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DOMESTICATED DEITIES

"The individual is taught to find his salvation through the medium of the institution."  -- Joseph Campbell

 

The advent of agriculture and the domestication of animals prepared the way for the rise of the city-state, which in turn created sophisticated types of architecture and writing.  Certain individuals, particularly priests and kings obtained a power over their fellow humans on a scale previously unimaginable.  Having brought nature into subservience, slavery both overt and subtle was visited on the population.  This change in life-ways demanded new deities, new myths.

The god-king takes center stage.  While many of the old sacraments were retained, they were incorporated into rituals for a deity who was reshaped into man's image.  And here the path of religion splits.  The Western path took the way of history -- nature was wild and needed to be tamed; and revelation became dogma.  The Eastern path retained the eternal cycle; nature and culture were coequal and (ideally) harmonious; revelation became insight.

For over 2,000 years the major religions of the world have changed but little, while all around virtually all else has.  The West, always leaping ahead technologically, has virtually dominated the world.  The god-kings have been replaced by heads of state and corporate kingpins.

What we worship depends on how we live.  If the myths and established religions don't speak to that, we will worship the secular manifestations of that which we love, that which (hopefully, at least) completes us.  Unfortunately, without vital myths and compelling religions the effort is like looking for nourishment in candy bars.

In a consumer oriented age, salvation by association is the promise held out to all.  It is an overt brainwash calculated to  exploit Everyman's psyche and close the gap in the circle of automation.  All ads are sermons, all products potential icons.   The TV is the altar of our aspirations.

 

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