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Or, more formally, "Who told thee that thou wast naked? " Thus spake God to Adam and Eve, after they broke the rules, and deigned to "be as gods, knowing good and evil."

Erich Fromm, a German-born U.S. psychoanalyst and social philosopher, in The Art of Loving interprets it this way:

After Adam and Eve have eaten of the "tree of knowledge of good and evil," after they have disobeyed (there is no good and evil unless there is freedom to disobey), after they have become human by having emancipated themselves from the original animal harmony with nature, i.e., after their birth as human beings—they saw "that they were naked—and they were ashamed. [requires pdf reader download]

I have a different take.  If you're interested, please slip through the "infinity symbol" a la Kos below, and explore with me.

I don't know if The Golden Bough  is on the RCC's list of banned books.  If it isn't it should be, because after I started reading [an abridged version, is there any other kind?], I felt as though I could see the Universe as it truly was for the first time.  No angry, vengeful God, just waiting for me to mess up so He could roast me for an Eternity!  Instead, I saw a world full of people, just like you, just like me, looking for answers.

IMHO, as well as being a "creation myth," explaining how the world came to be, it also attempts to explain the origins of human consciousness, that emancipation ... from the original animal harmony with nature, when then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil."

Their "sin" was not disobeying God, but rather leaving the paradise of having a consciousness on the level of the animals, and developing a consciousness on the level of God, [or the gods.]  And with Knowledge of Good and Evil came emotions such as love, hate, joy and fear.  And there also came concepts such as self-esteem, and shame.  

Dr. Fromm goes on to say:  

...after man and woman have become aware of themselves and of each other, they are aware of their separateness, and of their difference, inasmuch as they belong to different sexes. But while recognizing their separateness they remain strangers, because they have not yet learned to love each other (as is also made very clear by the fact that Adam defends himself by blaming Eve, rather than by trying to defend her). The awareness of human separation, without reunion by love—is the source of shame. It is at the same time the source of guilt and anxiety.
Well, I don't know about all that.  To my way of thinking, you can't have a male without a female side, or a female without a male side, anymore than you can have a one-sided coin!  
From my favorite philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“POLARITY, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature; in darkness and light; in heat and cold; in the ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspiration and expiration of plants and animals; in the equation of quantity and quality in the fluids of the animal body; in the systole and diastole of the heart; in the undulations of fluids, and of sound; in the centrifugal and centripetal gravity; in electricity, galvanism, and chemical affinity. Superinduce magnetism at one end of a needle; the opposite magnetism takes place at the other end. If the south attracts, the north repels. To empty here, you must condense there. An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man, woman; odd, even; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest; yea, nay.”

In other words, if you can show me a magnet with one pole, or my coin with one side, or something born that will not die, I will believe we are all "wholey" one gender.


As a child, I came to believe I was born on the wrong planet, as this one makes no sense to me. Eventually, I learned to "navigate" psychologically, and decided to pity more the "me" who was supposed to come here, but ended up there, as I was sure "she" was having a worse time of it than I was.

And so I became one of those annoying people, unable to chose a major in high school because I wanted to understand "The Meaning of Life" first, to understand "Why Am I Here," before I could chose a direction in which to go.  

Again, my friend RW Emerson:

The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

In other words, it wasn't meant to be easy.  I could try to ignore my need to understand, distract myself with popular culture, recreational drugs [I think pot is OK if not used to avoid dealing with life], "Reality TV,"  ["Survivor" after 9/11?  Really?], romance novels, or all the countless ways people use to "kill time."  I wanted to fit in, but didn't want to do so at the price of my sanity, as that was what it was costing me to "play pretend."  Eventually I did find my niche, working in various permutations of the health field, a fitness instructor, CNA/PCA/CHHA/LPN/RN, waiting for the day I no longer was required to show I knew how to wash my hands properly.

And reading, and seeking.    

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Thank G/od[s] for books!  Every question I had, every concept I struggled with, somewhere in history, someone had also contemplated.  I just had to look.  And several boxes of books handed down by some friends who were moving contained my first Emerson, my first Henry David Thoreau,  and my first Tao Te Ching, the Witter Bynner translation, which I love and cannot find a version I love better.

Can you hold the door of your tent
Wide to the firmament?
Can you, with the simple stature
Of a child, breathing nature,
Become, notwithstanding,
A man?
Can you continue befriending
With no prejudice, no ban?
Can you, mating with heaven,
Serve as the female part?
Man at his best, like water,
Serves as he goes along:
Like water he seeks his own level,
The common level of life
Yes, the World is Going to Hell in a Handbasket.  Yes, there are more questions than answers. But I do not need to know why I was "born this way."  There is no one answer that I am going to find that will end my seeking.  That is the meaning of my Tag line, The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us.  The entire quote, more or less:
...but such is the character of that morrow which mere lapse of time can never make to dawn. The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.
To me, this means once we have "discovered the answer," we stop looking.  And if we think we have discovered the answer, why would we keep looking?  Well, that isn't even my favorite HDT quote.  This one is and provides a better answer:
“We should come home from far, from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day, with new experience and character.”

And so I do believe.

Now, I'm sure a few of you are wondering,  "How is she going to work Neil deGrasse Tyson into this?"  Well, we could all use a little NDT now and then, especially knowing he said

“Down there between our legs, it's like an entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system. Who designed that?”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier
As he also said,
“... informed ignorance provides the natural state of mind for research scientists at the ever-shifting frontiers of knowledge. People who believe themselves ignorant of nothing have neither looked for, nor stumbled upon, the boundary between what is known and unknown in the cosmos.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson, Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution
In other words, just because you want the answer to every question to be: "Because...God!", it doesn't mean everyone has to!  Are you listening, ID'ers?

And so, in conclusion,  “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

There is a deeper fact in the soul than compensation, to wit, its own nature. The soul is not a compensation, but a life. The soul is. Under all this running sea of circumstance, whose waters ebb and flow with perfect balance, lies the aboriginal abyss of real Being. Essence, or God, is not a relation, or a part, but the whole. Being is the vast affirmative, excluding negation, self-balanced, and swallowing up all relations, parts, and times within itself. Nature, truth, virtue, are the influx from thence. Vice is the absence or departure of the same. Nothing, Falsehood, may indeed stand as the great Night or shade, on which, as a background, the living universe paints itself forth; but no fact is begotten by it; it cannot work; for it is not. It cannot work any good; it cannot work any harm. It is harm inasmuch as it is worse not to be than to be.
I have more to say, especially about Vice as Nothing, as something that cannot work, for it is not.  Next diary.  
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Comment Preferences

  •  Native Americans (7+ / 0-)

    didn't have a nudity taboo until the Christian missionaries arrived and, shocked at what they viewed as nudity and open sexuality, began to insist that Indians change.

    On a related topic:

    History of English: Prude

  •  I use "The Golden Bough" when I train (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NancyWH, irishwitch

    clergy in my particular faith path.

    That and Joseph Campbell. (grin)

    When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

    by Alexandra Lynch on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 09:45:57 AM PST

  •  Unsatisfying (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thanks for pulling together those wonderful existential quotes.

    I find the account in the Bible unsatisfying. What it says (if you read between the lines) is that God created man and woman as pets. They weren't really created as fully sentient beings. In the first place, I'm not very satisfied with the notion that God would want to just have humans around as pets.

    So, maybe you can think of this as God setting his humans a challenge: I put you in the garden and there's a tree here you have to pick, but I'm forbidding you to do so. How are you going to get its fruit?

    Humans solved the problem by disobeying God's order. This is probably what you would expect of an animal. We have sheep. If there's something tasty to eat they will charge right in and get it. You can wag a finger at them and tell them, "No, no, no!" But they'll do it anyway unless you put up a fence. That's just how animals are. (That's how humans are, too, in their animal nature.) I have to believe that any being powerful enough to create humans (and by all reports animals, too) would know that.

    What were their other choices? One choice would have been for Adam or Eve to go to God and say, "Look. You told us not to eat from this tree. Would you explain why?" Maybe the test was to see if the humans were smart enough to know this was a test and to look for ways to succeed that were within the rules. If the rule was you can't pick the tree, then maybe the answer is you ask and you are given the fruit to eat.

    Maybe this also implies that you need the divine spirit to guide you in using knowledge. Perhaps we should think about that as we develop ever more powerful technology. Maybe even with the flood of knowledge pouring out on the earth (this is the Age of Aquarius, after all) we need to take time to sit zazen so that we use that knowledge correctly, and thus avoid "sin".

  •  Existentialism -> Responsibility (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Fromm is heading for an existentialist position, and so his arguments are reactions against an essentialist heritage. He would have us all atomically individual, and he writes provocatively on purpose. (He also writes with a thorough education in Jewish tradition that a lot of us won't have.) Myself, I hit Glaser, then Fraser's original The Golden Bow while trying to follow TS Eliot's notes, but then I went after Kierkegaard, not Emerson, for whom I have never had much patience.

    Obviously, I'd recommend Repetition and Fear and Trembling, and a lot of other Kierkegaard, but that's not my place, nor why I'm commenting. Gen. 3:16 has that "be as gods, knowing good from evil," and one of Emerson's peers shows us what that means. Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" illustrates what it would be to know evil. In the story, Satan gives his followers the power to know the wickedness of others (i.e. a replica of the promise in Gen.), and all that happens is misery.

    There is a ton of writing on the line. The "good and evil" have to exist before the knowledge (either as actual or potential), and then does free will? It must, as there can be no creation with knowledge. Thus, it's a false gift, and Fromm is wrong: they gain nothing they did not already have, except awareness of rebellion which had always already been possible and extant.

    Everyone is innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 10:07:16 AM PST

    •  When I read Fromm (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Geogre

      the first time some 30 years ago, I was more impressed than I was re-reading it for this diary.  Or maybe, like "A Course in Miracles,"  where I shut out the "Jesus" parts, I just skipped over the iffy parts in my mind, & culled what I could use.

      "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

      by NancyWH on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 10:28:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  He's very cool, very necessary, but a voice (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I mean, he was an antithesis answering a thesis. We've got to read dialectically, and it's easy when we're old, challenging when we're grown up, and damned impossible when we're young. It's not even worth wishing for when we're speaking.

        I remember hearing 1980's condemnations of "the canon" of literature. There is a lot to condemn, but these were people saying that, if you were taught it, you would be unfree in mind, body, and soul, fettered in reasoning, and unable to think for yourself. It would make students puppets of power entirely. The idea had it's merit, I thought, but then I wondered,
        "If that's so, then how did you survive having come up through school reading the canon? I know that I read the canon, and so how is it that I can agree with you? Shouldn't both of us be impossible?"

        Thesis - Antithesis - Synthesis, but not necessarily progress

        Everyone is innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 11:37:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hi. (0+ / 0-)

    I didn't realize Horace published this.  Thanks for all the feedback!  Every thought led to another stream I hope to explore someday.  I find life enjoyable at best, confusing at the worst, and study philosophy etc. to maintain my sanity.  Is that a bad thing?  

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 10:20:22 AM PST

  •  its about judgment (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NancyWH, anonymous volanakis

    The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is judgment.   After A&E partake, they judge their nakedness as shameful, which clues the Deity in to what they have done.  The spiritual lesson here is to abstain from such judgments.  Specifically, judging humans as evil due to bad behavior perpetuates hatred. Of course, we must oppose such, but without the self-righteous condemnation.  As Buddha said, it all arises out of causes and conditions.  Jesus said the same thing, "Judge not....".  For more details on this outlook click on my sig.

  •  I you think you have found the Meaning of Life... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NancyWH, Joieau

    it's a sure sign you haven't.

    If you sure you know the complete Truth, it's a sure sign you haven't.

    If you think you know everything, you're just scratching the surface of your own ignorance.

    If you feel compelled to share your Last Whole Truth with everyone else, especially if they don't want to hear it, it's 99.999999999% likely that you are wrong.

    When you stop asking hard questions, you've stopped living, even if you're still breathing.

    For me, the real question isn't "Why?" but "Why not?"  

     Used to get me in trouble with the priest in senior year religion class, but it forced him to think, probably for the first time in his pudgy life.  When I went to college and had classes with some well-known Catholic theologians, they liked me for asking that question.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 11:19:24 AM PST

    •  Good call! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I was raised RCC, but went to public school, & Wednesday catechism classes.  I let my kids go wherever they liked.  The only time anyone gave me trouble was the Nun at her friends' catechism classes.  We weren't members of that Church, you see.  So I told the Nun no one had ever turned my daughter down for attending their church classes before, and that got to her.  Of course, my daughter just wanted to get out of school early, so it didn't last.

      "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

      by NancyWH on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 12:02:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  17 years of Catholic education, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        including kindergarten, Thehuns I had were great. WHen I was bullied in 7th-8th grade and the realized what was going on (it was subtle social crap npt immediately detectable as bullying), the put a stop to it.

        This priest was awful I think they'd sent hiom to my high school because he stank with people. Poor man. He had to spend 45 minute periods locked up with 25 Catholic high school senior girls --all day.And we were smart and irreverent and did not hold back. DId I mention we were feminists? This was 66-7, and we hated the damned book.

        The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

        by irishwitch on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 03:06:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Why not" is an excellent way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to approach life in time. It's an adventure - all any of us have to invest is our time in life, as if (a matter of belief) that's really all we've got to invest.

      Yup. I like it.

  •  Great post (0+ / 0-)

    I've also found The Golden Bough a very interesting companion to works by Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Mircea Eliade on myths and consciousness. Anthropologists Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner on rituals of symbolic death and rebirth (rites of passage and pilgrimages) as a way of re-experiencing the myth of Creation are also quite interesting.

    "Work is the curse of the drinking classes." -Oscar Wilde

    by eades on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:48:42 PM PST

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