The spirit of a city, of a state, of a nation, of the world, all very simple. The world sings if you listen.
I would like to start by first saying Semitic and Indian beliefs are actually closely connected. The Aryan mountain people had their own sort of diaspora and encountered other cultures, but they were not of one mind as a people. Those who migrated to Iran were more militant, while those who migrated to the Indus river valley were more pacifistic, and this difference in views made a big difference in their cultures. In a sense, ancient Indian faith, and by that I mean the faith of India, was the first Catholicism. Rather than encountering the snake worshippers, and seeing demon worship, the Aryans who migrated into India accepted the native views to an extent. Snake imagery was originally foreign to them. Those who migrated into Iran, and had contact with the Semitic cultures, demonized serpent imagery, insisting on their anthropomorphic views, and embracing a divine right of governance. This was before even the rise of Islam.
Now, back to India. As the native and Aryan immigrants integrated, a tradition of natural observation was integrated into the previously functionally monotheistic view. Though rather than claiming the Aryan view was the one right way, they learned from the natives also. The “hero” pantheon that was native to the Aryans and was still present among the Norse, was integrated with the naturalistic and elemental divinities of the Indus river valley aboriginals.
What was the monotheism? It wasn’t a true monotheism, but it was a hierarchical pantheism. They had an all father type divine king that was present both in the later Parsi faith, and the Norse oral traditions. As they began to wonder at the relationship between their human Gods and these natural spirits, they sort of abandoned the homo-centric view. They moved more into a belief like the Egyptians espoused of a divine order that the Gods arose from rather than create, and thus the concept of dharma arose, or moral law. They didn’t see the world as split between physical and spiritual, they felt that the Gods operated as agents of the dharma, and arose from one spirit that in its essence was not dual. So Indra the God of rains, Agni the God of fire, Yama the God of death, Kali the great mother/destroyer, were the incarnations of this universal spirit, and this universal spirit was the dharma itself. As it’s said in the Bible, in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and was God.
Were the Gods viewed as facilitators more than judges? Yes. They didn’t have the “courtroom” view of righteousness that was adopted by the others in the west. It was more of a cause and effect, also known as karma.
Why did it come to the dual point of view of the good vs. bad? Ah, the militaristic Aryan branch had an ‘us versus them’ view. The pacifistic one didn’t, and to this day India is the most religiously diverse nation on the planet, although they are also the most religiously centered. They see everything as of spiritual meaning as a people.
Spirit as a part of the “real” world? Yes, and from India Buddhism spread, fostering such other countries as Tibet.
Their development as people and country is a mirror of that. Yes, they were also accepting. There is a native Indian branch of Judaism, and even a branch of eastern orthodox Catholicism, that have lived in relative peace for more than a century. Islam migrated east, and is the only faith that had a big history of conflict with the others. One of the native leaders describing the others as enemies of Islam, this sentiment was not returned. Fortunately as the British empire would discover, it’s not easy to wage war in India. Not even to this day with terrain making big military movements hard, and is also perhaps why the natives would not have abandoned a respect for nature.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.