In civilization, with vertical belief structures and the phenomenon of unitive trance, particular configurations emerge. Erotic energy is re-routed from the environment and channeled into certain experiences that did not formerly have parallel: romantic love; heroism (such as Arthurian legends, the search for the grail); and the need to go to war. These did not typically exist at all among hgs. Parenthetically, there is also a close relationship here to death, and its attendant attitudes (but more on that later). Taking the third example, war is chronically irresistible to civilization because it provides situations of numinous intensity such that one is not provided with in a sedentary framework -- a way of being one with the universe, truly "alive." There are clear psychological needs that are not met by civilization; hgs typify the role, sociologically and psychologically, into which humans evolved, and it is not surprising that, when people were taken out of that role, psychological aberration ensued.
Thus we call the latter framework "vertical," with the mundane world being down here, below, and heaven up above. After 1000 B.C.E., this verticality acquired its own dichotomy, creating a sharp division between the sacred and the secular, with salvation being the promise offered by the sacred sphere (Eisenstadt 1984, Cohn 1993). By contrast, the hg "religion" was for the most part nothing more complicated than the magic of everyday life. Perhaps the Paleolithic cave painters were simply depicting the energy and aliveness of life, and not mystical trance or oceanic experience. Berman writes, "One does not have to undergo boundary loss to know the sacredness of life."
In vertical experience, there is a quest for authority and psychic certainty. This was paralleled by the desire of agricultural civilization to possess certainty on other levels as well. Thus, with the rise of sedentary societies, the human race went from paradox, "a kind of kaleidoscopic consciousness," to fixed systems of religious "truth." This may perhaps have something to do with the rigid nature of adherence to ideologies of various kinds. During the last four millennia, civilization has been quite preoccupied with transcendence, leading to a kind of certainty in the way we think, live and act. We take whatever paradigm we live in as real, and can only conceive of escaping that paradigm by replacing it with another. Worship (which can even be secular) continues to be the norm.
It is important to realize that we, who in the present have religion and sacred authority, cannot successfully extrapolate our views and frameworks (and prejudices) backward onto hg societies of the past. In modern times, we tend to equate religion with experience of the sacred, but this may not be a universal relationship. Some societies are capable of having sacred experiences without any sort of religious worldview at all. Some may argue that there had to be, even among hgs, some cultural hedge against death, but what if this weren't the case? Perhaps hgs simply regard death as death, not some terribly mysterious and scary event but rather one that happens naturally, and does not engender fear. That may be quite difficult for some of us to imagine, but it does appear that contemporary hgs have such an attitude. It is not the case that hgs would have had to invent a god or transcendent realm simply because we do (Balagangadhara 1990). Indeed, shamanism is a category that is often quite confused and in reality cannot even be defined. Nicholas Thomas and Caroline Humphrey write that shamanism "is more of an exotic essence, a romanticized inversion of Western rationalism, than a scholarly category that can stand up to any sustained interrogation (Thomas and Humphrey 1994)."
"...classic HG alertness... consists mostly in a sense of the awareness of Presence, of the 'magic' that exists in Self being differentiated from Other; of the awareness of Self as one is aware of the Other. I put it to you that this was HG spirituality, experience of the sacred -- a horizontal experience, not a tale of souls ascending to heaven," says Berman.
Agriculture and sedentism changed all this. Studies done on hgs versus farmers show that the former are "field independent" and the latter "field dependent." This reflects the fact that hgs are alert to details and have the ability to focus narrowly on specific items in the landscape ("field") even as they are simultaneously fully aware of the composition of the whole. Sedentary farmers, on the other hand, tend to blur on details and see parts of a field of vision as merged with the whole. Domestication was a major modification here, altering the ability of humans to pay attention. Hg societies are marked by an emphasis on focus while domesticated societies are distinguished by an emphasis on the boundary. Indeed, survival for hgs depends on such a thing: one must be able "to distinguish a bird from its surroundings, the dense foliage of a tree, or to spot a snake several hundred yards away." (Berland 1982; Witkin and Berry 1975)
One can see that paradox is a counterintuitive sort of schema, and it may be hard to relate to it because our frame of reference is so totally geared toward religion and vertically-oriented spirituality to mediate our experience of the sacred. Nevertheless, the constellation of consciousness I have described seems to be (in light of available ethnography) quite close to the mark, if a bit difficult to sympathize with for some. I would like to close with an outstanding description of the essence of paradox as written by David Peat (1987): "The essence of this tribal structuring of time is both eternal and moving. For each dawn is both new and yet the same. In the act of waking to the dawn, the mind is alert to new movements and sensations of a subtle and rapid nature, yet this dawn has a deep unity with every other dawn that is experienced by the tribe. So the birth of the day is both fluid in its movement, and yet part of an eternal order of the tribe. That a moment can be both timeful and timeless appears paradoxical to our own conception of what time should be."