Development of “more civilized” cultures attracts the most attention in religious history, but the indigenous religions that are even older are important as well. Intrigue in the popular religions must be studied and explained with the history of indigenous religions that preceded it. People view Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and other widespread religions as the sole source of history, but previous ideals must be explained to understand how the popular religions arose. Multiple periods before the Axial Age include significant developments in the oundation of popular religions.
The Paleolithic period (c. 20000 to 8000 BCE) was the essential stepping stone to understanding life and survival through the earliest form of mythology. Crucial to their existence, “[it was] natural for these indigenous people to think in terms of myth and symbol because… they are highly conscious of a spiritual dimension in their daily lives…. more real than the material world. “3 Tribes attributed skill-requiring activities, crucial for survival, to ancestors. Hunting and athering was the center of life needing a particular sacredness.
Ordinary experiences of these early people had distinguished meaning and recognition. The supernatural did not necessarily dictate their mythology; it was the human for transition between monumental life experiences. Next, the Neolithic Period (c. 8000 to 4000 BCE), where agriculture advanced mythology, was the most influential time period. A recognition of food production, not food gathering emerged with an awareness of sacred and fertile divinities. Mythical imagination thrived in agrarian ultures linking their lives to “an undifferentiated sacred force, which made the earth herself a manifestation of the divine. 5 This period also marks the development of the popular definition of mythology associated with gods and goddesses, especially those associated with peace and harvest. Early stories about an Earth Mother develop during this period. Myths included struggles of farming in the myth of Anat, stories of Osiris in Egypt, the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, and the Greek myth of Demeter. 6 Lastly, the Pre-Axial Age (c. 4000 to 800 BCE), where organization and ivilizations began, was the step before humans was introduced to the large religions of today.
Early biblical characters arose in this period. They describe the new way of life as “the separation from God that had followed the expulsion from Eden. “7 Obviously, people change their opinion on humanity and divinity when entering new eras, and, in these new civilizations, people were forwardly thinking. Men and women had realized their control on their destinies; making them “disillusioned with the old mythical vision that had nourished their ancestors. 8 This began the thought of independence, away from gods, and a necessity for self-liberation.
These new ideals initiated the upcoming beliefs found abundantly in the Axial Age. Axial people developed differently throughout the world. People of India were leaders in the Axial age consistently. The first attempt at Axial spirituality were the Russian Aryans, also known as Indo-Europeans that had to face a choice during an aggressive time. “In Israel and India too, insecurity and the difficulties of maintaining a society… ntroduced violence and aggressive imagery. “9 These hectic circumstances introduced new ideas of how to cope and deal with catastrophe through ritual.
India found its Axial Age as the “Brahmin ritualists had used their science to liberate themselves from the external rites and the gods,… [creating] a wholly novel sense of the independent self. “10 Meanwhile, Israeli prophets and historians were irregular and had only a brief period of extreme distinction. Israelites established kingdoms that begun biblical history. Developments of the Axial Age included the idea of monotheism, single life for a human, final Judgment, and the main characteristics of religions today.
The Chinese were slow “until Confucius developed the first full Axial spirituality in the late sixth century. “ll Greeks polarized themselves entirely from other regions until later ages. It was not until the emergence of Christianity, did a lot of Greeks separate from pagan ideology. When studying world religions, it is difficult to understand how the main ideas appear all over the Eastern Hemisphere. As I have tudied different religions and Christianity, the background information has helped with understanding.
Overall, most religious beliefs created thousands of years ago cannot be directly applied to todays life and must be comprehended metaphorically because of the contrasting environments of Axial Age and our millennia. Therefore, the evolution of religions helps solidify and apply dogma to current-day situations. Work Cited Armstrong, Karen. A Short History of Myth. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2005. Armstrong, York: Knopf, 2006. James, E. O.. History of religions. 1957. Reprint, New York: Harper, 1964.