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.

  • Neolithic Era

  • Neolithic Era: Cosmic and Terrestrial Maintenance

    As the climate warmed, food sources became more plentiful and population numbers grew. An enormous communal effort and new inventions were required to assist and impress the spirit world to maintain cosmic and terrestrial harmony, and prevent a return of the perilous Ice Age.

  • Death and Transcendence

    Shamans became the specialists in transcendence and the stability of the community rested on their ability to engage the whole group by connecting it to the spirit world. How would they do this?

  • Replicating the Cave Experience

    Neolithic shamans no longer had to rely on the natural topography of each cave, but designed and built structures that repeated the cave experience.

  • Beliefs and Customs Journey West

    As land became exhausted people were obliged to move to newer pastures.

  • Temples of Malta – A Scientific Breakthrough

    At the foot of Sicily are two islands, Malta and Gozo, where more than 23 megalithic temples once stood. The construction of these temples spanned over a thousand years of continuous building and elaboration.

  • A Mega Building Boom as the Era Ends

    In Britain about 1,300 Neolithic mega-sites appear to have been built within little more than a century.

  • Pyramids: Stairway to the Gods

    Pyramid-shaped structures are yet another example of how human beings expressed their psychological understanding of our place in the universe as three-tiered.

  • Mesopotamia

  • Mesopotamia: “The Land Between Two Rivers"

    Part of the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia (“the land between the rivers” in Greek), was by its geographical location and development influential in the region from at least 2500 BCE to the fall of Babylon in 539 BCE.

  • Worldview and Beliefs

    In the Mesopotamian worldview, illnesses and strife were caused by evil demons or by divine displeasure. 

  • Connecting Heaven and Earth

    The ziggurat, the “mountain of God” or “hill of Heaven” was the center of the temple complex. Built of clay bricks, it was a massive, solid, pyramidal stepped structure, the summit of which housed the God.

  • Early Signs of Monotheism

    During the reign of Hammurabi in the 18th century BCE, Babylon became the principal city of southern Mesopotamia, and the patron deity of Babylon, the god Marduk, was elevated to the level of supreme god.

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh & Other Writings

    In 1872, the Assyriologist George Smith astounded the London Society for Biblical Archaeology with the news that he had discovered on a cuneiform tablet an account of the Flood that was so similar to that of the biblical Book of Genesis that its influence could not be denied.

  • Understanding Their World

    From their cuneiform writings on clay tablets scholars know that the Mesopotamians, like the later Greeks, attempted to understand their world and the universe in any way they could.

  • Noble Ones

  • The Noble Ones

    The Aryans or “Noble Ones” were thought to have remained together on the Caucasian steppes from about 4500 BCE until about 2500 BCE when groups began to migrate.

  • Indus-Sarasvati Civilization

  • Indus-Sarasvati Civilization

    By 2,500 BCE the Indus-Sarasvati or Harappan civilization became the largest civilization of the Ancient world, extending over more than 386,000 square miles across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges.

  • Mehrgarh 7000–2000 BCE

    The Neolithic site of Mehrgarh is located to the west of the Indus-Sarasvati flood plain, in Baluchistan east of the mountain city of Quetta in Pakistan.

  • Harappa 3500–1900 BCE

    Damage under Colonial rule and looting by local people likely set back our knowledge of this civilization.

  • Mohenjo-Daro 2600–1900 BCE

    Located between the two vast river valleys of the Indus and the Sarasvati, Mohenjo-Daro was one of the most important cities of the Indus civilization.

  • The Demise of this Great Civilization

    By about 3900 years ago (1900 BCE), the monsoons had shifted east causing the Sarasvati to gradually change from a perennial to a seasonal river.

  • Who Were They and What Did They Believe?

    We know almost nothing of the Indus-Sarasvati people or their religion. Speculations on the meaning of figurines, depictions on seals, etc., are just that.

  • Aegean Neolithic and Bronze Age Civilizations

  • The Cycladic Civilization Circa 3300 to 1100 BCE

    “There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water, and therein are many men, past counting, and ninety cities...."

  • Minoa – Europe’s First Civilization ca 2000–1400 BCE

    Crete sits at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe and was the hub of a cosmopolitan world that included Egypt, the Levant, Anatolia, and the Greek mainland.

  • Minoan “Palaces” and Religious Beliefs

    In 1900, the famed archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans provided the first evidence of an extraordinary civilization. He named it Minoan, after the legendary King Minos, son of Zeus.

  • Conflict and Calamity

    Earthquakes, often severe and ruinous, were frequent in Minoan times.

  • The Mycenaeans 1600–1100 BCE

    The Mycenaeans were closely related to the Minoans - both descended from early farmers who lived in Greece and southwestern Anatolia.

  • The Bronze Age Collapse

  • The First Global Economy

    Could a series of catastrophes over a century or more, have led to the final collapse of the Bronze Age civilizations in the Aegean, Egypt, and the Near East after nearly two thousand years of growth and prosperity?

  • The Dark Ages

    After nearly two thousand years of growth and prosperity, (ca 3000–1200 BCE) the civilizations in the Aegean, Egypt, and the Near East unraveled. What happened? 

  • The Perfect Storm

    Is what happened in the ancient world over 3,000 years ago likely to happen again, but on a much larger scale?

  • Archaic Greece

  • Archaic Greece: The Dark Age and a New Dawn

    Evidence of very early settlement on the Greek Islands comes from the Franchthi cave, overlooking the Argolid Sea in the Peloponnese.

  • Emerging from the Dark Age 800–500 BCE

    Statis or conflict was a continuous and ever present condition in the steps towards the polis or city-state – the political community which would become characteristic of Greece.

  • History According to the Storytellers

    With no first handwritten documents of their past, survivors turned to traditional storytellers.

  • Religious Life

    Like other pre-Axial cultures, Greeks believed in a pantheon of Gods who presided over every aspect of life and nature.

  • Ancient China

  • Early Civilizations China

    Chinese civilization dates back 5,000 years to mythical and legendary individuals who ruled the fertile Yellow River valley of what we know today as China.

  • Three Legendary Sovereigns

    Three Sage Kings, or Three August Ones, were said to be god-kings or demigods. Because of their superior virtue they lived to a great age and ruled over a long period of peace.

  • The Five Emperors

    The Five Emperors may be thought of more as supreme beings, rather than “emperors.” They were morally perfect.

  • The Shang Dynasty 1600–1045 BCE

    Historians note that the Shang dynasty was itself believed to be mythological until written evidence was found in the 1920’s.

“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

God 4.0

On the Nature of Higher Consciousness and the Experience Called “God”

By Robert Ornstein with Sally Ornstein

Review by Denise Winn
Contributing Writer

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. Read more 

A Contemporary Look at the Nature of Religious Experience

Review by George Kasabov
Contributing Writer

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?

Returning to the Spirit in “Sacred Nature”

By Farooq Chadhry

A review of Sacred Nature by Karen Armstrong

A staggering 33 million people have been internally displaced in Pakistan. Because climate change is likely to have played a role in the heavy rains, the displaced can be considered “climate refugees”— a term that the novelist Fatima Bhutto urges us remember, as we will all be impacted by climate change, and many of us will become migrants as a result, if we haven’t already.

Religious Evolution and the Axial Age

From Shamans to Priests to Prophets

Hardcover edition 2018

By Stephen K. Sanderson

Reported by Sally Mallam
Contributing Writer

Why are there are so many different types of religion and how and why has religion evolved over time? The answer lies in both our biological and our sociocultural evolution.

Further Reading