The 44,000 Year Old Roots of Religion by Wayne Saalman

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THAT SPIRITUALITY IS A NATURAL, instinctive impulse of humanity is by now one of history’s clearest truisms. This was made strikingly obvious recently when archaeologists discovered the earliest-ever cave art paintings on a small Indonesian island. These graphics date back almost 44,000 years. In the paintings, there are human beings shown hunting large mammals. As well – and this is the really revealing part – there are also figures which are part-human and part-animal, the same as in many of the cave art paintings discovered all around Europe in past decades.

 

These part-human, part-animal figures are known as “therianthropes”. According to the article in the newspaper, archaeologists believe these figures represent humanity’s proclivity for “imagining the existence of supernatural beings”. Note the word “imagining” there. Such a description is based on a penchant by scientific materialists to render all so-called “supernatural” entities as unreal.

 

As the much respected psychologist, Abraham Maslow, pointed out in his book, Religions, Values and Peak Experiences, “The very beginning, the intrinsic core, the essence, the universal nucleus of every known high religion… has been the private, lonely, personal illumination, revelation, or ecstasy of some acutely sensitive prophet or seer.”

 

Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Mithras and virtually all other figures around whom a religion has been founded speak earnestly and reverently of otherworldly beings, be these entities known by the name of “God”, “gods”, “demi-gods”, “angels”, “demons”, “saints”, “buddhas”, “dakinis”, “devas”, “beings of light” or any other name. Millions upon millions of people over the centuries have believed – and millions continue to believe – in the absolute truth of these encounters and experiences, and hold them in the highest of regard. They are not viewed as being fictitious, i.e. unreal.

 

Indeed, if “supernatural beings” are only imaginary, then we must conclude that untold numbers of people throughout history have been given to illusory musings on a profoundly persistent basis and this is part of our nature.

 

If, however, as scientific materialists maintain, virtually every action of a human being is down to an evolutionary impetus to survive, then that means that there must be some measure of reality to these instinctually persistent scenarios where otherworldly entities, including therianthropes, are experienced.

 

By the way, if therianthropes are depicted alongside human beings engaged in hunting activity that ties them into the most fundamental of all human needs: the necessity of acquiring food for survival.

 

Some scientific materialists will say these therianthropes only happen to be part of ancient cave art because particular personages ingested psychotropic substances back in the day. In other words, the encounters with therianthropes was strictly a hallucinatory phenomenon and, therefore, again, unreal. In effect, the event or experience was essentially all in the mind of the person.

 

Today such a visionary is called a “shaman”, which is a Tungus word meaning “between the worlds”. This is an interesting definition in itself, for it does distinctly admit that the phenomenon is not to be regarded in a strictly materialist sense.

 

The question then becomes this: What do we mean by “all in the mind”?

 

Many cutting edge researchers today do not take that to mean that the experience was, or is, merely hallucinatory in nature. That is because the “mind” being referred to here by these cutting edge researchers is not solely the conscious awareness conventionally attributed to the brain of a human being. On the contrary, the mind to which these researchers are referring is what many call “Universal Mind”, which is a higher level of collective consciousness said to be multidimensional in magnitude and scope.

 

William Buhlman in his many fascinating accounts of out-of-body exploration in books such as Adventures Beyond the Body and The Secret of the Soul states that on multiple occasions he has encountered part-human, part-animal beings while on an adventure. One thing he makes quite clear in his books is that he is able to pursue these adventures, not through the ingestion of a psychotropic substance, but purely through a method of deep meditation he has perfected for himself.

 

Yogis of the East make precisely the same claim and the abundance of literature on their perspectives is rich indeed. The Vedas, for example, are thousands of years old and among the most revered, sacred texts in all of Asia.

 

The Egyptians, of course, preceded all modern day western explorers in the area of out-of-body adventures. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the Egyptians were one of the most advanced practitioners of adventures into otherworldly dimensions ever as their hieroglyphics so famously show. The depiction of their gods as half-human and half-animal is ubiquitous within their culture and the iconic Sphinx is just one colossal example of this persistent perspective on the so-called “supernatural”.

 

Scientific materialist are correct, of course, to note that no bones of any half-human, half-animal entity have ever been uncovered by archaeologists, but this fact only bolsters the claim that such beings are not “strictly physical”. At the same time, however, this fact does not “prove” that such entities are unreal and do not exist, for there are energetic levels within the multidimensional universe which are simply too subtle for our current technology to capture. One need only read how physicists are trying their best to prove the existence of “dark energy” and “dark matter” in order to understand how true this statement actually is.

 

(An exception to the above argument may be in the realm of digital photography, which does appear to be able to capture very fine intelligent, energetic, spheroid entities known as “orbs”.)

 

Much in the Bible is surprisingly relevant to this discussion, as well. Isaiah 30:6, mentions “dragons” along with “flying serpents”. Isaiah 34:13 reads, “And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court of owls.” 34:14 states that, “The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow…” I would remind the reader that “satyrs” are indeed half-human, half-animal creatures.

 

As for Ezekiel, he speaks about seeing “living creatures” each of whom was standing beside a wheel. “In appearance their form was like a man but each of them had four faces and four wings.” This clearly refers to some half-human, half-animal type of creature. Quite famously, these beings with their “wheels” flew up into the sky, which has led more than a few writers to speculate about whether Ezekiel had been looking on extraterrestrials with a spaceship. Ezekiel, however, insisted that his were “visions of God”. In other words, they were God-given visions and not physically real.

 

Of course, the Greek and Roman “myths” powerfully present the notion that we humans have been encountering “gods”, “goddesses”, “dragons”, “satyrs” and so on for millenniums ahead of the Common Era. “Pan”, to cite just one example, was considered to be a nature deity of the highest level and he was clearly half-human, half-animal looking in appearance.

 

In light of all of this, I believe, it is irresponsible of scientific materialists to dismiss one of humanity’s most persistent of beliefs; that there are nonphysical entities with which we humans sometimes interact. That they are not purely physical in nature does not mean that they are unreal, only that they are not solely physical, but they apparently can and do manifest as physical entities on the rare occasion. People instinctively know this, which is why religion is so meaningful to them and has been for millenniums on end. Indeed, 44,000 years is one amazingly long time span!

 

On a positive note, one may speculate, I think, based on the existence of these ancient cave paintings that these “supernatural” entities are, by and large, spiritual allies of the human species. We certainly perceive “angels”, “buddhas”, “gods”, “devas” and “spiritual guides” in such a light and for good reason. They sometimes aid us in what appear to be miraculous ways and save lives. (I’ve seen just such stories on the internet even in recent years.)

 

So it may have been with the all-important, life-sustaining hunt in more primitive times. This may seem exceedingly far-fetched to many, but the cave art is real and humanity did survive and thrive! These are inarguable facts.

 

Therefore, if nothing else, here is much food for thought, indeed.

 

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