The cold snap that gave Toronto the look and feel of a meat freezer eased off a bit this morning. A light snow came down and my two cats, Esperanza and Feliz came with me on my 6 a.m. morning walk.
The early morning quiet is a good time to think and reflect on life with a deep appreciation for what it gives without asking for anything in return. There is the air and snow, the trees and bushes and my cats with their tails high in the air and the little baggage of their furry bellies swaying as they trot along.
It’s been nearly eight years since I started down the road of research and cross-research that is now my book, “From Neanderthal to Moses: The World Before Religion, War & Inequality.”
Like the trail of humanity explored in my book, my efforts to reach this stage have been filled with visionary goals, practical problems, independent effort and working with and depending upon others to ensure my very survival.
In many ways, I am a prehistoric man in the modern world. As a youth, I had a clear sense of wanting to follow the ancient path of life – developing myself in body, mind, heart and soul through experience, study and entering the world as if it and I were in an embrace of friendship and free of formalities.
As a young man I learned how to fish, canoe, sail a small boat, climb trees, saddle and ride a horse, build campfires, treehouses and igloos. I studied gymnastics and taught myself public speaking and rudimentary martial arts. I learned how to hypnotize and give massages, write songs and poetry, and I was even elected class president and student council president when I was in Grade 9.
I was always a voracious reader and loved learning new things and meeting new people. Although my home life growing up was not what I would have liked, I have been blessed with many good friends and two wonderful ex-wives who have been supportive of me through many difficult years.
In particular, I have many thanks to offer my ex-wife Isabel and my good friends Mark and Levi. Without their support through many difficult years, I would not have survived and my book would never have been written.
In prehistoric times and even in some modern cultures, knowledge is understood to be something alive and so learning is two-way exchange between “the teacher” knowledge and the student.
In English, when we say “I have a book,” the book is simply a thing, an inanimate tool for our indiscriminate use. However, in many older languages such as Latin and some existing ones, the true meaning of that phrase is “the book is sharing its knowledge with me.”
My book has undergone two major changes and I have changed with my book.
The first version set out my original framework for investigation. The India-Hebrew link led me to an understanding of how religious institutions evolved in the world. While most people and historians assumed some form of organized religion has always existed, the evidence did not support that view. The oldest spiritual understanding was there was One God that was understood differently by everyone just as everything is understood slightly differently by everyone.
And at this time, there were no official priests or community temples, a concept of the Devil or widespread religious laws. So, how, when and why did they appear in the world, I wondered.
Asking and finding answers to those questions became the first version of this book, then called, “God Doesn’t Belong to Anyone: The World Before Religion & How We Got Here.”
The framework I had seen was strong and supportable but something was missing. It took me two more years to realize I had to step back even farther in time. That was when the fog lifted and I saw the trail I was following wasn’t just a history of religion it was the history of humanity.
It was my history and your history.
The book was revealing to me all it knew as I researched and wrote it. It was a collaborative effort.
I learned many things from the book. The pathways led to the original alchemists that actually did turn ordinary metals into gold, the likely true site of the sunken city known as Atlantis, the world’s first language, its first political visions and merchants starting 400,000 years ago.
But perhaps my greatest discovery was the answer to the question, “What defines us as human beings?”
The most magnificent accomplishment in all human history, the act that ultimately set us apart from other prehistoric humans and open the door to the modern world was not what most people think. It was not an invention, it was not an empire and it was not war.
Some 12,000 years ago, a group of people with a lot of knowledge made a momentous decision. They decided to share their knowledge with every other person in the world, and so they opened the first free school. Until that time, the only way people could learn was through their own experience and reflection or by asking someone nearby – a friend, family member or shaman. That wasn’t a very large or knowledgeable base.
Among all these people however, were some who had developed specialized skills in farming, animal husbandry, martial arts, mathematics and so forth. It was a group of these people who joined together and built the first school. “Let them come and learn,” they said. And it was from then on, that humanity took off and civilization began. Without those first teachers and their spirit of humanity in the oldest, truest sense of that word, we would not have a world with the Internet.
We have a world with the Internet because humanity began as an internet of networks of people.
When you start to look at history that way, you realize we are all prehistoric people in the modern world we just dress differently.