On Faith: Spiritual evolution is fascinating issue

I have always been captivated by how humanity explains its presence in the world and how it views itself in the universe.

If we go by most accepted historical facts, humanity as we know it, modern homo sapiens, began on the planet some 40,000 to 60,000 years ago, during which there were several ice ages, many floods and a lot of dark cold nights. Each generation had to feed itself, create communities to protect itself and figure out the cycles of the seasons, the sun and, most importantly, the moon.

While the moon is not a factor in our contemporary lives, it was factor in the lives of our ancestors and how they understood themselves in relation to the environment and the circumstances they encountered. If you didn't know, the moon has a cycle where it disappears for three days.

This probably doesn't bother many people, but it had a profound effect on our ancestors. Many anthropologists believe that the notches on some of the earliest figurines dated more than 20,000 years ago represented the cycles of the moon.

Some speculate that our ancestors saw these cycles as part of the coming and going of life — a sort of forerunner to the modern stories of birth, death and regeneration. The stars, the moon, the sun and nature were, for lack of better words, the information our ancestors were trying to process, understand, and find meaning in.

In today's world, I don't see many people looking to the stars, the moon, the sun or nature to understand the meaning of life. Seems that after agriculture came on the scene around 8,000 to 10,000 years ago, humanity figured out how to feed itself and then, when writing was developed around 3,500 years ago, humanity began chronicling the stories from oral history and tribal traditions, which began to define its social, religious and cultural identity.

But buried in many of these stories was evidence that before our major modern religions appeared, much of humanity saw the divine as a feminine form playing itself out in the experience of flooded river plains, the migration of birds, animals and insects, the habits of reptiles, and power of large carnivores. These stories were rich and complex tales of divine relationships and they came from all cultures, civilizations and traditions.

Then about the time of the Iron Age, more than 3,000 years ago, there was a shift away from the feminine form to a masculine form that eventually transformed how we saw life and practiced religion. It was a different model that saw the divine creator as a masculine figure popularly referred to as Our Father.

This model became the root of three of the most recognizable religions today: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The other two, Hinduism and Buddhism, while not as invested in the masculine form, still tended to favor it.

This observation, however, is not a complaint about religion. The stories in the modern scriptures of the day, the Old and New testaments, the Koran, the Vedas, the Upanishads and many others, come from a masculine point of view and for some, not all, represent what has been called a dominator model.

The point is, when you view your spiritual evolution from just your own spiritual and cultural point of view, you tend to develop blind spots, providing only a partial experience of where humanity developed its understanding of life, death, birth, heaven, hell, dogma and God. Unfortunately, this tends to cause separation, suspicion and fear — all precursors to conflict and war.

Yet, oddly enough, the primary personalities of our major religions like Jesus, Abraham, Muhammad and Buddha all emphasized the necessity to focus on things like compassion, faith, forgiveness, love and peace as our primary responsibilities in life.

Personally, I am a great fan of the Goddess traditions and the feminine. The need to dominate has separated us and driven many into a corner where competition is more important than cooperation.

Where the general public is caught in the intellectual and emotional crossfire that tests loyalty, faith and doctrine in an invisible civil war, whose wounds are seen in the disenfranchised and powerless feelings of those who want to heal our world, not live in a primordial fear of failure, death, or limitation.

But wait, there is more, and I am excited about the potential and possibilities for our next step in spiritual evolution.

JIM TURRELL is the founder and pastor of The Center for Spiritual Living Newport-Mesa.

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