I’m not a big fan of shaking hands – or touching people in general. I have some mild empathic abilities and I find that touching people gives me access to their inner spiritual energy and complexes. Most people have some spiritual issues and, as compassionate as I might want to be, I don’t really like randomly dealing with all that confusion and pain.
However, I do recognize that the handshake is of great importance and significance to people, generally, and to those of Western culture, specifically. Even without developed empathic abilities, grabbing someone’s hand or arm, just like staring deeply into someone’s eyes, puts you in contact with more than the mere physical aspect of the person. Anyone can get a better sense of another’s personality and psychic state by touching them – even if they don’t understand why.
This, I believe, is the real reason the handshake is, perhaps, the most widely used gesture of greeting. And why losing the handshake out of fear of “the pandemic” is a major loss to culture – particularly the culture of the West.
The origins of the handshake are a mystery. Some think it originated in prehistoric times as an indication that people meeting together were peaceful in that they carried no weapons in their hand.
The handshake does not seem to be common in the East where bowing is more the norm. Will bowing become the norm in the West?
What seems to be one of the first depictions of a handclasp is found in a carving from the 9th century B.C. showing an Assyrian king and a Babylonian king sealing an alliance with the gesture. The 8th century B.C. poet, Homer, mentions the handclasp in the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey in connection with pledges of trust. In 5th century B.C. Greek carvings, there are depictions of deities clasping hands to indicate a bargain. And the Romans also appear to have used the gesture in this ritualistic way.
Interestingly, the practice was always used to indicate equal status. Deities shook hands with deities, kings with kings, warriors with warriors and so on. A king would never shake hands with a peasant. The handclasp was reserved for people within the same social status. Is this because the psychic energy experienced during the handshake would be too disturbing between people of different families or classes?
Whatever it’s original intention, the handshake really only became a common form of greeting within the past 500 years due largely to the Western concept of an egalitarian society. The idea that everyone was intrinsically equal meant that everyone should shake hands with everyone else. It was rude not to because to avoid such contact meant you believed yourself to be better than others – better not just different. Today, for example, it would be politically unwise for the President of the United States to refuse to shake hands with even the humblest of citizens. Whereas in England, since “class” is still a matter of birth, it is considered inappropriate for a “commoner” to shake hands with a titled individual, much less the Queen. Shaking hands actually appears to force people to agree that they are equal. And this, I think, is a good thing.
Thus, even though I don’t particularly want to touch anyone at random, I still believe that the hand shake serves a powerful purpose in creating bonds of commonality and unity amongst people of all economic and social strata. Losing the ritual handshake because of the dictates of an authoritarian sub-class of the population is a grave injustice and insult to civilization itself.