“Let us draw a lesson from nature, which always works by short ways. When the fruit is ripe, it falls. When the fruit is despatched, the leaf falls. The circuit of the waters is mere falling. The walking of man and all animals is a falling forward. All our manual labor and works of strength, as prying, splitting, digging, rowing, and so forth, are done by dint of continual falling, and the globe, earth, moon, comet, sun, star, fall for ever and ever.”
How often is it considered that religions and economic stages of humanity are intimately intertwined? Anatomically modern humans are thought to have originated some 200,000 years ago. For the majority of the time we lived as scavengers and then hunters and gathers. Consider the evidence of the origins of agriculture date to around 10,000 years ago. That’s agriculture being practiced for %5 percent of genetically modern human history, and that’s not factoring in such predecessors like homo erectus. It is thought that for this %95 of human activity, we gathered plants, and game animals as they came into season. As Emerson said “Nature is an endless combination and repetition of a very few laws”, one of those laws is that of season and change. Our survivability being so closely linked to the rhythms of Earth, we most certainly developed spiritual and religious ideas around hunting and gathering. The environment being the custodian of our survival, we did our best to communicate with the elements of our world. This is a basic concept of animist religion, the belief that everything has a spirit, all parts of the whole possess an anima. That vital force that exist in ourselves and in all the players on the stage conspiring to nourish us as we nourish them. Prayers for bountiful runs of salmon, their continual returns and gratitude for their life were part and parcel of ancestral econo-psycho-religion that is still evident today in such events as ‘The First Salmon’ ceremonies. It is observed that these ceremonies took place amongst all tribes who subsisted off of salmon. “The salmon chief of the tribe would select a fisher to catch the first salmon. This was an honor, and before entering the river the fisher would undergo a blessing or a purification.”1.
Seasonal shifts are so important, the cold winter shifting to spring was a period of time in which humanity celebrated. This is pointedly expressed in winter holidays that center around the solstice, December 21st. The winter solstice is the peak of scarcity, cold and darkness, and the beginning of the return to warmth, light and bounty.
Many theorize that modern Christianity celebrates this in Christmas, in which the son comes to earth, an evergreen is brought indoors and decorated with lights, and gifts arrive. Judaism celebrates the ‘Festival of Lights’ in which candles are lit during in the depths of darkness.
In general, the hunter and gather econo-religion viewed nature as a gift giver. Importance is placed on gratitude and offerings. Birth was highly celebrated and the woman, the mother highly revered, men were also highly regarded and as they brought home the nutritionally packed meat the whole tribe celebrated in unison. As parts of humanity shifted into cultivating fixed plots of vegetation, or herding animals, ideals shifted. Formerly, the forest was a place in which prayers for food were responded too, and during a momentary depletion of food source, all a tribal group would have to do is move to another location. The advent of agricultural and pastoralism is thought to be a time in which protectionism became a priority. Nature, and other humans became competitors, and potential raiders of one’s secured resources. Death over took birth culminating in today’s elaborate funerals, and sterile hospital births. The pastoral references in Judeo-Christian texts are numerous in their depiction of important imagery of the time. The concepts of the golden calf, the Lamb of God and the Garden of Eden, to name a few, all derive from a pastoralist vocabulary. It is a time in which the exchange shifted from gift and offering, to earning and sacrifice. Something hunted and gathered was a matter of reception, whereas cultivating a fixed plot or tending a grouping of animals meant blood and sweat.
As civilizations grow, and economies change, values and priorities are oft reflected in their buildings. The size and elaborateness of such structures logically reflect the buildings importance. City buildings can be examined for their architectural totem pole. As explorers arrived in the America’s they observed massive temples and towers dedicated to the pre-Columbian God’s, all to be disassembled and the new tallest of structures would become the conquistadors churches. In our modern cities, when one looks around we peer up to giant sky scrapers, usually filled with the guts of some kind of financial institution. Although locally for me, it appears that in Eureka California, the tallest building is the county jail, which many would consider just another type of financial institution. Currently, the tallest building in the world is the “Burj Khalifa”, in the United Arab Emirates. This is not the first time that the mid-east claimed it’s title for the largest structures on the planet. Formerly, the pyramids of Egypt once impressively demonstrated a culture whose obsession were Sky God’s who brought rain to a desert and the corresponding Astro-Theology, whereas now the title is returned in a different vain. The monument of “Burj Khalifa”, rests in Dubai, one of the Seven Arab Emirates. It’s economy was built by black gold, of which many humans have been sacrificed. Today it’s economy has shifted to one of ‘service’, although many reliable sources say those service providers live an existence termed as ‘less than human’. It is a place, where trans-global financial elites meet and relax and human abuse prevails.
Today, the salmon runs are not returning to many rivers. The wild game, pinned and penned by private property are a sport. The oceans poisoned by the man-made bi-products of ambition. The gift giving forest, harvested for the benefit of stock brokers and their redwood decks in Hollywood. Entertainment as opposed to creativity enjoys a prominent place in each home, where once thrived a family altar. We’ve come to enshrine shrewd investment, and earnings and savings over natural balance and reciprocity. In many a person’s heart is heard the call of the wild. Is there any wonder why there exists today, a desire to commune with nature and a fascination with indigenous cultural religion. However romanticized or naïve these attractions are, they beckon of a modern man’s longing to return to a world of balance.