Why No Existentialist Neanderthals?

Has anyone else noticed this? If we adopt a hyper-rational stance, then all that astrology, shamanism, buddhism, voodoo mojo and mumbo jumbo is utterly nonexistent.

If that’s so, there is no experience to present itself, it is entirely delusional and is projected from within, having no independent existence.

Why then would the human species start in attempting to contact, cajole, or in any tangible away affect the (please forgive the espression) Spirit World if they had no experience of it? Do jivaros fashion snowshoes?

One would expect that about half the tribes and primitive groups we know about would have no magical/spiritual tradition whatsoever, having about as much use for it as a fish with a bicycle. But, to my limited knowledge, this is not the case. Does anyone know of such a case?

Perhaps somewhere in New Guinea…

For the same reason that many people today still believe in astrology, shamanism, etc.- there are plenty of “experiences” presenting themselves, at least to the believers :slight_smile:

There aren’t too many hyper-rational people around, either.


Putting aside any notion of a “divine spark” extant within the evolving Homo Somethingorother:

You’re primitive Homo Somethingorother. Through a continuous process of generations after generations of uprigh stance, tool use, and ever more complex social interactions, your ancestors have worked out their brains into consciousness.
You acquire the capacity for abstraction and a symbolic language.

Your world, in which you are still very closely integrated to the ecosystem, is full of phenomena that are not under your control but wherein there is much power (fire, herds of mammoth, lightning storms, natural death); many of them have recurring patterns (sunrise/sunset, flood season, menstruation).

You have NO idea how this can be.

However you know you think, you feel. You, through an act of will, shape mud into bowls, shape flint into axes and spearheads, kill animals, create patterns upon matter.

You extrapolate that if this is so for you, a relatively small part of the world, well integrated into it, then all components of the world must partake of some sort of thought, feeling and will, and all pattern or regularity must be the product of thought, feeling and will by SOMETHING.
You know that YOU are succeptible to altering your thoughts and will, to take pity on a stray wolf-pup, to be cajoled into doing something by your mate’s endearments, to lash out in blind even murderous rages, to be bribed by something tasty at the table. Thus why would Nature or the Spirits not do so as well?

This explains the universe, helping relieve you from a lot of stress in your already precarious life; it can then be used as a basis for communicating some values (e.g. honoring the Spirit of the Bison by not wasting any part of it)

The analytical ability to determine that sacrifice and prayers to the Great Corn Mother have the same effects on rainfall ad crop yield as straight random chance would, comes much later in the developmental track.

Some experience was noted as having occurred often enough, to enough people, to be given a name, and this experience was given many names, among them, eventually, “God”.

It is worth mentioning in passing that the experience in question was not the experience of sitting in a pew and being treated to choreographed doctrine repetition, nor did it have much to do with having one’s lapels seized by a fervent curbside missionary who, convinced that you’ve never heard this crap before, attempts to “save” you.

Organized religion exists not to celebrate or commemorate the experience that led to words like “God” being in our vocabulary; it exists as an attempt to institutionalize it and make it safe, to stuff and mount it and then say to the people, “Oh, yeah, ‘God’, we got your ‘God’ here, come and get it, in fact, we insist”

For starters, the real deal does not in any way shape or form revolve around believing something that another human being once told you you ought to believe.

Disable Similes in this Post

“You extrapolate …”

I do? Ye cats and little fishes, thats one big fat hairy extrapolation! Are you suggesting that extrapolation is unavoidable, inevitable due to an evolutinary bent toward symbolization? Which is about the only way to otherwise explain its utter universality. Are you suggesting it has some adaptive advantage? What might that be?

Has any of those pith-helmeted busy-bodies ever come across a tribe or culture with absolutely NO spirit/ghost/magic shamanism of any kind? Can’t prove it, but I damn sure doubt it. If the “thing” that they are responding to does not exist, then why are the responses so similar? Is there a universal predisposition to a universal hallucination?

I think eludidator makes an excellent point in a wonderfully original context.

Why conjure up spirits a priori?

There is nothing natural at all about the notion of spiritness, so how was it conceived, this understanding of something never seen or witnessed in the real world, by such primitive people? Yeah, sure, fire’s a god, but where did god of fire come from? It’s sort of like going, “Yeah, Clinton’s the president, but who is the president of Clinton?”

I would like to express where I believe the notion might have originated, but I would have to start a new thread for that, so I will.

All known human societies have contained some manner of spiritualism or religion.

Does this imply that there is a “truth” behind these perseptions and that the supernatural exists.

A couple of observations:
All humans are subject to sensory illusions. The fact that a tendency is universal does not imply that it is accurate.

The range of spiritual and religious answers presented by human societies is vast and internally contradictory. If there were an accurate perception at the base of all spiritualism why is there no agreement on the ideas that grow out of that perception?

The best lack all conviction
The worst are full of passionate intensity.

“A couple of observations:
All humans are subject to sensory illusions. The fact that a tendency is universal does not imply that it is accurate.”

True! Does kind of make your brain itch a little, though, don’t it? What does it to me is the total universality.

If the aforementioned is absolutely non-existent, at least some, if not most, human groups would have no such traditions. However, it is quite the opposite. Does anyone know of even one group of tribal existentialists? Some bunch of mudmen with a crudely sculpted icon of Ayn Rand in the hut? Got ten to one the answer is no.

What do “sensory illusions” have to do with matters spiritual? Are you saying they hallucinated a god of fire, like on a peyote binge or something?