Ideas That Shaped Our Modern World
Humans are a problem-solving animal. We evolve both physically and mentally in response to challenges, which enables us to move beyond our inheritance — to consciously evolve. Throughout our history, innovations and solutions have been linked to religious ideas.
Featured Books on the Nature and History of Religious Experience and Its Role in Shaping Our World
On the Nature of Higher Consciousness and the Experience Called “God”
Robert Ornstein with Sally Ornstein
Countless research findings reveal the existence of a second network of cognition that transcends everyday consciousness. It is what people have tried to activate, from the earliest shaman-sages to Moses 3,500 years ago, to Jesus 2,000 years ago, to Muhammad 1,400 years ago, all the way up to the myriad of contemporary seekers.
A Contemporary Look at the Nature of Religious Experience
By George Kasabov
People can persuade themselves of anything. Many believe that death is a transition to a transcendental world, that miracles occur through the will of God, or that our lives are ruled by immaterial spirits. How is it that, in our scientific age, when we have learned so much about the evolution of the universe and the nature of life, so many still cling to such beliefs? Why is it that faith – belief in the unprovable – is considered a virtue?
Religious Evolution and the Axial Age
From Shamans to Priests to Prophets
Stephen K. Sanderson
Throughout history, at least from Paleolithic times to the present day, religion plays a part in all human societies. Why is this? What drives this universal aspect of the human experience?
The Journey Begins…
About 35,000 years ago, our ancestors first began to conceive of a tiered cosmos and to formulate rituals to engage influential forces above and below—an idea that has been with us ever since.
Follow the journey: How creativity and spirituality began>
Connecting With the Gods
The relationship between people and their god(s) was of primary importance all over the world. As populations grew, settlements became cities. Order was achieved through religious hierarchy – priests and leaders ensured that they had access to “secrets” using religion to stay powerful.
Follow the journey: The rise of religion – from the Neolithic Era through Mesopotamia, the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, Aegean and Bronze Age civilizations to ancient Greece and China>
Axial Age Thought: Spiritual Foundations of Today
It was a pivotal time in early human history when, in four distinct parts of the world, our ancestors began to reflect for the first time on individual responsibility and the meaning of life and death. The concept of one single God—to be worshipped not through ritual but through daily life—developed around personal transformation and responsibility.
Follow the Journey: Spiritual Foundations of Today: Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroaster, Greece, and China>
Pathways to Current Beliefs
Understanding how religious traditions evolved and intermingled sheds light on contemporary beliefs and rituals, the forces that shape human thought, and our mind’s great potential for change and development.
Jesus: Origins of Christianity
Like all the Axial prophets and teachers, his aim was spiritual revitalization—a new “kingdom” in which those who listened and followed could fulfill their potential and destiny.
Follow the Journey: Jerusalem and Jesus’s Early Followers, St. Paul’s Church, The Best-Known Gospels, Historical Jesus, Jesus the Teacher>
A Multicultural Story
The Roman Empire was a melting pot of cultures, each with its own stories, myths, legends and beliefs—many of which live on in contemporary Christian beliefs and ritual.
Muhammad: Origins of Islam
The decline in traditional values was an existential threat to his tribe. Muhammad’s insight was that social reform had to be based on a new spiritual foundation.
Follow the journey: The Pre-Islamic World | Muhammad, his Life and Message| Understanding the Qu’ran | Judaism and Christianity in the Qur’an>
The Journey of Classical Greek Culture to the West
At the end of the 7th century, centers of what would become our Western heritage and give rise to the European Renaissance, were cities in the Islamic world where the culture favored learning and tolerance.
Follow the journey: From Greece to Byzantium and the Roman Empire | The Golden Age of Islam: from Rome to Baghdad | The Iberian Peninsula | West, from Arabic into Latin>
Travel the Journey
“As the problems and challenges facing humankind have changed, so have their religious and ideological solutions. We live among the wreckage of once-potent solutions. If we neglect them, they may become barriers to thought and action. If we understand them, they are a treasure house for all of us to share.”
The Unseen World: The Rise of Gods and Spirits
The Institute for Cultural Research