Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world

BEFORE THE FALL – GOOD TIMES?

The human search for whatever is “out there” – God or some impersonal cosmic force – reveals similar concepts from different sources. Opposing arguments can be derived from that similarity. One argument says, “Several different civilisations come up with the same idea. Therefore it must be true.” The other argument says, “All the people who came up with the idea shared a common humanity. It proves that they all shared a similar psychological need and constructed a story to meet it. That proves nothing about the truth of the idea.”

A common thread is the idea of THE FALL. There are still societies in which Shamans exist and Shamanism is practiced. It envisages a past time when everybody was able to communicate with a higher realm. Then something went wrong, and today only Shamans can reach that place, and only after a long period of learning, and often a near-death experience. Christianity tells us about The Garden of Eden, though giving us more detail about “what went wrong” (Adam, Eve, Apple, etc.) than what the garden was really like. The mediaeval writer of The Cloud of Unknowing claims that intense meditation on God may cause God to grant the meditator glimpses of what things were like before the fall. Amongst some Aboriginal tribes in Australia the Dreamtime is not over. It can still be accessed at times, but it is clearly different from the real world. The discipline known as Kabbalah sees Adam and Eve as losing ‘their garments of light’ and being relegated to a lower physical form. Adam is told he must “rebuild the Vessel of yourself through your own work in the world.”

The thought behind these stories is that before THE FALL things were very much better – in fact perfect! That presents some problems. One can imagine humans being pleased to have no more massacres and genocide, but how about a state in which everything was perpetually beautiful and peaceful and free from competition and forever stable? Surely humans as we are now would soon be very bored indeed? I mean, there’s a limit to how long you can stand and gaze at the Mona Lisa. I think THE FALL must have altered man as well as ejecting him from the garden. So perhaps we are just not capable of understanding the PRE-FALL world.

All of this philosophy is great fun, but the truth is that we can never know. So the wise man falls back on the thinking of Omar Khayyam (1048-1141). One of his best verses (Fitzgerald version) is “Why, all the Saints and Sages who discussed of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust like foolish prophets forth; their Words to Scorn are scattered and their mouths are stopped with dust.” He means they are dead, without finding an answer. So we should enjoy the creation myths for their beauty and remember that “Still the vine her ancient ruby yields.” Enjoy this world while you can.

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