The Hopi have a story, passed for generations, that the world was destroyed three times. The first world was one of endless space and after congenial living and then strife, the world was destroyed by rain and fire. Survival came by living underground with ants with emergence when the world cooled down. At the second level, greed brought them down and this disaster was characterized by a cold period with ice covering the earth. After surviving, this time they destroyed one another by war and the destruction was by a flooded world. The astounding element is that each disaster actually did happen during the creation event – by fire, by freezing, and by very high water. Brains existed at those times storing emotional responses. Could these elaborate stories possibly actually be some memory?
In the Pueblo story, the people found the opening into the Fifth World too small. A fly, sent out to explore, reported this was the world Mother Creator had promised. The opening was made large enough with the help of an antelope and a badger. Indeed, homo sapiens’ assent into the world was done with the help of all the animals in the long evolutionary line preceding us!
The Lenape Nation creation story begins with a piece of coal from the earth and involves a tortoise, then a man, then a woman. Does this have a Genesis tone? The Navajo have sacred mountains from which they rose from the underworld (which, although a story, has some truth). In a sense, they have a sacred geography. The Crow’s religious basis is that all life came from a single source, not well defined, called Wa-do Sioux. A map of the sky was given at the top of Bear Butte, South Dakota, which guided the life of the Lakota, Dakota, Arapaho, and Nakota Nations. Receiving this star map, to these Nations, is n-tah; equivalent, to them as the Old Testament report of the Ten Commandments being received by Moses.
The Cheyenne story builds off a visit to one of their own, Sweet Medicine, received four sacred arrows and a medicine bundle in a cave near Bear Butte, South Dakota. The Pawnee beliefs include emerging from the darkness into the world of light in their creation. Does that not sound like Big Bang? One place, Shipapu, is the place of origin and one road ancient Pueblos built leads there, thereby placing their place of origin near them. For Kootenai, at the beginning of time, a supreme being called Quilxha Nupika created the people. The task given them at the time was to guard and keep the land forever. In the Apache creation belief, worship and mythical figures connect to animals and plants.
Did the emotions and behaviors appearing before humans evolved pass on to the Native Americans? From the perspective presented above, they did. Not only did the Native Americans display them, they expanded them. Here were humans who could think and ask questions, and their response was an inseparable connection between personal interactions, the earth around them, and religion. Frankly, it sort of sounds like these early homo sapiens had begun asking, “How Did We Get Here?” as well as “Why am I Here?”
One group slowly migrated southeast to what is now India. For a long time, a religion based on violence dominated. But though many worshipped violence, many did not. Slowly but surely their religion moved closer to the behaviors passed onto hominids from the chimpanzees. This led to Buddhism and Hinduism, now called religions, but then more a way of life.
Generally, here in North America, “wisdom” goes in a category called “intellectual.” “Compassion,” on the other hand, belongs in a separate category led by emotion. Buddhism differs sharply, teaching that the two must be merged, just like a bird needs both wings to fly. Buddhists are taught to selflessly help those who are suffering. His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote,
According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering.
Hinduism is not that different. Hinduism accepts that human intelligence is linked to environmental damage. People should unselfishly behave to maintain earth’s natural balance to repay God for the gifts given. The Universe is viewed as a divine creation so animals and plants, hills and rivers all can be worshipped, much as was seen with the Native Americans.
In this region, then, around 800 BCE, the religious beliefs of the two developing religions matched quite well the behaviors that had evolved over time and were part of the first hominids. Wisdom and emotions were interdependent. People seeking and believing in these two new religions were rejecting a religion based on violence which, for thousands of years, preceded them.
Move onto those first settlers in China. Contrary to the grasslands group, the environment here was rugged. Abundant large, edible animals influenced life style. An early civilization (about which little is known) appears to have made a satisfactory environment. Around 2000 BCE, available information marks the appearance of a king whose appearance story sort of parallels the New Testament’s story.
The all-powerful God had sent an egg carried by a bird. The egg was eaten by a woman who then gave birth to the first king. Only the king could contact the all-powerful God. Therefore all other people must worship and obey the king – or else the king would ask the all-powerful to do some damage them (ruin their crop, for example.) Over time, the king (and his ancestors with the same bloodline and, therefore, the same connection to the all-powerful) ruled a substantial area.
The years preceding Hinduism and Buddhism had religion as a worship of violence and cruelty which, over time, lost to a more compassionate approach. In this society, the king and those at the upper levels knew little about raising crops or any sort of hard work. The labor was done by the peasants, a much, much larger group. The king’s ancestors blood connection meant he should be capable of predicting the future to key issues like “Should warriors be sent to conquer this land?” “Will this year’s crop be enough to feed the people?” The peasants were mistreated, but kept in by fear of the kind bringing vengeance onto them. Eventually, when critical predictions by the king were wrong and caused hardship, the masses lost confidence in the king.
The focus changed. Karen Armstrong explains, “an ethical ideal that had hitherto been unconcerned about morality” appeared:
If a ruler was selfish, cruel, and oppressive, Heaven would not support him…if the ruler was wise, humane an truly concerned for the welfare of the subjects, people would flock to him.
The concept of an all-powerful God was not altered, but the expectations of that all-powerful God changed dramatically.
The two civilizations, geographically distant from one another, went through the same sort of experiences. Each went through hard times, when cruelty and mistreatment were part of their beliefs/religions. Although the route in China differed sharply from that to Hinduism and Buddhism, but the both outcome at this time were pretty much the same. The outcome was, once again, quite consistent with evolved emotions and behaviors passed onto homo sapiens. The time is now approaching about 800 BCE.