All religions are human artifacts developed to explain the questions of faith. This is true of all sacred texts. Stories were told around ancient camp fires. After a hard day’s work the community would gather to eat, relax, socialize, and make plans for the morning. There were all sorts of stories told for entertainment. The hunters would boast of their courage and prowess. There were stories of great events of the past, stories of people who had passed on, stories about the cycles of the seasons, and the majesty of nature. There were stories about family life, sexual conquest, childbirth, contact with neighboring tribes, and all manner of human activities. They recount tribal history. There were “blooper” reals remembering when someone really fouled up.
From around the campfires of old there emerged a special collection of sacred stories. These stories centered on existential issues, great yearnings, the deepest questions, and the most profound mysteries. These sacred stories had a quality of transcendence, lifting the community out of their mundane existence and delving into the greatest mysteries.
- What is a small tribe of humans compared to the trees and the mountains around them?
- How can we understand the vast canopy of stars overhead?
- Where does the sun go at night?
- Why do the patterns in the sky never change?
- What happens when we die?
- Where are those who have passed on before us?
- Why does new life spring from the earth according to season?
- Where do we come from?
- Who are we as a people?
- What is the meaning or purpose of life?
- How are we connected to the universe around us?
Stories were created by the community to explain these and other mysteries. They were told and retold for entertainment, to educate the children, and to remind and confirm the tribe of its shared heritage. Communities grow around the stories that they share.
The oldest profession is not prostitute, as many people believe, but shaman. The shamans wove stories to explain the questions of faith. The ideal priest had an inquisitive mind, a fertile imagination, a gift for public speaking, and significant people skills that would draw the tribe towards him or her. She would be a great listener who collected stories and wove them into a magnificent tapestry. He would also be a great entertainer. An oral tradition of sacred campfire stories emerged. Through many generations the stories would become more and more organized and accepted. “Official” versions of the key stories were selected from the many variants. Eventually such stories were written down.
As these stories became ever more normative for the communities of origin, it became desirable to assert divine sanction. Through the use of a created illusion, texts might be ascribed to divine origin. The stories are now seen as transcending the stories of mortals. The authorized sacred texts now are thought to have sacred origins as well as sacred content.
Sacred texts begin from sacred content. Then they are distilled and refined by the community over time. The texts are thrashed like wheat to separate the grain from the chaff. The texts are fermented like wine, carved like an amulet, or purified like a metal in the caldron. In time these texts are truly transformed. They represent not divine revelation, but rather the best distillation of human wisdom by the community. They become the spiritual and intellectual foundation for the community. They reflect the community’s history and chart its future.