Eden

Many human myths contain the story of an ancient garden, among them the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden described in the Book of Revelation from the Hebrew and Christian bibles. Many other ancient religions contain similar stories, leading to one of two conclusions:

  • The story is true
  • Something else is going on here

Since I am fairly sure that Satan did not literally appear to a woman named Eve in the form of a snake in order to tempt Eve into rebelling against God’s first law, I suspect that something else is going on here. This article tends to confirm what I suspect: The Garden of Eden myth is an echo of our ancient lives as paleolithic humans. While life as a paleolithic hunter gather would have been harder than our current lives in some respects (shelter from the weather, for example), in many ways, paleolithic life was pretty idyllic. Once the agricultural revolution occurred (about 15,000 BC), for humans that embraced agriculture, life became much, much harder: Death rates from disease soared and lifespan plummeted. Although human numbers increased hugely, the quality of life of early neolithic humans was terrible. Thus, early neolithic humans (especially those displaced and enslaved by early neolithic empires like Sumeria, Accadia, Egypt, and, later, the Roman Empire) would have looked back upon the days of paleolithic life with incredible longing and nostalgia. This is the basic idea behind the Shadow World series of posts I have been writing. There is no doubt that paleolithic humans survived in large number into the time of the Roman Empire. (They still survive to this day in some areas like Australia.) Many of the “barbarians” displaced and enslaved by the Romans were paleolithic hunter-gather cultures which have disappeared today.

One such group that has always fascinated me is the Faerie. Yes, there actually were people known as the Faeries. They were described in detail by the American writer Parke Godwin in his exception book Firelord, no longer available in print, unfortunately. The Faerie were likely the original human inhabitants of the British Isles, and were still extent at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD. The movie The Eagle (an excellent film which is annoyingly not available on any digital form I have found) shows the collision between paleolithic humans in far northern Britain and the Roman Empire. I suspect they had the Faerie in mind when they made this film, although the race portrayed in the film is not a pygmy race, as the Faerie apparently were. Arthur was supposedly the child of a Faerie queen (Igraine) and a Roman centurion (Uther Pendragon).

The Faerie were regarded as magical. They lived in holes in the ground, had amazing woodcraft, herbology and the like, and were adamantly opposed to agriculture. They worshipped a Goddess named Lugh who was represented as the Earth. When someone plowed a field, the Faerie regarded it as wounding their Goddess. Also, the term “beyond the pale” refers to the circle of metal spikes that Roman folks would place around their villages to keep out the Faerie, who feared and avoided metal.

The fate of the Faerie was annoyingly typical: They were wiped out. Their genetics still survive in the descendants of Romans whose children were stolen and replaced by Faerie babies, a term known at the time as fostering (from which we get the term foster child). Since the Faerie were remarkable as midwives, the Roman women who lived in the British Ilses would often use them for helping with child birth. In lean years, the Faerie midwives would secretly kill the Roman baby and replace it with one of their own, knowing that the Romans would raise the child and feed it. Arthur’s mother, Igraine, was supposedly one of these foster children. Other than that, though, the Faerie, like most paleolithic cultures in the world, are all gone.

More later.

Lopo

Lopo was old. He felt his years. They were beyond count. His village had little use for an amount that large: They simply called it “many”. He had lived for many years, and he knew it. He squatted before his fire pit, stirring the thin soup he had made with the squirrel Hana had brought him. Poor enough gift it was! He was hungry, and this squirrel was small. Still, it was something. And she was so grateful when he gave her son back to her, fully healed.

He was a Shaman. It had not always been so. Before, he had been one of the Young Men, hunting and chasing girls. That was how he met Lelu, his Other, curse her! She had become his Other, and born him six sons and four daughters. But when the village chose him as the Shaman, she became angry, and she left. She thought the village had little need of two shamans. And so she took her brood, and moved up the hill. She hated him now, may the Goddess curse her!

When he became an older man, but younger than he was now, Lelu and he had been happy together. He had been one of the Elders, and he sat in the Place of Meeting each night. When they could find the Sacred Herb, they burned the flowers and inhaled the smoke. Otherwise, they drank the Water of Life until they became stupid. Sometimes they would laugh so hard! The Water of Life was strong medicine! But not as strong as Sacred Herb. The smoke of the Sacred Herb burned, but it awakened the True Self, and touched the Real World.

And that was how it happened. He was at the tent of meeting, and Ralo had told them that the Water of Life that he was fermenting was ruined. Some monkeys had gotten into it, and broken the skin. Now it would be many days before they could drink the Water of Life again. Lopo had thought hard upon this. He asked this question: “Shouldn’t we then seek the Sacred Herb? Since the Water of Life is denied us, why not inhale the smoke of the Sacred Herb?”

After a shocked silence, the Elders had begun debating this question: Could they actually use the Sacred Herb without the Water of Life? They did not remember any time in the past when they had had one without the other. The Water of Life was such a daily part of their lives, that it was many days since anyone could remember being without it.

In the end, they decided to search for the Sacred Herb. Lopo was proud: His question had led the Elders to a new Path! This was the first time that he could remember them taking anything he had said seriously.

He knew where there was a patch of Sacred Herb, but it was beyond their range, and into the area that was used by their rival village: The Punta. For many days, the People and the Punta had lived in peace, but occasionally Lopo would venture onto the lands blessed by the Spirits of the Puntas and take Sacred Herb, possom, squirrels or some other food. He knew this was wrong, but since no one else knew about what he was doing, he did not care.

He found the patch. The Sacred Herb was there! It was flowering! He began to pick the flowers and stuff them into his loincloth.

He felt the spear hit his head behind his right ear. He did not know it then, but it pierced the hard part of his head, and his True Self began to leak out onto the ground. The Punta hunter who had attacked him ran away. He knew that the Punta would be very afraid of a blood feud if Lopo died. When the People found him, he was senseless and raving.

For weeks he hovered between the Shadow World and the Real World. He wandered on many strange paths and saw many visions. The People were afraid of his strange and delerious cries. After a while, he got better, although his eyes did not work anymore. Instead of seeing the things in the Shadow World, he simply saw a grey mist, and occasionally he had more visions.

Ultimately, the village Elders met and decided that there was nothing to be done except to make him a shaman. He was useless for anything else now. So they threw him out and made him live in the cave in the hillside overlooking their spring campsite. And then they began to bring him patients who they expected him to heal.

At first, he was completely useless: How ashamed he had been when he had failed to heal Shiro! The poor child simply had a case of pox. He knew how to heal that now, but at the time he had been completely stupid. Shiro’s mother Lina had come to him after Shiro died and had thrown dung at him. How his face had burned! She had walked up to him in tears and had struck him across the face. He stood and wept with her, feeling her loss, and knowing that he was the cause of it. He was ashamed.

It took a long time, but finally they had brought more patients, and he had improved. Now he was as good a shaman as Lelu, and maybe better. But Lelu still hated him for taking her place, and he doubted she would ever forgive him.

For now, life was good and the forest gave everything he needed. His People gave him their respect. He knew that he had a place with them, even if he was forever an outcast.

More later.

Ti

Ti walked silently through the forest. The Great Light shown his face upon the forest floor, dappling Ti’s surroundings with brilliant light. Everywhere Ti looked, he saw the Spirits of the Real World. He knew the world he touched, hunted and moved in was merely a Shadow World. The Spirit World, that was the Reality. He greeted the Great Rock Spirit as he moved past the diving cliff. He looked down upon the River Spirit, which was one of his best friends: River provided him and his village with the blessings of fish and water. He knew that his village would be hurting right now without the gifts of the River Spirit. The Winter Spirit was upon the Shadow World, and food was scarce. Although it was eternal spring in the Real World, the evil Winter Spirit came and waged war against the forest. Only the Spring Spirit could defeat Winter. He longed for Spring to come again and bring life back to the Shadow World.

He thought about Chana, and his love for her. He wanted her again, although he knew that The Gift was still inside her. He hoped that she would conceive this time. Although only 13 summers had touched her dark skin, he knew that she would bear him many sons. Since the day that he had first touched her, his love for her had grown. It was a powerful thing: This love. It touched him deeply, and he knew that it was a gift of The Goddess.

His entire life was flooded and pregnant with spiritual power: Everything he touched, saw, smelled, tasted and heard spoke to him of one absolute reality. He was as sure of this as anything else in his life. He knew that the Real World was a more powerful reality than the Shadow World. He knew that his True Self lived within the Real World, and that he could feel the presence of his True Self, even if he could not always see him. He could sometimes actually speak to his True Self when he went on his vision quests.

His Spirit Guide could help him to contact his True Self. His Spirit Guide was a wolf named Allepo. Sometimes when he drank the juice that Lopo provided him, he would enter into Allepo, and for a time he could run and hunt with the wolf’s swift, fleet legs. How good it felt to run with the Air Spirit through the forest! Lopo was old and bleary with his eyes dark from the years. Yet he was a powerful shaman, and his potions were strong. Ti knew that Lopo was crazy: Who wouldn’t be? After all, Lopo was always dwelling with the Real World. As his eyes dimmed to this World of Shadow, the Real World became stronger to him. Now he was always talking and muttering to the spirits. He could be frightening! Yet Ti longed to run again as the wolf.

As Ti approached the village he heard the sounds of laughter. His entire life was bound up in this village: He had never seen another person other than those who dwelt in the village. Everyone he knew, everyone he had ever known, was a member of his own family. He did not think of himself as One. No. Rather, he thought of himself as The Village. It was the gift from The Goddess to his family.

His friend and brother Rox approached him, and told him excitedly: “You need to come now. We are going on a hunt!”

More later.

Chana

Chana stooped down at the pool and looked into the eyes of her True Self. Softly, her True Self touched her cheek just as she did so. She wondered how her True Self knew everything that she did before she did it. She knew that her True Self was a prisoner of the Air Spirit, because when the Air Spirit stirred the water, her True Self stirred as well. If only the Air Spirit would set her True Self free! Then they would play and be friends forever, and her True Self would help her find food. Playfully, although she knew she shouldn’t, she reached down into the pool and splashed the water so that her True Self would disappear. Her Other had told her that if her True Self decided not to come back, that she would die. But she didn’t care. The True Self had always come back. She believed that her True Self loved her, and she could see the love in her eyes as the True Self returned.

He was near. She could feel his heat and smell his scent. He was possessed by the Male Spirit. The Male Spirit had traveled from the Real World and was now living inside her Other.

His name was Ti. She knew this well, but she always called him her Other. He was also part of the Shadow World, but when the Male Spirit came upon him, he was fierce. He frightened her, but she also loved him. She knew that the Male Spirit within him would awaken her Womb Spirit. She feared this, but she knew she could never merge with her True Self unless she received The Gift from him.

Kiri had received The Gift from her Other, and had conceived. At the time, Kiri had been happy. Yet when The Pains came upon her, she could not bear them and she died. Chana knew she could die as well. The Death was a thing to be feared. It haunted her, the look on Kiri’s eyes when her True Self left her and she returned to the Real World. Although she knew that Kiri was happier, she could not help but wonder what fate awaited her in the Real World. Was she ready to look The Goddess in the face, eye to eye?

She ran. He pursued. She knew that he would catch her. He was swifter than she was, no matter how hard she tried. When he caught her, she fought him. She scratched and she bit. Yet he held her close. She felt the gentleness of his touch. It softened her, and she relaxed. At that moment, she felt the Womb Spirit enter her, and her frenzy began.

As he gave her The Gift, she entered the Real World, if only for a moment. She knew it would not last. It never did. Yet, when they were Together as One, the Womb Spirit transported her, and she saw The Goddess.

As she looked deeply into the eyes of The Goddess, she knew. The Goddess called her name. She blessed her and her Other with a new name. At that moment, she knew that her daughter would come.

Move later.

The Village State

I have previously mentioned my idea of the Village State. In this post, I will flesh out this concept.

In 2011, I became aware of the area of anthropology and it’s exploration of the impact of agriculture on human culture. This occurred in a rather interesting way. I have always been looking for a nutritional lifestyle (I hate the term diet) which would be optimal for my health. My doctor recommended a book called The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain. The basic idea is that the illnesses of mankind are the result of the agricultural experiment, which occurred in approximately 15,000 BC. This is when man discovered agriculture. The development of agriculture led to the abandonment of traditional hunter / gatherer lifestyles, and instead folks settled down and tilled the land. Eventually, this led to urban development, high technology, and the culture we know today.

Pre-agricultural humans are referred to by anthropologists as paleolithic (which means “old man”). Post-agricultural humans (like us) are referred to as neolithic (which means “new man”). Interestingly, the fossil record is very clear: Paleolithic humans were very healthy. Typically, paleolithic humans had the musculature and skeleton structure of an olympic athlete. Also, if paleolithic individuals did not die of some unnatural cause (a relatively common occurrence in paleolithic society), they lived to be quite old, often into the low 100s. Once the agricultural revolution took hold, though, things went south quickly: The leading cause of death rapidly became dental cavities, as a result of the high carbohydrate diet neolithic humans ate. Lifespans plummeted into the 30s. Early neolithic humans literally lay down and slept in their animals’ manure. This caused all of the devastating human diseases we know of to jump from livestock animals into humans.

Cordain’s plan is quite simple: Emulate the dietary lifestyle of a paleolithic human and you will be healthy. This involves eating lots of animal protein (the hunter part of the equation, after all), but this must be of very high quality. Then in addition to that, you eat lots and lots of green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit.

I am not sure if this diet is for everyone, but it is definitely for me. Since I have been following this diet, my weight has declined steadily. As of this writing, I have lost 68 pounds. In addition, all of my health problems have steadily declined at the same time. Right now, I feel like I did when I was in my early 30s, and I am 58.

This result got my attention so I started to look at the impact of the agricultural experiment in other areas of human life and culture. One thing I looked at is religion.

Interestingly, almost all anthropologists agree: Paleolithic humans do not practice religion in the manner we do at all. They are simply not religious. That is not to say that they are not spiritual. An aboriginal Australian for example lives in a vivid and rich spiritual world which is even more real to him / her than the physical world we live in and relate to. However, one of the essential elements in religion is the concept of sin or brokenness, basically a loss of contact with the divine. A longing if you will to reconnect with something mystical which has been profoundly lost. Christians refer to this as the fall. The Buddha refers to this as suffering. Hindus call it the vail of tears. Other religions call it other things, but the experience is universal.

Why do the paleolithic humans not experience this feeling of loss and longing for the divine? Simple: They have not lost it in the first place. I call this the Village State.

Imagine living in a place where everyone you know is a member of your family. You are born. There are some folks who are there then. They are older than you. Once in a while, one of them dies and they are not there anymore. But new babies are born after you. They are younger than you. Thus, there are only two kinds of people: Family members who are your elders, and other family members who are younger than you. But either way, you have been in the presence of these people every single day of your entire life.

In this situation, there is no property. Everything is held in common and used by all, especially the Earth itself. Also, there is no loneliness. There is no search for significance or meaning in life, because life has meaning and significance: The meaning is the village itself.

A good example of this is the movie The Gods Must be Crazy. This movie is about a paleolithic tribe called the Sho that lives in Southern Africa. They live in the Village State. They are completely devoid of violence, property, technology, and such things. The hardest thing in their environment is wood. One day, a pilot passing over throws a Coke bottle out of the plane. Suddenly, a miraculous object is thrust into their midst! It is so hard! It is so shiny! They have never seen anything like it. But there is only one of them, which means that for the first time there is contention for a material possession. This leads to jealousy, and eventually to violence, also unknown to them. They decide that this object is evil. The Gods must be crazy to send it to them. They must send someone to get rid of it.

They send out one of their own named Xi to take this evil thing and cast it over the end of the world, where it will not trouble anyone else. And so the adventure begins.

In the movie, one of the interesting things is that everyone who meets Xi loves him immediately. It is his innocence and gentleness that wins them over. He simply loves everyone, and is constantly trying to do the most helpful thing possible. And he is completely selfless. He does not know how to be any other way.

Now imagine a world populated by paleolithic humans, and the Roman Empire happens. Entire villages are ripped out of their ancestral lands and sold into slavery. They are thrust into Roman cities which were certainly among the most horrific conditions faced by humans in our species’ sordid history. Imagine the loss of meaning and significance and the profound loneliness of being surrounded by strangers (and strangers who obviously mean you no good) for the first time in your life.

In my view (and this is my opinion, nothing more), this is the source for the concept of sin. Effectively, the human perception of sin is the due to the isolation, loneliness, and suffering that is occasioned by the loss of the Village State. This incredibly powerful event led to so much longing, sadness, alienation and suffering that it infected our entire race. The impact has been different on different parts of the world, but one thing has been common: The transition from paleolithic to neolithic lifestyles is deeply traumatic, and certainly resulted in the profound feelings of despair, isolation and loss that are associated with the concept of sin.

These are precisely the conditions described by Rodney Stark in Cities of God that the early Christians faced. Christianity prevailed, and prevailed mightily, in the first 3 centuries AD because it recreated the Village State for many, many folks. Again, folks in early Roman cities would have been very receptive to anyone who would show them love. In fact, they would have been desperate for it. Stark describes how early Christians would go into the homes of their pagan neighbors who were dying of the plague, and bring them a warm blanket and a hot bowl of soup. Imagine that as a gospel message!

I have experienced this as well, as I have written previously in this blog. It is entirely possible that Christianity saved my life in exactly the manner I describe above. I was certainly a shattered and broken young man when the Church came into my life. I will readily admit that I am grateful for that, and perhaps what I am doing now seems like a betrayal to that great good which I received at that point in my life.

But, alas, things are simply either true or they are not. My research has led me to conclude that the fundamental underpinnings of Western European Modern Evangelical Protestant Christianity are simply false, or at best unprovable propositions which are spectacularly unlikely. I will be exploring these as we go through the survey of scripture as I discussed in my previous post.

More later.