Vulcan Part 2: The Forging of History
Episode One: The seeds of religion.
In this history, the first point to be very clear on is that religion did not exist until it was invented by and through the innovations produced by farming and the creation of surplus. This happened 6000 years ago in the fertile crescent of what we now call Iraq, we used to call Mesopotamia and at the time was known as Sumeria. The innovation of farming, the creation of surplus and the aggregation of populations in cities is a recent event in our history.
Our humanity in the form of homo sapiens is about 300,000 years old and for 98% of that existence, religion did not exist. Some might argue otherwise but then all that means is that the difference between mythology and religion still eludes them. To call any mythology in operation in the previous 294,000 years of our humanity a ‘religion’ is not only incorrect in terms of interpretation of the archaeological record but also culturally inappropriate as well as incorrect language.
If we are going to consider our ancestry as ‘homo’ and step aside from the old racist based ideas about Neanderthal and others then whole populations of humans have existed for far longer than 6000 years and become extinct without the existence of religion. Should we remove all cultural blinkers, rub our eyes and consider Homo Erectus as part of our lineage, as human, then this tool-making, fire using, ocean sailing, a global traveller with language, art and some evidence of mythology tells us that during the last 2 million years religion has only been a .3% feature of our existence.
Only when we learnt how to create a surplus of food did we then have the means and ability to develop a whole raft of social innovations. In the time of the Sumerian city-states human beings created for the first time; the vaulted arch, standardised building bricks, grammatical writing, written history, written financial accounts, royal kingship, written law codes, financial contracts and avoiding making a greater list by coming to the point, specialisation of trades.
When people were free from the need to live off of the land under the yoke of seasons, a world in which everyone in a community multi-tasked according to the need of the day, production of food surplus released previously unknown potentials.
If farming had not been discovered and surplus not created we would not be venturing out into space, it is that simple and that important.
The critical release of potential was when individuals could focus their energy on one activity. Freed from the need to create a sustainable diet every day, an individual could trade making a cooking pot for the means of a meal.
That meant that the individual could devote their time to making better and better pots and more of them. An individual could focus on writing exclusively and thus the profession of scribe was created. All of the professions find their genesis in Sumeria.
In these beginnings, people became busy in occupations and had little time for the daily spiritual rituals of their mythology. They no longer knelt before the slain deer and offered up prayers that its spirit will return to the deer people and be born again to supply meat to human beings.
They bought their meat at the specialist trade of butcher who acquired the carcass from the specialist trade of hunter or farmer. Yet the world and our existence remained mysterious and mythology needed to adapt to the new cultural environment in which it found itself.
The metaphors, the language of myth, had changed and the old
hunter-gatherer myth metaphors based on multi-tasking and subsistence within a landscape could no longer be seen in the lives of the city people.
Unobservable they lost their power.
A different metaphor structure was required to suit the social and psychological needs of the new societies of people.
In this new mythology, the key innovation was third party agency; getting someone else to speak to the gods on your behalf because you are too busy with your trade. This saw the birth of a new profession, that of priest. The value and profitability of this profession soon became apparent and the business model of religion was evolved.
The trading position was very simple to understand. Full time professional, trained, skilled advocates would intercede with the gods on your behalf to help ensure your life is untroubled by fate.
The cost to the customer was that of gifts, offerings and cash payments to a centre, a temple, to ensure the priests were fully supported, feed, maintained and protected so that they could perform rituals, which they had invented, to satisfy not just the gods but also the people.
As a business model, it was a work of pure genius. All overheads are born by the customers, all profits are taken by the priests. The marketing incentive in the advertising promised the customer a favourable life if they paid up the right and required amounts. They even promised immortality. The more they paid, the better their prospects against fate, the better their immortal status in paradise.
The really smart position was that where anyone suffered ill fate then the cause was always theirs and probably that they were not paying enough to the temple.
The gods do not like to be short-changed!
The creation of food surplus was the point at which another surplus was discovered, wealth. In this Eden of economics, it was also realised that wealth could be created from mythology.
Mythology had been seen as a product, a very profitable one. This process had one other by-product, power. In the creation of god-kings, individuals who were perceived as divine incarnations, the priests became arbitrators of the social hierarchy through simple brand allegiance and leveraged politics.
This power relationship between the government of societies and religions still exists today in most countries. The President of the United States might not be a divine incarnation of a god but the candidate will never make the Oval Office if he does not pay his dues to the temples. This is a business relationship that says, “We will deliver the votes of our consumer group if you instigate and protect policies which will help to drive people to our churches and keep them there.”. In simple terms, we will manage the human capital stock if you deliver us dividends.
Look at any religion today and you will see a hierarchy of managers, many of whom favour gold watches and jewellery, all of whom live in palaces of wealth, travel executive VIP class and wield great political power. They manage the business model we call religion whilst the people believe in a faith which is a mythology. Once this interpretation of the difference between religion and mythology is perceived, look again at history, consider all wars named ‘religious’, re-visit all rulers cast as divine or inheriting crowns from the will of gods and what becomes revealed is a history of power and its abuse at the expense of human lives.
Vulcan does not care if he makes a chalice or a shield, he hammers out a cross as easily as he does a spear, all he is interested in is making the things humans will buy and humans will buy into almost anything.