The Birth of Religion
In the beginning, people lived in tribes comprised solely of their close relatives, due to inbreeding. These tribes were thought to be no bigger than 150 people. There were not many people on earth, but they all lived in a relatively small area, where they had evolved and loosely branched off from their common ancestors. Because they lived close by to each other, they would periodically encounter other tribes in their search for food, while hunting, or traveling to more-hospitable regions due to seasonality and climate fluctuations.
As they traveled, and sometimes even while they stayed in one location, they would meet other people who looked similar to them, other people who looked less-similar to them, primates who vaguely and uncomfortably resembled then, as well as other animals who ranged from predator to prey to, perhaps, both. They ate plants they foraged along the way, and animals they killed by hunting, as well as their eggs. They ate seafood and fish from the coastlands and other tributaries. Sometimes, perhaps, they ate other people from other tribes that they encountered and killed. They probably did not eat rotting animals that they found, just ones they had freshly killed.
This was how they lived. They did not have a home, they did not plant anything, and their possessions amounted to what they could carry — mainly, their clothes, which were made from the skins of the animals they had killed.
Because of the insularity, familiality, and familiarity of their tribe, they naturally developed maximum empathy for each other. They understood each others’ feelings , thoughts, and instincts on an intuitive level. You might say they had something like a ‘hive mind,’ traveling together in a pack like wolves, or birds.
The only dissonance, then, came from the discrepancy between the hive empathy mind, which they felt deep inside their hearts, and the unique perceptual ‘reality’ that each of them experienced through their senses, and minds. At no point in human history did people actually believe they were one organism, because their higher-level thinking allowed them to note the discrepancy between the connections they felt in their hearts and the literal perceptual ‘reality’ that each of them saw through their own eyes, from their own perspectives. You might say the first discrepancy was between orientation and perception. Their orientation, within the tribe, was as one organism, but their perception, locked within themselves, was that of an individual. Early people would have noticed this, and noted it, from the beginning. Their heart and their head were in different ‘places.’
But, if there had only been one tribe of 150 people on earth, which remained roughly the same size throughout the generations, this original dissonance would not have manifested into anything ‘problematic’. It would have been accepted as the fundamental dual-seeming nature of reality; and, in fact, this is likely how it was probably interpreted from the very beginning, as “I” see and “we” feel — one organism, with multiple members. However…
There was a second dissonance. The web of transpersonal empathy did not extend to the other tribes they encountered, such as ‘neanderthals’ (who I am considered ‘people’), whom they did interbreed with, but simultaneously slaughtered genocidally over generations. It was perhaps the first intentional rape and pillage campaign in human history. Because these other people were not part of their tribe, and perhaps because they looked different, early people were unable to unable to extend their empathy to them, unable to ‘understand’ them.
The dissonance produced by encountering another similar-looking, similar-acting tribe who their hearts did not connect with in any way must have been shocking to early people. It was the original uncanny valley, totally different in effect than people encountering animals, who they could immediately tell were a different ‘type of entity’ because they looked and behaved so different. Seeing another two-legged thing that looked like your tribe-mates, made similar sounds and gestures, wore similar ‘clothing,’ and perhaps carried similar tools, but who you could not understand at all ‘psychically,’ must have been horrifying, like waking up inside a nightmare.
Early people must have connected across tribes — some of the interbreeding would have been mutual. But, just as often, if not more so, they would have been frightened or felt threatened by each other, just as wolf packs attack each other if one pack enters into another’s territory. Early fights would likely have been about food, or for access to prime foraging and hunting territory due to weather. They would have been in no way ‘ideological,’ since different tribes would have had no ideology to compare the other’s to, nor would they have been able to understand the other’s ideology enough to disagree. The disgust of the other tribe would have arisen solely from the revulsion of seeing a warped mirror version of yourself and your family, who was also trying to get your same food, and the intermingled horror, intrigue, fear, and anger that would have arisen throughout your tribe’s hive heart. All early wars, then, were between entire tribes as singular organisms battling each other — there were no ‘conscientious objectors’, because there was no individual conscience.
Throughout the generations, as the birth rate began to exceed the death rate and tribes of people interbred (due to connection or rape and pillage), they began to expand across the earth. They walked, daily, and by the time they had their children those children were born many miles from where their mothers had been born, and the cycle continued. Tribes were being born so far away from where the earliest tribes were born that they no longer had any heart connection to them anymore, other than whatever their genetic imprint suggested for them.
Still, however, each small tribe of around 150 people retained its unique tribal identity, synthesizing the original dissonance of tribal heart vs. individual perception. But now, with so many more people on the earth, even with the extra space, each tribe would be more and more likely to encounter and knowingly live ‘alongside’ other tribes. The second dissonance, that of tribal identity vs. tribal identity, could not last in its pure state. With this new level of proximity, there had to be some intermingling of tribal identity. And there was.
This produced the third dissonance. The first dissonance was intra-tribe orientation (heart) vs. perception (head). The second dissonance was inter-tribal identity (tribe vs. tribe). The third dissonance was within. As tribes interacted more and more, perhaps trading, perhaps interbreeding, perhaps even hunting alongside each other, their unique tribal identities began to become porous, osmotically allowing a two-way flow with the other tribe. The singularity of their tribal heart began to collapse, began to become messy. This was the birth of the modern human mind. Split, complex, conflicted, messy, incongruous, and simultaneously connected and disconnected from other people.
As the once-distinct tribal identities began to flow into each other, like tributaries, it did not produce a singular ‘ocean of consciousness,’ a sort of meta-heart that encompassed all people. No. This fantasy state did not happen because, as the tribal identities began to intermingle, even as they began to ‘accept’ one another’s existence more and more, the definition of a ‘tribe’ began to become amorphous, and the ‘tribes’ (or their loosely-related but highly-influential neighbors) began to grow, and, for the first time in history, there were strangers.
The birth of the stranger is the birth of split human consciousness. This is when the heart and the head split off from one another. With such a messy notion of ‘tribal identity,’ due to all the intermingling of ideas, and neighbors, and strangers, each person’s heart could no longer rest easy in the stable, shared hive heart of ‘pure’ tribal identity. And now, with so many more people to view and take into consideration, the mind had to struggle to accept that many more unique perceptions. It seemed that the fracturing of perception was limitless — instead of just 150 points of view, or more if you take animals into consideration (animal perception and heart was appreciated by early people, but still thought of as a ‘separate’ thing, because the animals looked and behaved so differently, so there was no additional dissonance produced), there were now thousands of people. The mind knew, via Theory of Mind, that each of these people had their own unique perception; and, furthermore, via the vestiges of that original intra-tribal empathy (hive heart), the heart ‘knew’ that each of these people had their own ‘heart life’ — but now, because there were so many people to take into consideration, including strangers from significantly different tribes and genetic backgrounds, and because the original tribal identity had become nebulous via ‘identity-swapping’ (memetics), the heart could no longer ‘naturally’ connect with all the other people to form a singular hive heart. The temple was destroyed, the garden was ruined — and, for the first time, each person began to retreat not only into their own perspective, but into their own orientation, into the recesses of their ‘own’ heart, which they now began to view more and more as their ‘own,’ singular, just like their point of view. This was the fracturing of the human heart, and this was the birth of the need for religion.