But has it?
Let's go back waaaaaaaaay back ... for many thousands of years ('til around 8,000 BC), all humans were hunter-gatherers ... the man hunted, and the woman gathered nuts, fruits and vegetables. They were migratory ... moving to follow the food supply. The tribes were small (a few dozen each), and they would frequently meet and interact with other tribes ... with no conflict. There was plenty of food for all. It was once assumed that men must be "in charge" as the primary food-suppliers ... but recent research (& observations of hunter-gatherer groups that exist today) demonstrate that the women provided the vast majority of the food (the hunting provided only 10% of the food supply). Perhaps we should call them gatherer-hunters...?
Their lives were quite leisurely ... a few hours per day was for gathering the food, and the rest of the time was spent in story-telling, dancing, arts, music, and being with loved ones. A very low-stress lifestyle. The communities were peaceful. They were also strikingly healthy -- much to our surprise! Their skeletons were large, well-developed, and larger than those found after 6,000 years ago. Their teeth show little decay (health seemed to decline, once corn began to be planted ... malnutrition set in). And when animals were domesticated, unknown diseases were introduced -- the flu (from pigs and ducks), colds (from horses), pox (from cows), and measles (from dogs). [I did NOT know this!]
Archaeological records throughout the planet tell us that there is almost NO evidence of any warfare during the entire gatherer-hunter stage of history! Although we have a plethora of tools, pots and other artifacts, there is no evidence of weapons. The drawings on over 300 caves from this era depict no warfare, no weapons, and no warriors.
These ancient gatherer-hunters had an egalitarian view ... all were equal, regardless of gender, or age. There is no evidence of "status" ... all graves are of equal size -- further, possessions are not seen as important, as they are not found IN the graves (as with later societies). It also seems that gatherer-hunters were not territorial ... they seemed to not believe that the land belonged to them ... but that they were one with the land (much as with Native Americans). Someone else approaching, did not mean encroaching, to them.
There was a marked lack of patriarchy -- no assumption that the male was superior. Since women provided most of the food, they were considered valuable equals ... and since the observation was that life came forth from the woman, she was highly esteemed (later on, we'll find out how the oppression of women is closely linked to devaluing of the body, of the earth, and a negative view of instincts and bodily functions). Interestingly, almost all indigenous peoples were matrilineal -- meaning that property and family lines were passed on through the woman -- even though women did not rule over men ... it seems that the natural female psyche does not seek to "lord over" but to share. [Just a couple of weeks ago, I heard on NPR that the rescuers in Haiti are passing out food tickets, to reduce mobs ... if they gave tickets to men, the men would hoard the food ... if they gave tickets to women, the women would share with all.]
In these early, Pre-Fall societies, men did not have authority over women ... and in fact, the men didn't seek to rule over anyone. If anyone showed signs of desiring power or wealth, that person is usually kept from leading, as it was considered unthinkable for anyone to tell anyone else what to do (this is still the case among many of the Eskimo tribes). Boastfulness, aggression, superiority were frowned upon, and put down.
These early humans seemed to be amazingly free of all the social suffering that has been our common misery for so long. According to Steve Taylor:
The archaeological and ethnographic evidence overwhelmingly suggests that during the whole of this period human groups didn't wage war with one another, didn't dominate and abuse members of the opposite sex, and didn't oppress and exploit each other.
For those of us who stayed awake during our early history classes, and who may remember what we were taught (yeah, all 3 of you), you may be wondering, "So what happened once horticulture/agriculture set in? Did they get all angst-ridden then?"
Nope. But let's look at that time-frame.
It seems that around 8,000 BC, people left the hunger-gatherer lifestyle, and began to domesticate animals, rather than hunting them. No one's clear about why this happened ... but it's suggested that perhaps the population could no longer be sustained by the hunting. The earth was having a "global warming" experience (sheesh - our carbon output was mucking it up all the way back then!), and migratory patterns of animals altered. So, animals were gathered, and gardening began. Women still played a major role, as they did most of the gardening, while the men tended the children (as is the case among many Aboriginal tribes today).
And so, humans settled down.
And yet, the archaeological record continues to support that they continued in the same social characteristics ... no warfare, no violence, no suppression of women or each other, no class status, and evidence that they led by consensus (group agreement).
Now, once upon a time, historians believed and taught that conflict arose once humans developed towns/villages ... that living in close contact brought conflict.
Not true, says the evidence. Apparently, many large towns sprung up throughout the Middle East and Europe, without resulting in warfare or inequality. One such town was Catal Huyuk in southern Turkey (which was excavated in 1952). The population is estimated to be around 7,000, between 7000 and 5500 BC. There is no evidence of damage due to warfare, and no sign of any sort of violence. It was a multi-ethnic society, but apparently without conflict. The houses and graves are of the same size -- suggesting no inequality. There are signs of many crafts and arts -- pottery, tools, and religious icons (interestingly, all religious art indicates that they saw the Divine as female, not male -- the Womb was seen as the Source of all Life).
Taylor says, "Some Neolithic cultures reached such a high level of development that archaeologists have suggested that the traditional view that 'civilisation' began in Egypt and Sumer in the third millennium BC should be revised." Throughout "Old Europe", in this time, there were many cities/towns with several thousand people in them ... many of whom were highly skilled craftsmen and engineers ... some temples were several storeys high ... they developed roads and drainage systems. They also had a simple writing system, used for religious purposes.
And yet -- there is no sign of any conflict, much less war.
These were peace-loving, art-flourishing, highly reverential and respectful people.
And this way of life was not confined to Europe and the Middle-East ... in China, there are legends that speak of a "Golden Age" before all the warfare came. The archaeological records support these legends being based in reality. No defensive walls, no war weapons ... children took their mother's surname.
So, what were these people like?
These peaceful cultures were devoid of the concept of sin, repression and suffering. Rather, there was a prevailing atmosphere of joy, the sacredness of all life, and seeing beauty in the world. It was good -- very good. There seems to be no fear of death -- the artwork shows an enjoyment of life, and closeness to nature. They had no sense of separation from all that is ... they had an attachment to the natural world, and lived in harmony with the cycles of it. Their artwork shows "an awe and wonder at the mystery of life."
There was no sense of separation between religion and all of life -- all was sacred ... they were one with the Divine. God/Spirit was everywhere, in all things ... everything and everyone was a manifestation of the Spirit. They didn't have the concept of "gods" ... (this came later) ... but they saw all connected to the Great Spirit. They also had a natural attitude toward their bodies and sex -- with no sense of shame. All of life was seen as infused with the Spirit.
So, here's the snapshot of life up 'til 6,000 BC:
The population was likely around 100 million ... horticulture was wide-spread ... though many regions were still populated with the hunter-gatherers (both groups sharing the same peaceful nature). James DeMeo writes in his book, "Saharasia" that matrism refers to cultures that are "democratic, egalitarian, sex-positive", and has no violence.
If this sounds like paradise, it certainly explains why so many later cultures, who remembered this time, referred to the pre-Fall time as a "Golden Age", or when life was perfect (by contrast!). The Garden of Eden was the Semitic people's version of life before the Fall ...!
But everything was about to change, in 4,000 BC ... a cataclysmic shirt was about to occur...!
Next: The Fall -- What Happened.