God and spirit is not an other worldly belief in fate, luck, chance, or coincidence. It is practical, reliable way to make sense of the real world, find peace in the midst of turmoil, and discover hope and joy.
A History of the Mythology of God
The question of God is a difficult one. There is no clear definition and many threads get woven into the search of God. However, it is important to go over brief history of mythology of God, the religious influence, and now scientific influence in 21st century.
Here’s a brief review about the history of mythology of God that may influence our understanding about the new concepts in search of god.
Before Judaic Christian era, with the invention of agriculture in Turkey, human society changed from hunter gathers to farmers. During this era, the God was perceived as female Goddess. Archeologist Maria Gimbutas studied how this culture of the Goddess spread. The farmers spread out from Turkey moving east into Asia and west towards the Atlantic. As the farmers spread out from Turkey, they displaced the hunter gathers that lived on the land first.
What is most interesting about the civilization of the Goddess, is the level of violence. Maria Gimbutas found little evidence of violence in the first towns the early farmers built. The towns did not have fortified walls. People were buried in egalitarian cemeteries. Their gravesites did not contain weapons of war. Their bones did not show wounds from weapons of war. This is very important. It means that war is something humans learned.
After the farmers filled up the available farmland, things began to change. With all the good farmland brought under cultivation, people in their towns begin competing for limited resources. Humans are a biological species controlled by evolution. Species evolve by producing more off spring than the environment can support. In the competition for limited resources only the fittest survive. Humans are no exception. The peaceful interlude was over. Starting in the east and moving west the towns started to become more fortified. The egalitarian cemeteries were replaced by Kurgans. A Kurgan is mound of earth containing a burial site of a ruling male and his family. These burial sites contain weapons of war. The bones of people from this period also show injuries from these weapons. Kurgan is also the name given to a tribe of horsemen who brought this transformation to the civilization of the Goddess. The Kurgans did not displace the farmers. A study of the bones shows that the same farmers lived in Kurgan towns. They were now ruled by the Kurgans. The Kurgans transformed the first farmers into a more violent society. When the environment in which humans lived changed, the mythology now changed. Myths about male gods were now added to the story of the female goddess.
As we stated above, the driving force of evolution is the survival of the fittest. For a couple of thousands years this rule was suspended. The first farmers could expand out from Turkey to bring new land under cultivation. They did not have to compete for limited resources. During this time, the worship of the goddess created a peaceful society. When the best farmland was brought under cultivation, towns started competing for limited resources. Those towns that started worshipping male gods created more violent males. The more violent towns survived. This type of mythology active in a society creates a more or less violent culture.
All this happened before the Judaic – Christian period. Karen Armstrong in her book “A History of God” picks up the story with Abraham and the stories and myths we are familiar with. If you remember, Abraham has a son late in life and then is told by God that he must sacrifice his son on an alter to God. He does not question God but takes his son up the mountain to be sacrificed. At the last moment, God tells Abraham that he can sacrifice a ram instead of Isaac and his son is spared. Other episodes where God sacrifices the sons are history of Moses and Egypt.
With the rise of God sacrificing sons, there was also a decline of the Goddess. In the face of an external threat, the Jews abandon the Goddess. Monotheism is a further refinement of the mythology of God. God is becoming only a Male God. In order to survive, the Goddess is suppressed.
This also happens later in Islam. At the time of Mohammed, the Arabs worshipped three Goddesses: Allat, al-Uzza, and Manat. Mohammed urged his followers to abandon these Goddesses and only worship Allah. Islam then goes on to conquer the Middle East, Northern Africa and Spain. Suppressing the Goddess makes a society more violent and the more violent societies survive.
Christianity adds further refinements to this myth. Paul on the road to Damascus has a revelation. He comes to see Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God. Jesus is the Son of God who comes to earth and lives as a human. He is sacrificed for are sins. He is crucified, dead and buried. He descends into hell, on the third day he is raised from the dead and ascends into heaven.
There were two forms of early Christianity competing for people’s attention in the Rome Empire: the Gnostic Christians and the Trinitarian Christians. The Gnostic Christians still had a place for the Goddess in their tradition. The Trinitarian Christians believed only in a male God of three parts - the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Under Constantine, the Trinitarians gained the support of the Roman Empire. The Trinitarian with their all male God mythology destroyed the kinder, gentler Gnostic Christians. What Christians have inherited today is the monotheism of the all male God of the Trinitarians.
This is a mythology that is needed for an era where people compete for limited resources. This mythology suppresses sexuality and creates more violence. The suppression of sexuality and the increase of violence bestow a survival advantage to people who must compete for limited resources.
The history of Hindu avatars Rama and Krishna is also based in violence of Mahabharata and Ramayana. So is the creation of Khalsa, the fighting force in Sikhism by the last of ten gurus.
Mahabharata (Mahabharat) is a great story of sibling rivalry, violence and war, of complex interwoven sub-stories, of philosophy, divinity, adventure, bravery, and betrayal. The characters are very well developed and are glorified in great works of Indian art and literature that is supposed to have happened in 5,000 BC. Hindu holy scripture, “Bhagavad-Gita” is the war time counsel of Krishna to his disciple-relative Arjuna during the Mahabharata war.
The story of Ramayana is about Rama, the prince of Ayodhya that happened before Mahabharata. Rama was the eldest son of king Dasharatha who had three wives. The youngest of the wives Kaikeyi tricked the king into making her son as the descendent to the throne and made Rama go to the forest in relinquishment.
Rama, the good son that he is, follows the word of the father and goes to the forest for fourteen years. His wife Sita and loyal brother Lakshman follow him. Rawana king of Sri Lanka kidnaps Sita and keeps her arrested in his garden. What follows is the great search for Sita and violence and war, when the goodness wins with the help of the friends (Hanuman- the flying monkey) and the brother Lakshman. The destruction of Sri Lanka and bringing Sita back to Ayodhya is glorified in the great works of Indian arts and literature.
In the late 17th century Mogul emperor Aurungzeb's religious policy was totally against non-muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, they had to pay more taxes than Muslims. On the site of temple he built a mosque at a great cost. All these accesses were happening around 1690. The army of Khalsa was created by tenth Guru of Sikhs in 1699 to fight against the accesses. These are latest of wars and violence of which the youngest among religions, the Sikhism is also not spared.
The Greeks gave us more than the myth of Hercules that had similarities to the Christian myth. They also gave us philosophy. Aristotle talked about the first cause, the sufficient cause and the final cause. Plato taught that there was a oneness behind the universe. The Greek philosophers also had an influence on religion. The oneness that Plato talked about got incorporated into monotheism. Monotheism for us today is the oneness behind the universe instead of choosing a male god over a female god.
It is the physicists that will understand the oneness behind the universe and the first cause that started the universe. A unified theory that can describe the universe has become the holy grail of modern physics.
The early Greek philosophers also influenced Islam. Karen Armstrong tells us of Islamic scholars who tried to use reason to find God. These Islamic scholars were called the Fulasufahs. We will look at just one. Abu Hamid Al-Ghazzali lived from 1058 to 1111. He studied all the major sects of Islam and “struggled with truth like a terrier” searching for a kind of indubitable certainty. The more he searched the more disillusioned he became. How could any of their claims be objectively verified?
The more he studied the more depressed he became. He finally was unable to continue his studies. He abandoned his prestigious teaching position and went of to join the Sufis. In Sufi dance, he found what he was looking for. A direct experience of something he could call God. After Al-Ghazzali, Islam abandoned its attempt to find God through reason.
Some people, in this modern era of science and technology, have a problem with calling this God-through-reason-quest the search for God. God could be redefined into the ground of being or a oneness behind the universe; but the word God is tangled up with the mythology of God the Father sacrificing the Son. They want to drop the word God. Instead of searching for God that is tangled up with violence and survival, today we should search for God of spirituality. We need to search for what lifts us out of depression and into being in good spirits. It is this search that will lead us into a new era. Birth control and advances in agriculture has fundamentally changed our society. We no longer need to compete for limited resources. The rule of survival of the fittest no longer applies. It is the search for spirituality that will lead us to a new mythology that will transform our society from the war and strife we have known through most of recorded history.
We are at the dawn of a new era. A better world is within our grasp. We need to find a God of spirituality that will lead into this new world.