History of religion

From the origin of religions

(Published in GralsWelt 44/2007 page 66)

Religious scholars assume that religions have accompanied cultural development since the beginning of human history. Religious feeling is therefore an essential part of the specifically human characteristics and is expressed, for example, in myths and rituals. Religiousness is also one of the basic human drives that shape societies and cultures. Religiousness therefore appears to be an important criterion that distinguishes humans from animals.

In the esoteric scene there is broad agreement that shamanism and magic, or even the "Cult of the great mother"As described by Auel (1) in her bestsellers, for tens of thousands, perhaps for hundreds of thousands of years, they have been accompanying people on their path to cultural development.

It is only recently that such assumptions, which have long been taken for granted, have been questioned and “natural” hypotheses have been sought for the origin of religions. These should be compatible with the scientific worldview and exclude the "supernatural". Sometimes unusual ideas are taken into account; For example, that the “gods” could be astronauts who came from one of our far superior civilizations. Occasionally there are also eccentric approaches that deserve some consideration.

So did the well-known astrophysicist Fred Hoyle (1915-2001), who called himself an atheist, put forward an original hypothesis. As a scientist committed to enlightened skepticism and a courageous lateral thinker, he does not look for the causes of the emergence of religions in the transcendent, but in the cosmos:

The earth in cataclysm
Starting point for the considerations of Fred Hoyle is an assumption of Club and Napier (3). According to this, a giant comet would have come close to the sun about 20,000 years ago; namely on an ellipse crossing the earth's orbit, with an orbital period of approx. 1,600 years. When the sun passed several times, the gigantic comet was broken up by its gravitational forces into many, smaller and larger parts, which were distributed along its orbit. If in the following years the earth got into a part of the comet's orbit, on which larger fragments piled up, there were not only impressive falling stars, but also apocalyptic meteor storms, which possibly destroyed already existing high cultures.

Since ancient times there has been talk of regularly recurring major catastrophes - the so-called "cataclysms" - which could be explained with this. *)
In the Grail World we have spoken several times that our planet is threatened by dangers from space ("Death from Space"), which were feared in ancient times, but were considered unfounded in the age of the natural sciences of the Enlightenment. Today it is generally accepted that there have been such impacts in the history of the earth. However, the frequency and dates of such disasters are still being discussed. There is still no evidence in our history books that breaks in cultural or civilizational development, that the fall of great empires (even in post-Christian times), could be traced back to impacts or large volcanic eruptions.

Battle of the gods in the sky
And so sees Fred Hoyle the origin of religions:
“Clube and Napier attribute the rise and fall of civilizations to the clustering of Tunguska-like events, the decline during the shorter, bad periods of heavy impacts, and the rise during the much longer, non-impact periods. In the bad periods religions emerged with a strict and dark basic mood, while in the longer free intervals the previous strict and gloomy ideas were softened and more informal. Clube and Napier assume that the resolution of their gigantic comet reached its maximum six to seven thousand years ago, when the evaporation of the volatile components must have produced spectacular phenomena in the night sky, with up to many thousands of comet-sized bodies, the gas flows and small particles according to Art who ejected comet's tails. This brilliant spectacle in the night sky, combined with the impacts on the surface of the earth, triggered the belief of the cultures of antiquity in the wars of the gods, whereby the impacts were interpreted as misdirected shots of this fight. When the evaporation was over, the war ended. After the disappearance of the smaller objects, a clearly visible celestial body remained, which continued to eject streams of particles. This last object became the legendary king of the gods Zeus, who in the end had defeated the other gods with his lightning bolts. " (7, pp. 74/75).

In this chain of cosmic catastrophes, the effects of which he explains further in his book Fred Hoyle seemingly plausible explanations for the “gods fight” of the ancient Greeks. The “struggles of extraterrestrials”, which are reported in many - especially Indian - traditions and which are now often referred to as astronauts, would fit into this picture as well as the “battle in heaven”, which is described in the Bible (Rev. . 12.7-12).

Is this hypothetical comet that goes well with other impact theories, e.g. from Madman (10) is it really the cause for the emergence of religion and cult? Was the attempt to avert disaster from humans and earth by appeasing the overpowering gods, the reason for the emergence of sacrifices, cults, rituals and a caste of priests? Should efforts to bribe deities even be called religion? Or were there religions many millennia before the Ice Age, before the (possible) appearance of the hypothetical great comet, before the prehistoric civilizations that were presumably submerged in the “Great Flood”? Is religion as such - not as a denomination - even completely independent of doctrine, rite, culture, civilization?

How do you recognize religiosity?
The search for the religious in antediluvian times turns out to be difficult. Because where there are no written records, archaeological finds only give a very limited insight into people's thoughts and wishes. Faith, religion, religious experience belong to the most intimate, personal experience of a person, which is particularly difficult to convey in fixed formulas. But how do you recognize religions, cults, myths and magical practices from sparse archaeological finds? Maybe in art?

As far as we know today, people 50 or even 100 thousand years ago were largely as physically developed and hardly less intelligent than we are today. It therefore seems natural to religious scholars that these people also had religions:
“If the Paleolithic man can be considered a 'full human being', it follows that he also possessed a number of beliefs and practiced certain rites. Because the experience of the sacred is an element of the structure of consciousness. So when the question of 'religiosity' or 'non-religiosity' of prehistoric man is raised, it is up to the advocates of 'non-religiosity' to present evidence to support their hypothesis….
But even if today there is unanimous agreement that the Paleolithic man possessed a 'religion', it is difficult, if not impossible at all, to determine its content precisely. Yet we have a number of 'evidence' documents about the life of the Paleolithic people, and there is hope that one day their religious meaning can be deciphered. " (5, p. 17).

But what is the evidence for the religiosity of primitive man? Let's ask about the first Differences between humans and animals, on the assumption that religiosity is reserved for humans.

Use of fire
For at least 500,000, perhaps for 1.8 million years, primitive humans had known fire as the first usable natural force. This clearly set them apart from Tier. Myths, the origin of which can no longer be proven, deal with the “god” or “demigod” who once took fire from heaven and made it serviceable to man, and attribute mysterious powers to fire. It has cultic significance up to our time (e.g. in Zoroastrianism, in the candles that burn in our churches, the incense sticks of the Buddhists, the "eternal flames" of some memorials, etc.).

Manufacture of tools
Tools are occasionally used by animals, but they can hardly make tools. Simple stone tools were made by early humans 2.5 million years ago, at the latest since 400,000 years there have been more sophisticated devices (e.g. spears), for the production of which tools were required. The production of tools in order to use them to make tools again is a sure expression of a developed human culture, but not proof of religious feeling.

According to religious scholars confirm "Funerals believe in a continued life ... The east-facing position reveals the intention to combine the fate of the soul with the course of the sun, that is, the hope of a 'rebirth', that is to say, of continuing to live in another world ..." (5, p. 22). Burials have been documented for at least 50,000 years, and grave goods (jewelry, tools, food, flowers) suggest burial rites and thus, with a high degree of probability, religious ideas.

The meaning of the cave paintings is controversial: Are they depictions, symbols, hunting magic, sympathetic magic, the expression of ritual acts? Were the caves sanctuaries or places of worship?
Hunters clad in furs, masks, and antlers, as depicted in some caves, resemble the appearance of Siberian shamans and give rise to assumptions that shamanism, an early form of the priesthood, was widespread tens of thousands of years ago.

Religious rites and myths
Traces of round dances, for example in Montespan, suggest that the ritual choreography, which is still widespread in hunting peoples around the world, was already known to the Paleolithic people. Such dances were and are practiced by hunters in order to reconcile the soul of the hunted animal, or to ensure the reproduction of the game. Apparently some of the religious ideas of the Paleolithic hunters have survived into our time. (5, p. 35).

Cult characters
The interpretation of figurative representations, such as the Venus von Willendorf, is controversial. Is it a symbol of fertility, the representation of the primal mother, or - least likely - a sexual symbol?

Hunting rituals
Ancient hunting rituals, bear burials and layers of skulls suggest religious ideas of prehistoric hunters:
“Myths about the origin of animals and the religious relationships between hunter, game and master of the animals appear encoded very often in the iconographic repertoire of the Paleolithic man. In addition, a hunting society without myths about the origin of fire is hardly imaginable ... " (5, p. 36).

Recent stone age people
Occasionally, attempts are made to draw conclusions about the religion of prehistoric men from the myths and cults of groups that were able to survive into the 20th or 21st century at the Stone Age cultural level. However, through research into myths, linguistics, and psychology one could hardly penetrate far enough into the past and prove, for example, that shamanism or the cult of the Great Mother are primordial religions of mankind.

How long have religious cults existed?
Religions are an attempt to encapsulate very personal religious experiences in a system of rules and rituals. Often there are seers, shamans, magicians, fortune tellers, spiritual healers, priests who claim increased knowledge, deeper insights into the otherworld, i.e. contacts with the hereafter, and lead cults, rites, sacrifices and ceremonies.

Religious experience is part of the essence of man; it has probably been with him from the beginning of the Incarnation. However, only material manifestations of this inner experience, the religious experience, can be observed. Inferring the beliefs of prehistoric man from Paleolithic finds therefore does not seem very promising, and all such approaches remain hypotheses. Unfortunately, archaeologists have a tendency to attribute cultic meaning to objects whose use is unclear to them, which makes the search for the roots of the belief more complicated than perhaps necessary.

It will hardly ever be possible to prove how long religions have been around. It is up to everyone whether he is satisfied with explanations that fit the worldview of the exact sciences, or whether he recognizes in a self-determined perception as truth that the world does not only consist of what is visible and tangible, and that religious experience is appropriate the primal abilities of mankind counts.

Final grade:
*) Cf. “The enigmatic Planet X” in “Short, concise, curious” on page 9.
(1) Auel, Jean, M., Ayla and the Stone of Fire, Heyne, 2002, and other volumes in the "Ayla" series.
(2) Burkert, Walter, Anthropology of Religious Sacrifice, Friedrich v. Siemens Foundation, Munich 1983.
(3) Cube, Victor / Napier, Bill, The Cosmic Winter, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1990.
(4) Eliade, Mircea, Das Heilige und das Profane, Insel, Frankfurt, 1998.
(5) Eliade, Mircea, History of Religious Ideas, Volume 1, Herder, Freiburg 1978.
(6) Hancock, Graham / Faiia, Santha, Spiegel des Himmels, Lichtenberg, Munich 1998.
(7) Hoyle, Fred, Cosmic Catastrophes and the Origin of Religions, Insel., Frankfurt, 1997.
(8) Starhawk, The Witch Cult as the Ur-Religion of Mankind, Goldmann, Munich 1992.
(9) Steinbart, Hiltrud, In the beginning was the woman, RG Fischer, Frankfurt. 1983.
(10) Tollmann, Alexander and Edith, And the Flood did exist, Droemer-Knaur, Munich, 1993.