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On Faith: Spiritual evolution is fascinating issue

January 20, 2012|By Jim Turrell

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.

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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.

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