Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
Clarke's Third Law

Age of Superstition

[The audience quietens, most returning to their seats, but just a few leaving with ostentatious sweeps of their robes or swoops of their broomsticks.]

"To help you understand my hypothesis, I believe it is useful to divide our advancement into five ages, five periods of the development of the human species."

[Perhaps unconsciously, the speaker adopts voice tones and mannerisms that resemble those of a university lecturer from the far-distant past. Or perhaps it is an act, part of the same pretentious pose which meant that the speech is given in a long-dead spoken language.]

"Once, we were as the animals. No, I do not mean the pets and familiars whose company so many of us enjoy. I mean wild, free creatures, descended from the apes and monkeys, at first unaware of even their own cogitation, evolving slowly, naturally on the plains of Africa and later spreading over the face of the Earth."

[At the mention of the fabled, even mythical, home planet of our kind - a planet long missing from the records and quite possibly from the firmament itself, even if it actually did exist - murmurs of awe spring up around the hall. The speaker ignores them.]

As these evolving, increasingly hairless apes spread across their world, their brains and mental abilities began to expand. At first their cognitive processes were so limited that they did not really understand what was going on around them; no doubt they were quite incapable of any kind of self-referential thinking. I have dubbed this period the Age of Unconsciousness.

[The restlessness of the audience continues. The speaker is aware that this fable of how human beings came into existence is well known, but not all believe it.]

"These apes, these pre-humans really did exist. Slowly they learned about cooperation, and organisation and language, and became more like the creatures we are today. As they did so, they realised that some parts of their world were entirely beyond their control: the weather, droughts and famines, disease and death. So, in a supreme act of imagination, these pre-humans invented gods and deities, anthropomorphic personifications representing aspects of the world, and to these beings sent up prayers and supplications, and made sacrifices and offerings. I named this period the Age of Superstition."

[Some parts of the audience feign boredom. Others shake their heads sadly, as if disappointed at the speaker's naivety.]

"At some point, the superstition solidified into religion: systems - always more than one - of organised belief. Prophets and Messiahs appeared, each persuading their followers that theirs was the One True Way, and that all that they needed was unshakeable faith and conviction. Then followed a long period of schisms and heresy, evangelising and conversions, jihads and crusades, as the proponants of one sect or religion attempted to impose their views. This is the Age of Belief. Then the religions first flowed together, and then crystallised into a single whole, embodying the strengths of all: this was the beginning of the Age of Magic."

[The speaker seems to have lost the interest of many people in the audience, many of whom seem to be privately forming the view that the speaker has nothing new or interesting to say.]

"So far, all is familiar, I suspect, although I appreciate that this view is not without its dissenters amongst you."

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