Something is happening to us. Trying to make sense of their awakening experiences, people troll the Internet and discover the idea of “ascension” – the doctrine that humanity is on the verge of a process of spiritualization, a transition to a higher, and less material, dimension. Implicit in the term is the concept of rising above. Rising above what, may we ask? When did rising above become something to aspire to?
The concept has deep roots indeed, as old as civilization (though less old than humanity). When mass agriculture allowed a differentiation of labor, with farmers at the base of a hierarchy and the king at the top, the idea grew that to be working in the dirt was to be lowly, inferior, lesser. Often, the king’s feet were not allowed to touch the ground. He, along with the priests, occupied another realm, removed as much as possible from materiality. Indeed, they were seen as emissaries of the heavens, where the gods were believed to reside.
All of this was original to agricultural civilizations. Hunter-gatherers found their gods everywhere, not just in the sky but in the waters, rocks, mountains, and trees. There was no aspiration to rise above nature, nor to conquer it. That ambition only arose with the domestication of plants and animals. Soon thereafter, the wild realm became something separate from the domestic realm, and natural forces became something threatening, something to be tamed for the good of humanity. The concepts of good and evil arose then too, modeled after a new, oppositional relationship to nature. While the hunter-gatherer understands that each species has a necessary gift to give for the good of the whole, to the farmer, it was the corn that was good and the weed bad; the sheep that was good and the wolf or the locusts bad.
Read more in the article published in the magazine Watkins Mind Body Spirit.