The Great Transformation: Chap 02 - Ritual
Next up the years 900 BCE - 800 BCE.
One thing I've always wondered was how seriously the Greeks took their religion. Zeus and his ilk always seemed sort of comic-booky to me. This chapter makes the point they did believe. The bizarre, dark and tragic elements were likely inspired by the massive loss of peace and civilization they experienced during their Dark Ages. The stories and rituals were designed to show that life is hard and random, but you can successfully come out the other side.
With respect to our friends in Israel, we see a people who have no trouble worshipping a large number of gods. Apparently the idea that there was only one god was a later addition to their belief system. Up until the 6 century BCE there is ample evidence that the Israelites believed in the existence of and frequently worshipped other gods. Part of the reason for this is that the cult of Yahweh was largely about warrior culture, so if you needed help with crops growing or health issues you needed to look at other parts of the pantheon (e.g. Baal). Obviously there wouldn't be so much attention in the Bible to there being only one god if people didn't take the opposite hypothesis so seriously. Elijah is apparently the guy who started the idea that Yahweh was good for one stop shopping; you don't need the other god's because Yahweh can do it all. In psalm 82 we see Yahweh take charge of the assembly of gods and demanding justice. This is the start of the important social justice concerns that will make Judaism one of the worlds important religions.
The Chinese seem to have a consistent philosophy of the heavenly and terrestrial being part of a continuum, not two distinct realms. Apparently the kings were highly constrained by their role as the mediator and had to follow special ceremonies. Every moment of his life was expected to follow The Way. If the crops failed he was blamed for not following The Way.
It is during this period that the Indians first start to turn these rituals inward and see the self as a part of the divine nature.