All primitive people, without exception – believed in Spirits. Everything – every person, every animal, every plant, every rock had its own spirit. This was not hard for people to detect and communicate with. And specialists soon appeared who were adept at this – who were referred to as Shamans.
But, of course, we were not satisfied to leave this alone – and this belief was refined into the concept of Gods – or, in the case of the Hebrews – and later, the Christians, and Islam – God (monotheism). The Christian concept was especially tricky – because Christ was both God and Human – but this was also the source of its enormous appeal.
To summarize – Religion had as its source a belief in Spirits – and this belief has not gone away – but gotten stronger. In a number of ways.
The most important and insidious of these ways has been our belief in Machines – and the Spirits of machines – each one of which is different. For my Grandfather Smith it was the Steam Locomotive and the Railroad – which he served faithfully – but which betrayed him – as they are likely to do. These are dangerous spirits and have to be handled very carefully.
We should have taken care to remain in control of them – but they quickly came to control us. It is useful, in my opinion, to see this as an operation of different kinds of powerful Spirits. How else to explain what was going on?
All one had to do was watch a Steam Locomotive pulling a train up a steep grade – to see its spirit in action. Or to even see one at rest – carefully attended to by its assistants – to make sure all its needs were met. This was an awesome sight – but a very dirty one. The smoke of a coal-fed steam engine was loaded with carcinogens. But no one thought of that – only of the Steam Engine itself. People were expendable – there were always plenty more – but the Steam Locomotive was not.
I remember my shock when I saw, back in the Sixties, hundreds of Steam Locomotives waiting to be scrapped. To be replaced by Diesel Electrics that had no personality (no Spirit) at all! The end of the Railroads themselves was not far away. The Railroads were nothing but extensions of ourselves – and when we withdrew our support – they vanished from the scene.
The dominant machine of our time is the Computer. Which we have made to appear to be Human – in the biggest self-deception in History. What kind of Spirit does it have? Obviously, the Trickster – one of the most basic ones there is.
Once again, we should be paying careful attention to this new Spirit – the most powerful one ever. But instead, we prostrated ourselves before it – and devoted our lives to serving it. I ought to know – I worked in the Computer Industry for 20 years – and barely escaped alive.
I have not mentioned our devotion to another Spirit – sometimes called Capitalism and then the Market Economy – or its latest incarnation as Globalization.
We continue to believe in Supernatural forces – or Spirits – in our unconscious minds – which are far more powerful than our conscious ones. We are flying on Automatic Pilot – where something else – Spirits we do not understand in the least – are firmly in control.
What can we do about this? Return to our belief in Spirits – where we can feel what is going on – including what is going on in our thinking minds. The two are basically compatible – once we recognize Spirits again. And recognize that machines have spirits too.