2005/05/16

Answers for contemporary visual arts (Part 3: religion)

Animism, that lasted for tens of thousands of years as humanity's exclusive worldview, privileged knowledge over power thus concentrating societal cohesion building in the hands of the men of knowledge. This stands in sharp contrast with the later religious worldview that privileged power and the use of physical force to assure societal cohesion.

How did such a tectonic shift in humanity's worldview take place ?

First and foremost we have to recognize that there is no simple answer to that question:

- This shift has taken place unevenly geographically over time.

- This shift did even not occur everywhere. Some forty percent of the world population are still sharing a largely animist worldview to this very day.


The traditional, eurocentric view of history, held that civilization started in the middle-east somewhere at the mouth of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers on the territory of modern day Irak some 7000 years ago (BC 5000) and gradually spread out to the East (India and China) and the West (Europe). This view is still largely unquestioned nowadays in the Western world but in academic circles specialized in the study of history some voices have started to reject this theory as being no more than an ideological expression of nineteenth century beliefs in Europe's and more particularly British centrality in the world.
How indeed to account for the American civilizations ? (Olmecs, Toltecs, ...).
But the last and most serious blow to this eurocentric view comes from China. China only started to study and seriously finance its archaeological studies in 1996-1997 and within the short time span since then major discoveries have already been made that permitted to date the existence some 8000 years ago of the written Chinese language which is 1000 years before the early start of Sumer !


We only have a vague understanding of this shift from animist knowledge to military-political power and I should say that this foundational moment in the emergence of civilizations is largely ignored by historical research.
What we know for a sure fact is that everywhere two determining factors were at work for thousands of years whose interactions eventually unleashed the unifying of tribes under a central military-political leadership:

-.. the evolution of animist thoughts towards:

* or the creation of gods

* or secular philosophical systems.

- .. the gradual emergence of agriculture allowing for larger concentrations of populations.



Those two factors followed their specific ways in different geographic and climatic conditions and it follows thus that their interactions led to many variations on the themes of:

-.. tribal unification by force under centralized power

-.. adoption of religious / philosophical worldviews.

-.. adoption of societal cohesion building tools: language, laws, education, art

In my next posts I'll try to put some meat on this bony sketch.


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