From Waking Instances/Steve Taylor: Spirituality and Psychology: “In the event you requested them what life was like in prehistoric occasions, most individuals would conjure up a picture just like the well-known opening scenes of 2001: House Odyssey – teams of bushy savages grunting and leaping round, foaming on the mouth with aggression as they bash every over the heads with sticks.
We take it as a right that life was a lot more durable then, a battle to outlive, with everybody competing to seek out meals, struggling in opposition to the weather, males preventing over ladies, and everybody dying younger from illness or malnutrition.
An entire department of ‘science’ has grown up round this view of the human race’s early historical past. That is comparatively new self-discipline of evolutionary psychology, which tries to clarify all the destructive sides of human nature as ‘diversifications’ which early folks developed as a result of that they had some survival worth. Evolutionary psychologists clarify traits like selfishness and aggression in these phrases. Life was such a battle that solely essentially the most egocentric and aggressive folks survived and handed on their genes. The folks with light and peaceable genes would have died out, just because they’d have misplaced out within the survival battle. Evolutionary psychologists see racism and warfare as ‘pure’ too. It’s inevitable that completely different human teams must be hostile to at least one one other, as a result of as soon as upon a time we had been all dwelling on the sting of hunger and preventing over restricted assets. Any tendency to indicate sympathy for different teams would have diminished our personal group’s survival probabilities.
However fortuitously we don’t need to imagine any of this crude nonsense. There’s now an enormous quantity of archaeological and anthropological proof which means that this view of the human race’s previous is totally false. Life for prehistoric human beings was far much less bleak than we’d think about.
Take the view that life was a ‘battle to outlive.’ The proof means that the lives of prehistoric human beings had been rather a lot simpler than these of the agricultural peoples who got here after them. Till round 8000 BCE, all human beings lived as hunter-gatherers. They survived by searching wild animals (the lads’s job) and foraging for wild vegetation, nuts, fruit and greens (the ladies’s job). When anthropologists started to take a look at how up to date hunter-gatherers use their time, they had been stunned to seek out that they solely spent 12 to twenty hours per week trying to find meals – between a 3rd and a half of the typical trendy working week! Due to this, the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins known as hunter-gatherers the ‘authentic prosperous society.’ As he famous in his well-known paper of that title, for hunter-gatherers, ‘The meals quest is so profitable that half the time the folks don’t appear to know what to do with themselves.’
. . . The transition from a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a settled agricultural one started within the Center East at round 8000 BCE, spreading into Europe and Asia over the next millennia (and growing independently in some locations). Most of the world’s cultures have myths that discuss with an earlier time when life was a lot simpler, and human beings had been much less materialistic and lived in concord with nature and one another. In historic Greece and Rome this was generally known as the Golden Age; in China it was the Age of Good Advantage, in India it was the Krita Yuga (Good Age); whereas the Judeo-Christian custom has the story of the backyard of Eden. These myths inform us that, both on account of an extended degeneration or a sudden and dramatic ‘Fall,’ one thing ‘went flawed.’ Life grew to become far more troublesome and stuffed with struggling, and human nature grew to become extra corrupt. In Taoist phrases, whereas the earliest human beings adopted the Means of Heaven and had been part of the pure concord of the universe, later human beings grew to become separated from the Tao, and have become egocentric and calculating.
Many of those myths clarify references to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle – for instance, the Greek historian Hesiod states that through the Golden Age ‘the fruitful earth bore [human beings] considerable fruit with out stint,’ whereas the early Indian textual content the Vaya Purana states that early human beings ‘frequented the mountains and seas, and didn’t dwell in homes’ (i.e. they lived a non-sedentary lifestyle). The backyard of Eden story suggests this too. Initially Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of information, till they had been compelled to depart the backyard and compelled to ‘work onerous and sweat to make the soil produce something.’ It seems that, not less than partially, these myths are a sort of ‘folks reminiscence’ of the pre-agricultural lifestyle. The agricultural peoples who labored more durable and longer, had shorter life spans and suffered from much more well being issues will need to have regarded on the outdated hunter-gatherer lifestyle as a sort of paradise.
Warfare and Social Oppression
There are different important explanation why these peoples would have seen earlier occasions as a Golden Age. There’s quite a lot of proof suggesting that prehistoric human beings had been a lot much less war-like than later peoples. Archaeological research all through the world have discovered hardly any proof of warfare throughout the entire of the hunter-gatherer part of historical past . . .
. . . In prehistoric societies there have been no standing variations between people both. There have been no completely different courses or castes, with individuals who had extra energy and possessions than others . . . Virtually all up to date hunter-gatherers present a putting absence of any of the traits that we affiliate with social inequality. The anthropologist James Woodburn speaks of the ‘profound egalitarianism’ of immediate-return foraging peoples and emphasises that no different manner of human life ‘permits so nice an emphasis on equality.’ Foraging peoples are additionally strikingly democratic . . .
The Ego Explosion
All of this strongly argues in opposition to the concept prehistoric human beings had been brutes whose solely concern was survival, and whose lives had been stuffed with cruelty and battle, as males competed in opposition to one another for standing and meals and intercourse.
Warfare, social oppression and male domination – and an existence that was ‘nasty, brutish and quick’ – belong to a later part of human historical past. Proof from art work, cemeteries and battle websites means that there was an ‘eruption’ of those social pathologies through the 4th millennium BCE, beginning within the Center East and central Asia. The foundation reason for this transformation appears to have been environmental . . .
This environmental catastrophe appears to have modified the psyche of those peoples. Whereas earlier than that they had been peaceable and egalitarian, now they grew to become aggressive, hierarchical and patriarchal. Over the next centuries, they unfold over Europe, the Center East and Asia, killing and conquering the peaceable ‘Outdated World’ peoples they got here throughout, together with the civilisation of Outdated Europe (which was reconstructed by the archaeologist Marija Gimbutas). By 500 BCE, these peoples had roughly utterly conquered the entire of Eurasia, leaving only some indigenous peoples such because the Laplanders of Scandinavia, the tribal peoples of Siberia, and the indigenous peoples of the forests and hills of India. In mainland Europe the one surviving non-Indo-European indigenous peoples had been the Basque folks of northern Spain (who amazingly nonetheless survive right now) and the Etruscans of Italy, who had been quickly to be worn out by the Romans.
In my guide The Fall: The Proof for a Golden Age, 6,000 Years of Madness, and the Dawning of a New Period, I attempt to clarify how these folks had been (and are) completely different from the peaceable peoples who got here earlier than them. My idea is that the environmental disaster (the drying up of their fertile lands) brought on an ‘Ego Explosion.’ These peoples developed a stronger and sharper sense of identification, or of individuality, which made them really feel extra separate from nature and from different folks, and extra liable to be aggressive and to lust after energy and standing. We – modern-day Eurasians – are the descendants of those peoples, and we’ve inherited their sturdy sense of ego. That is nonetheless the principle distinction between us and indigenous ‘unfallen’ peoples such because the Native People, Australian Aborigines and the peoples of Oceania, and the explanation why they’ve far more respectful perspective to nature than us, and a extra non secular imaginative and prescient of the universe. Our sturdy sense of ego ‘partitions us off’ from different folks and nature, makes us unable to sense the alive-ness of the world round us, and will in the end be chargeable for our extinction as a species.
Nevertheless, there are some indicators that, as a tradition, we’re slowly transcending the ‘fallen’ psyche, and going past our ego-separateness. During the last 300 years or so, there was a brand new spirit of empathy rising, which has led to much less merciless therapy of kids and animals, much less extreme punishments for criminals, the ladies’s motion, the abolition of slavery, the socialist motion, a brand new respect for nature, a extra open and wholesome perspective to intercourse and the human physique and so forth. And there was a brand new sense of the sacred and of the potential for self-transcendence, which has led to an enormous upsurge of curiosity in esoteric/non secular philosophies and practices like paganism, shamanism, Buddhism, meditation and so forth. There are indicators that we’re reconnecting with nature, regaining our sense of the aliveness of the world and of the hidden mysteries of the cosmos. The traits of the prehistoric golden age could also be slowly re-emerging. The one query is whether or not there’s sufficient time left for these traits to emerge absolutely, earlier than the outdated ‘fallen’ psyche leads us to self-destruction.
The concept that human historical past is a gradual however continuous development – ranging from a state of savagery, with generations slowly making technological and social advances and passing these down, and resulting in the head of western European civilisation – is a leftover from the Victorian period, a part of the identical colonial mentality which noticed ‘primitive’ indigenous peoples as subhumans who may very well be justifiably conquered and killed. Fairly than a development, the final 6,000 years of warfare, oppression, distress and hardship are the results of a painful degeneration from an earlier, more healthy state. We could lastly be transferring ahead now – however solely within the sense of turning a full circle, and rekindling glimmers of historic concord.”
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