As I read H.G. Wells’ A Short History Of The World this morning, a particular section grabbed my attention and made me draw correlations with our modern times.
In the 12th chapter Primitive Thought, he speculates how power and religion must have sprung in primitive times:
In many cases it is not difficult to link cause and effect, in many others erroneous ideas were soon corrected by experience; but there was a large series of issues of very great importance to primitive man, where he sought persistently for causes and found explanations that were wrong but not sufficiently wrong nor so obviously wrong as to be detected. It was a matter of great importance to him that game should be abundant or fish plentiful and easily caught, and no doubt he tried and believed in a thousand charms, incantations and omens to determine these desirable results. Another great concern of his was illness and death. Occasionally infections crept through the land and men died of them. Occasionally men were stricken by illness and died or were enfeebled without any manifest cause. This too must have given the hasty, emotional mind of primitive man much feverish exercise. Dreams and fantastic guesses made him blame this, or appeal for help to that man or beast or thing. He had the child’s aptitude for fear and panic.
Quite early in the little human tribe, older, steadier minds sharing the fears, sharing the imaginations, but a little more forceful than the others, must have asserted themselves, to advise, to prescribe, to command. This they declared unpropitious and that imperative, this an omen of good and that an omen of evil. The expert in Fetish, the Medicine Man, was the first priest. He exhorted, he interpreted dreams, he warned, he performed the complicated hocus pocus that brought luck or averted calamity. Primitive religion was not so much what we now call religion as practice and observance, and the early priest dictated what was indeed an arbitrary primitive practical science.
What Wells has tried to say in this is that the primitive men were unable to form sound judgment on the important things that were happening around them. Those things spanned from the availability of their foods to illness and death. Although they tried to make guesses, they weren’t able to discover the proper cause-effect. This made them prone to fear and panic.
It was then that the older and steadier minds among them took lead and began advising, teaching and eventually commanding the multitudes. Those leaders were priests, which then gave birth to religion.
I am the proof that our modern time with computers, internet and now Artificial Intelligence, Space-Travels, Medical science, etc. is taking us into the great unknown which is making us fearful and anxious.
If the information overload — which has given us more confusion than wisdom — was not enough, the thought of machines taking our jobs, megalomaniacs stepping into moons, diseases taking our lives, have guaranteed almost nothing as we are unable to form sound judgment on what will happen tomorrow, let alone in five years time. We are confused about our livelihood and health — important things — just like the primitive men. The only thing that has changed is the tools. For example, anxiety about the availability of foods has been replaced by anxiety about the quality of foods. And in some places, quantity of it.
Although we try to make guesses, we aren’t being able to discover the proper cause-effect of all this. A quick scroll on Medium will prove this. This has made us fearful.
Once again, as per Wells’ narrative, this problem in primitive days led to older and steadier minds among them to take lead in advising, teaching and eventually commanding the multitudes. Those leaders then became priests, which then gave birth to religion.
Although the tools and mediums have changed today, we have seen an uprising of religious and spiritual pursuits on a global scale. We saw that in the mid 20th century due to bombs and we see that today due to computers, AIs, medicine, as mentioned above. The 20th century crisis had limited sources of threat from what we have today.
But a big part of us isn’t satisfied with the religious and spiritual doctrines that have its roots in spears and stones. We are today dealing with machines that threaten to be more intelligent than us. The ones that threaten to even eradicate us! We do have the option of deeming them ‘devil’ and ‘monsters’, otherwise those teachings don’t touch us in the regions we want to be touched.
If history does indeed repeat itself, what that leaves us with is to identify the older and steadier minds among us that are taking lead. Who are advising, teaching and commanding the multitudes.
In the ancient times, those leaders were called priests who gave birth to religion as we know today. Who is doing that today and what new religion is being formed from all this? Should we not be skeptical of what forms from all this?
Once again, if history repeats, they are here. They have to be here by now. So, Who are they? Is it me? Is it you? Is it us? Or is it a billionaire?