Beyond Self. (Continuation of previous posting).

What we have just described in the final paragraphs of the previous blog, is something to which I guess the overwhelming majority of us can relate to in our own day and age. However, for us it is unlikely to have been aspects of the weather or the sun or moon that supplied the focus of our sense of dependency which we felt upon someone/ something outwith and beyond us, so much as – say – the religious beliefs, practices and suchlike of our immediate forebears, e.g. grandparents, parents and other family and community members. Indeed, it was most likely our parents or some other guardian figure who introduced us to their chosen faith, perhaps through infant baptism (or perceived equivalent form of initiation) and from whom and which – together with a great deal more besides – we assumed our own beliefs and practices. Perhaps as time went by we were sent to Sunday School – or, again, to its equivalent – depending upon the religion being pursued and practiced.

Thus, almost from the moment of birth into this world, spirituality and religion were being linked in a way in which in those very early days, man rarely if ever questioned, much less challenged. Indeed, in many instances it was more than personal wellbeing (and in some societies, safety and even life itself) was worth to do so. To refer to spirituality and religion almost in the same breath therefore, seemed entirely right and proper. For early man, religion had quickly become – as it may well have done for many of us in our day – a response to a quite basic and deep-seated need. But whereas he created and fashioned it according to his needs and motivations, we in our day have fashioned it to ours. Thus we have become Buddhists, or Christians, or followers of Judaism, or Islam or whatever. Moreover, we presumably can now see how it is that although our spirituality is integral and is essentially part of us, i.e. of our humanity, religion on the other hand, has been, is and will continue to be man-made (although we may very well believe and live to proclaim that it has been Divinely inspired).

Then again, here is a somewhat different way of looking at things, in order to reach and reinforce very similar conclusions. As a child I came across an illustrated storybook containing some of the best known of Greek myths, several of which fascinated, at times challenged and at times mystified me. One great favourite of mine was the story of how Prometheus bestowed the gift of fire upon man. (Fire – according to the Hellenic narrative – was considered to be the stuff of mind and the material basis for all culture). Thus Prometheus could boast, “Who was it but I who in truth dispensed honours to these new gods?…All arts that mortals have, come from Prometheus”.

It is – as I have stated above – a myth, presumably related and written down to account for what might be referred to as the “missing link” in human evolution between modern man (or homosapiens, i.e. thinking man) and his ape-like ancestors. Whatever the nature of your personal belief about the origin of man, truly, the gift of mind and of that channel which it facilitates – something like an “airwave” existing between man and his creator/ benefactor known as spirituality – came from outwith and beyond. Of course, how that same fire is received, accommodated and controlled has, from the very beginning (just as it does today) relied upon the perceptive and imaginal powers of man. For example, fire may be kindled on stones as one might arrange and build a camp or bonfire. Then again it may be ‘housed’ in some form of stone or metal grate or brazier, or in a simple or more ornate fire grate and surround. Where a large but nevertheless controlled fire is required, there a kiln or furnace may be constructed.

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