built up, there are sharks attracted to the school of fish. A group of these sharks will usually hold a council such as the one at Nicaea where many of the major variants of a given religion are debated and the “final version” decided on and decreed to the flock.
When one studies the dates of inclusion of the concepts of Hell and Judgment into the major religions today it can be a clue to the alterations made to the religion as power struggles ensued within the hierarchy of the religion. It must be remembered that mystery and promises are great motivators of people and thus great instruments of control.
How great were some of the great religions? I have read descriptions of Greek visitors to Egyptian holy places who were overwhelmed by the splendor of gold faced, jewel-encrusted shrines and chambers, who were nauseated to see behind the veil inside the holy of holies that the deity worshiped was perhaps a crocodile or a snake. Were the Egyptians wise? Yes, very. Were they learned in the sciences? Yes, very. Did they create their religion from scratch? My research says no. Did others borrow and adapt the religion of the Egyptians. My research says yes.
Simply take the Osirian cycle and hold it up to the religion of Babylon, Zoroaster, the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, etc. Change the names and symbols and you will wind up with the oldest myths encoded in the first zodiac of Chaldea, the later zodiacs of the Babylonians, of India and other zodiacal arrangements in Asia or the Middle-East.
Some religions today have a figure of a Messiah or Savior. In some this figure is yet to come and in others he has already come. Some have claimed that they were he and have met with some success as measured by the millions who followed after them. Yet others believe that the Messiah isn't a single entity or person, rather that it is the group of adherents to the given religion as a whole. Many a bitter argument hangs on the variety of human interpretations to written scripture, especially prophesy.
Some religions believe in reincarnation and that after as many births, lives and deaths as it may take, each individual soul will attain the perfection of godhood. A belief in the perfection of man via that man's works. This is a simple major category that thousands of versions of the most ancient pagan beliefs can be placed within even as they are continually churned out with new names and window dressing.
Another category of religion holds that man is imperfect. That is not to say that man is evil. It is to say that man is simply a man, created exactly as he is. Weak in many physical ways and possessed of an intellect to compensate for those physical shortcomings when compared to other creatures he shares the planet with. He has but one life and if we ponder this it becomes clear that it is only the fact of certain death that acts to impart any real meaning to his day to day life.
In the first category there is a god to reward the diligent hard working soul and a destroyer to punish the lazy or wayward soul. There are a plethora of judges, helpers, angels, guides and demons both spiritual and temporal. In religions of this type there are caste systems, racial prejudices and slavery. The ill luck of the oppressed is believed to be their own fault and even necessary for their continued perfection. Man evolves from slime mold upwards to godhood. Madam Blavatsky and her books came long before Hitler attempted to practice what he thought he understood from them. In these religions to be born is to be entombed with corruptible flesh.
In the second category there is the man and his maker, a simple code of ethics and the problem of his imperfection has been dealt with in advance. A necessary amendment in order to make the way open to all who would be excluded if such were not the case. That is to say, those who come from a belief in the perfect circle and must readjust themselves to realizing that it is an ellipse and that's OK. Man is as he has been made and has free will to choose his actions and bears direct responsibility for those actions.
This second category is my understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Not my interpretation of the New Testament as a whole, the Epistles, the Psalms nor the Old Testament. Rather, it is my understanding of the words in red that are attributed to him. It is a simple practical religion contrary to all other religions, which share the same ancient root and have encompassed the globe. It stands in a category alone. It is also, in my opinion, not to be found inside any of the thousand schisms of “Christianity” nor their churches in our day.
You may be impatiently wondering when I will get to the part about the Atheists. I have only encountered these creatures in urban environments around the world, particularly in Europe, especially in France. They are usually smoking Galoise, sipping Absinthe and thumbing through Voltaire, Camus or Marx. Few have read the last words of Voltaire or his letters. My advice to them is to leave the city and its social assistance programs and climb a mountain after traversing an ocean, crossing a plain and penetrating a forest. I wager that by the time they reach back to their favourite cafe on the boulevard that they will not only have seen with their own eyes that there is a god but will also have developed a relationship with him in their own way.
To those that believe that they are becoming god, I simply say to them, leave your corporate headquarters, your mansion or your ashram retreat and show me one thing however simple that you can create from nothing without employing materials already created for you.
If we study the symbology of the most ancient of the pagan religions we can prove that many “modern” religions are very old indeed. If we go back to the myth of Osiris we see he was murdered by Typhon his rival brother. He was nailed shut in a coffin and put into the Nile. His sister-wife, Isis sought out the corpse in another land and after returning it to Egypt she buried it. It was discovered by Typhon again and this time Osiris' body was hacked into fourteen parts and his phallus tossed into the Nile and eaten by a fish. The other thirteen parts were scattered around the world. Isis gathered them up and reanimated the corpse by magic and using a golden phallus in place of the missing member she managed to get pregnant with the child Horus before Osiris again expired.
Representations of the missing phallus became objects of veneration at this point in history so many years ago. The Egyptians called them obelisks. The Washington Monument in DC is an obelisk. There are others in New Zealand, Texas, London, Paris and the Vatican to name only a very few locations. Penis worship caught on and spread around the globe. When a certain engineer was touring bombed cathedrals in Europe after World War Two he found a phallus inside a Christian alter that had been dislodged. He was surprised. Later, he checked other alters and found the same inside many. He was perplexed. If we substitute the word “Doctrine” for the name Osiris, the word “Church” for the name Isis and the words “Body of Initiates” for Horus we can derive much more meaning from the fable. It is interesting that the entire story is repeated at Babylon with Nimrod, Semiramis and Ninus. Again with Bacchus and again with Tammuz and again with Zoroaster and again with Balder and so on.
If a person visits any local cemetery they will see some red stone examples of obelisks on the graves of important men from that locale. Most of these men may have attended Christian churches, Synagogues or Mosques. So how may we explain the penis of Osiris as a choice of headstone? How far have we really come in our religious beliefs? People ignore the possibility of the existence of certain religions that do not proselytize or those that have been suppressed and driven underground.
Some are so cloaked with disguises that the body of initiates are not privy to the true doctrine of their own church. All very confounding and frustrating. There is an inscription concerning Isis of Sais which appears on the front of her temple in that city: "I, Isis, am all that has been, that is or shall be; no mortal Man hath ever me unveiled."
Diodorus writes of a famous inscription carved on a column at Nysa, in Arabia, wherein Isis described herself as follows: "I am Isis, Queen of this country. I was instructed by Mercury. No one can destroy the laws which I have established. I am the eldest daughter of Saturn, most ancient of the gods. I am the wife and sister of Osiris the King. I first made known to mortals the use of wheat. I am the mother of Orus the King. In my honor was the city of Bubaste built. Rejoice, O Egypt, rejoice, land that gave me birth!"
I will close these theogitations with the reminder that there is in fact nothing new under the sun. Consider the possibility that to those who truly believe in a creator and who accept what has been created and their place within that creation, the intellect is a blessing that shares a table with common sense. It need not be an adversary to be feared and it need not be a devil to be worshiped. As far as this cowboy can see, you are in one case being led by other imperfect men who would have you give up one of your creator endowed gifts and in the other case you are simultaneously admitting the existence of your creator and truly believing that you can do a better job. A stroll down Recorded History Lane will show that one is dumb and the other is dumber.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.