It all started in the woods, we were forest people. The first conversation. The first love. The first spittle to make mark it. First time the man got wooden and woman became wet there. The first consummation. The first pregnancy. The first birth. First instance of man manufacturing another life. The forests owned us along with the trees, animals, birds, rivers and rocks. And it was our habitat as much as we were a precarious part of its ecosystem. Precarious because the forests that loomed over us knew that the day wasn’t far off when we would begin to loom over them. And in time loom did we, shrinking them in tandem with our tribe’s endless extension of headcount and greed.
As far as life was in the precincts of the woods and dependent on its resources, we worshiped it. We were a gullible lot; content when it came to needs and sentimental about utility received. We saw the trees that bore fruits, provided shade and let their bodies be used to make our homes as gods. We saw the mountains and the forests that let us live in them as gods. We prayed to the rivers that quenched our thirst, kept our crops alive and transported us. We remained cordial with other creatures some of whom we hunted out of hunger, not for the want of a sport or cuisine curiosity.
Man’s worship of nature went on till the intelligence improved. When it did, worshiping trees, mountains and rivers seemed impersonal. Not just that it was almost defeating to bend down before manifestations who were at his mercy, didn’t talk or look like him. The alpha status of the human race had started to kick in, around the same time his civilization pangs began. He had learnt to demolish, destroy, usurp his way to a better quality of life, the need and definition of which kept changing with time. His peers in the jungle became minorities who were relegated to being- in the zoo; in the circus; in a cage; his pets; in labs; his agricultural machinery; the centre part of a burger, if not his Sunday meal.
As Utopian aspirations took over his soul with him progressing beyond the brink of civilization, the next stop was changing his god, nature. The old god, couldn’t continue to exist in his concrete homes. After centuries of plundering her, he had started to feel more powerful. Not only that, he started to feel that every other manifestation was at his mercy.He appointed himself to be the god’s deputy on earth, picking and choosing utility for other creatures. The milk giving cow was holy, he let it be alive and domesticated. The bull was strong, but tasty as well; he let it either toil in the fields or boil in the stove. The dog was faithful and protective, he let it live and watch.
But he needed someone mighty above him to god him. His god had to look like him, talk like him, possess supernatural prowess and be a much, much better person than himself. So with time, he started scouting for gods among his tribe. The virtuous, the powerful and the honourable among him were celebrated as gods. With time he spun their lifetimes into folklore, passed it onto the next generation. And the next. And the next. And it went on. His gods were growing in stature through his imagination and Chinese whispers.
He put this god in charge of everything beyond him and above his control. So if a meteor struck, it was god’s doing. If it rained during a famine, it was god’s doing. If he wanted or didn’t want something badly, he turned to god. If he got what he wanted, god gave him. And if he didn’t, god chose not to give him. His birth started with god and his death took him there. Life became peaceful with accountability for the unknown shifted to another entity. The suspense account in his balance sheet finally had a name.
With god appointed, the next necessity was to regulate, preserve and curate gods. For which he designed a way of life around them and called it religion. Religions were nothing but philosophies,prescriptions, dos and don’ts, procedures to tread along the path of a certain god. God might’ve formed the religion, but it is religion that put a roof over his head and a sanctum sanctorum around him. This difference from one god to another were the things they stood for differed, their ethnicity and as a result, their teachings.
The transition of religions is a curious one. Over time, religions became competitive institutions, breeding grounds for one-upmanship among their affiliates. Religions also started becoming cannibalistic creatures that would often feed on one another, poach followers from one other and even bringing chaos and destruction over peace and prosperity. How much the followers consumed beyond the surface level of hymns and austerities is another thing. From nuclear ecosystems of worship they grew in stature to become formidable scaffolding to political belief, to fashion the way countries were ruled.
With god and religion being appointed to point fingers at a direction above or within, the next endeavour was to get to the bottom of a happening or a consequence. Thus was born Karma, the spiritual excuse for coincidence. If hardwork didn’t bring results, it was one’s karma. If dumbness kept prosperity intact, it was a forefather’s karma. Karma became the reason for god’s discretion.
With every invention, scientific breakthrough made life definitely became easier. The effort out of processes gets drained. The satisfaction increases; the quality of output improves. Life becomes that simpler. If once there was a phone to talk, camera to take pictures, radio to listen to songs, theatre to watch movie, computers to automate work and compass to find directions; today’s smartphones are all of that rolled into one and more. Not only has the quality of communicating improved or the world shrunk in size, but utility of several gadgets are found in one place. But while breakthroughs no wonder make life simpler, they don’t necessarily make it happier. They’re materialistic influences that have an impact, largely external. Add an A/c to a car, journey becomes cooler. Add a stereo, you could hum a few songs along the way. Have a GPS, it spoon feeds with the navigation. And add to it a seat that reclines, your back is pampered. The purpose of the car doesn’t change. The destination doesn’t. Just that every breakthrough makes the journey that comfortable. That’s the thing about comfort it distracts you from yourself by the external experience.
That’s where the last, but strongest stop of the god-religion shebang comes, the internal personality- the soul. The concept of soul is that every individual is made of an inner manifestation that regulates his conscience. It neither has a beginning nor an end. Like water, it takes the shape and color of the person it is within, reflecting his state of mind. The soul needs to be at peace for the individual to be happy. Some agree. Some laugh. Some diss. But for the sake of this rather long piece not turning longer, let’s agree.
The thing about the soul is it doesn’t get influenced by sensory experiences that bring comfort, entertainment and desire fulfillment. So while biriyani might be sumptuous food ,the soul would remain hungry. A good article might be food for thought, but the soul would still crave.
Religions and gods address the soul. For all of them through their teachings and philosophies single-mindedly pay attention at enriching this entity. While we can debate the soul’s existence, we can’t but agree about how the core of every religion is directed towards the internal journey of an individual. Religions don’t address hunger, education, entertainment or travel, but talk about karma, good deeds, virtues and salvation instead through anecdotes and holy verses, that are largely abstract concepts. That’s why the eternal appeal of religion and faith that attend to the internal itches.
While there is a price to most commodities and awareness of the place to get them from, there’s neither a price for an abstract commodity like peace of mind leave alone a place to get them from. Given the fact that eight out of ten people are believers in a higher power or faith that gives them a ticket to it, the few who claim to know the whereabouts of god, salvation, karma automatically become monarchs in a seller’s market that can put a price it deems fit. Because as far as soul-searching goes, neither the pain or the antidote are defined; nor are the search and the eventual discovery.