Why Do We Disbelieve Our Ancestors?
With all the research I've done so far for my first novel, I have made one important observation - in our modern day world we do not believe the stories that our ancestors gave us. The stories that have been passed down to us over thousands of years today are widely disbelieved. We categorise them as myths, legends and epics. Even when evidence emerges to the contrary, we are so determined to keep these stories in a box of mythology.
Why do we do this?
In our modern world, we have been taught from a very young age that we are the apex of civilization. We are taught that the medieval period was superstitious, that the bronze age people were shortsighted, and that our neolithic ancestors were primitive people who somehow learned to build civilizations from agriculture and animal herding. According to the current historical model, we are the most advanced, progressive and intelligent people to walk the planet.
Yet, when we read the mythology that has been passed down to us a very different story emerges. A story penned by people that could see their own short comings. They knew they were not as intuitive, intelligent or as advanced as the people that came before them.
There is a common story line in each ancient civilization that we know of today. The story goes that there was a group of people, equated to god-like status, that lived on an island who knew incredible things. When they succumbed to corruption and the island sank due to a cataclysmic flood, the virtuous people that survived and traveled to various places on Earth to carry their knowledge forward. They instructed the common people, who had similarly survived the flood but had very little recollection of anything. These common people revered the knowledgeable survivors as god and goddesses, meaning someone who has achieved a state of god-realization. Eventually, the gods and goddesses left by choice and left their knowledge behind to a few people that understood their messages. Overtime, these stories were passed down through oral tradition, and eventually recorded.
Joseph Campbell was the first scholar to record these findings in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. He saw that all myth stories throughout the world originally came from one original story called a 'monomyth' which had been translated and appropriated for different cultures around the world. A myth is multilayered - it can be read for its symbolism, for its moral lessons, and for its historical value. We can find nuggets of useful information in our myths that give us a more accurate picture of what life was like in our ancient past.
How can we find the truth hidden in our myths?
Each culture gives us a hint into what this period in time was like. In Greek mythology, we are told that there was no need for agriculture because nature provided everything so plentifully. In Irish mythology, we are told that these gods and goddesses had extraordinary powers that superseded anything a normal human could accomplish. In Indian mythology, these people lived for a significantly longer time than us, roughly 100,000 years. In all of these mythology stories, earlier records depict the gods and goddesses as physical people with extraordinary abilities, but as time goes on they are described as divine gods and goddesses that came from another realm.
In Indian culture, it has long been accepted that humans have an innate force that when harnessed, can allow the individual to achieve amazing things. In the West, this is the foundation of Shamanism. Anyone can be an extraordinary being, if they know how. This knowledge, often depicted symbolically as a pine cone, especially in Indian and Egyptian texts, is available to us if we tap into it.
Part of knowing the past, is knowing ourselves. Until we understand that there is more to us than our bodies and our minds, we will never be able to understand our ancestors. They lived in a world of great change, of adventure, and of mystery. Knowing the mysterious part of ourselves and of life, helps us to better understand the world that our ancestors were living in.
so why is it worth knowing our ancestor's myths?
Knowing our ancestors better helps us to know ourselves better. Marcus Garvey once said, "A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots." How are we to grow and become better, if we have no roots?
We face many problems in our world today. Our planet is fading away, we are growing more and more distant from each other, and wars within humanity are raging. By knowing our past, we could begin to see solutions to the problems we face.
We could learn how to be kinder, how to work with our environment, not against it, and learn to be compassionate to everyone around us.
Our ancestor's stories come tainted with a warning. From what they tell us, their civilisation collapsed due to greed and lust for power. Surely if we fail, the collapse of our civilisation is imminent.
I also think that it is worth respecting the tales of our ancestors because who knows what valuable insights they hold? There must be a reason that these tales have survived for thousands of years, otherwise, why else would the bronze age people have cared to record their history? If we don't look into these stories of the past, who knows what knowledge we may never learn.
We have to learn the mistakes of the past in order to stop repeating them. We similarly have to remember the wisdom of the past so we can become the best we possibly can. I don't think these stories are stories of entertainment or fallacy, I think when we look close enough we will find the truth to our own origins and, our potential.