Today is the first birthday of The Shining Stranger blog! Hard to believe! Thank you, readers, for coming along for this ride which began a year ago today. We still have a long way to go through Preston Harold’s challenging and powerful masterpiece. I’m looking forward to both sharing and learning more as we take “the road less traveled.” Here’s to a great year’s past and an even better year ahead!
The third offspring of Adam and Eve is the oft overlooked Seth. Of Seth Eve says, “God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him.” So essentially Seth is Abel’s replacement in the legend. Preston Harold says
If one elects to tell the story of evolution in terms of the Genesis legend, he cannot overlook Seth, meaning compensation, replacement seed, third son of Adam-Eve, his life paralleling Cain’s in the wilderness. From Seth come the beings the legend calls truly human for “to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos (meaning mortal); then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.”
From an evolutionary viewpoint, what would Seth have been like?
Seth, in Adam’s own image and likeness, must have inherited nakedness, must have been an unspecialized omnivore, who needed tool and weapon; but to triumph in the evolutionary play, he must have a superior brain, or cortex, and a superior power such as speech is.
Current thoughts on who along the chain of man’s evolution Seth represents are not totally agreed upon and more time will be required to come to terms accepted by the majority of anthropologists. But Genesis does tell us a bit more about him. Our author continues…
Although the Genesis legend indicates that man is Seth’s child, it does indicate also that there was a crossing of Cain’s progeny and Seth’s: the type called by the name Lamech, meaning wild man, is in the line of both Cain and Seth. Enoch, teacher, appears both as son of Cain and son of Jared, descendant of Seth.
It is here that we run into the first “end of creation,” as Lamech begets Noah. Genesis tells us that Noah was “perfect in his generations,” apparently steering clear of Nephilim, or “giant” genetics, which resulted in “great wickedness” and “hearts and thoughts set on evil continually in the earth.”
Noah, meaning rest, may be seen to represent Cro-Magnon man, for his progeny take over the earth. The legend indicates that in the Noah type or Cro-Magnon man there was awareness of mortal error in shedding human blood, in eating human flesh, and that this type man developed into a great hunter of the beasts so beautifully depicted by some ancient Nimrod on the walls of the Cave of Lascaux.
So how do we get from Seth to Jesus? Harold ruminates
According to the legend, Seth’s progeny, adulterated by Cain-type genes, came to rest in the Noah type. Man’s brain and chin were there, in evolution’s play compensating him for lack of a coat, and for lack of a true killer instinct which mankind at large does not unanimously possess. Man, however, has not come through the years uninvolved in Cain’s crime of brother-murder. The legend says men bear Cain’s trace – Cainan, meaning acquisition, appears on the family tree but on it there is no trace of Abel – purely carnivorous? – whose name means transitoriness. The legend says that all races evolved from an ancestral type in whose genes lay the specialness man exhibits, making all humankind brothers, equals in being. This truth Jesus sought to establish. In His words, one confronts man’s original endowment: the kingdom of God within him. The Eden legend may be trying to say that the garden man must tend is within himself – was so from the beginning.
Until next time, peace…
In Ardrey’s view, it is the herbivorous A. robustus that represents Abel. He says of A. africanus and A. robustus,
Both – most significantly – have lost in equal measure the ape’s fighting teeth…. The two have likenesses and unlikenesses. Nothing but the evolutionary experience of a common ancestor can explain the similar terrestrial specialization and the similar reduction of fighting canines. And nothing but an evolutionary parting of the ways, a very long time ago, can account for the differences. And so we must presume that their common ancestor – and ours – defeated by the ape of the forest, turned to a grubbing existence in the bush…. We are a mathematical improbability… The emergence of the terrestrial ape cannot be regarded as logical, normal, or to any degree predetermined. It was a break with primate orthodoxy in the name of what can only be described as adventure.
But Preston Harold says not so fast. In thinking through the entire legend, Ardrey’s view doesn’t quite fit the story. Harold explains…
Suffice it to say that Ardrey sees Homo sapiens bound to the killer instinct of A. aftricanus… but two questions must be considered. Can A. africanus rightly be likened to Cain? Is Homo sapiens Cain’s child? Is it not a fallacy to liken a carnivorous animal to Cain who brought as offering the “fruit of the ground” indicating that he was herbivorous? The legend suggests that Abel was the carnivore, first to use tool or weapon to procure the fat of the firstlings of his flock that he offered. But the meat Abel offered was not the flesh of a brother-being, and the carnivore that must kill for food is not a murderer. A. africanus comes nearer to fitting the shoe that Abel wears in the legend. He must be seen as both innocent and superior. During the Pliocene, in Africa the carnivore, A. africanus, must have commanded more “respect” in evolution’s process than the herbivorous A. robustus who more nearly fits the shoe of Cain – but in that awful drought “A single commandment, unheard and unseen, overhung the birth of every infant: kill, and eat meat, or die.” This perhaps provided the extenuating circumstance – the legend says God put upon Cain a “protective mark” after he had become a killer, before he was driven out into the wilderness. Life could not, however, pass on unattenuated the genes of this creature who first of all murdered a brother-being.
At this point, Harold bids us to reckon Seth, and we will do that in our next post. Until then, peace…
The great anthropologist and author of “African Genesis,” Robert Ardrey, chose the Genesis legend as the poetic backdrop against which to pose his work. He presents Homo sapiens as “Cain’s child.” Preston Harold states that
In the view of this work, (Ardrey’s) book is of great value, because it brings to the attention of a wide public some pieces of the puzzle, dramatizing the questions that engage the specialists, and it highlights one aspect of man’s evolution that cannot be denied by any faction: the extraordinary turns a creature took to follow the path that led him to become a man, a being “special” beyond belief. Whose child is he and how did he evolve?
Because atomic dating has upset the timetable of what Darwin thought was the most probable way man evolved…
Ardrey concludes that after seventy million years of slow development, man’s brain leapt to the human condition and came about when it did in an evolutionary instant as an ultimate answer to the Pleistocene’s unprecedented demands. His theory involves the bones of the creature he likens to Cain, A. africanus, discovered in 1925 by Dr. Raymond A. Dart.
Much like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Harold explains that Ardrey’s synopsis of an evolutionary jump resulted in a capacity for killing:
Ardrey submits that A. africanus was…”a transitional being possessing every significant human qualification other than man’s big brain” – thus he presents him as an ancestor of Homo sapiens. This creature was a carnivore, a killer. There is abounding evidence that he armed himself with weapons of bone which he appears to have shaped sometimes – and apparently he, too, relished the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” brains. If he was ancestral-man, then the “human being in the most fundamental aspect of his soul and body is nature’s last if temporary word on the subject of the armed predator. And human history must be read in these terms.” History must also be read in these terms: the remains of the South African apemen present a “positive demonstration that the first recognizably human assertion had been the capacity for murder.” The Cain-Abel legend reports this.
There is a deep instinct in us to be over and above our fellow man. This is our “inner Cain.” But what about Abel? We’ll explore him in our next post. Until then, peace…
As mentioned in our last post, the human being shares much in common with his insect friends. But at a certain point he must deviate to tread the path of “irrationality” that is his destiny. How might this deviation come about? What roles do the male and female play? Our esteemed author asks:
In the insect kingdom subordination of all else to survival of the species leads to enthronement and enslavement of the female while manhood becomes a mockery, as with the social bees where the queen must murder if necessary to secure her throne, killing her mate in the act of fertilization. What biological turn could work to set both sexes free of an insects life by “making a man” of the male?
Harold wonders if it might be Cro-Magnon man that reveals the deviation. Why? Because in Cro-Magnon the female was physically much smaller than the male, which meant her brain was probably not quite as efficient. He ruminates:
Upon her shoulders the whole responsibility for the social order and survival of the species could not rest, as it does upon the queen bee and her like in the insect’s world. Perhaps by evolving away from equality in physical stature ancestral female induced ancestral male to participate directly and share the responsibility that knowledge imposes, even as Eve did in Eden – Adam’s participation and shared responsibility are points upon which the drama turns.
So in Harold’s view, the female decreases so the male may increase. Some may reflect that history shows the male may have “increased” beyond a reasonable balance to the point where females have often been viewed and/or treated as second class, subjugated citizens. Absolutely. And yet the image of God is male/female equally. With that in mind, Preston Harold reassesses something he said in the previous quote and sees the female now rising to take her appropriate place at the table:
Certainly, woman lost her physical and social equality long ago, but now the female is gaining in stature and she bids fair to gain equal status on the social level. It is difficult to believe that there has ever been a time when in actuality the female’s brain was not as efficient as the male’s, because woman carries the heaviest part of the load of bearing life, as the legend states Eve must do, and this responsibility must tend to sharpen her wits. The Eden legend indicates that Eve’s was the questing mind.
So where does this leave us?
The quality of the female mind versus the male mind always has been and no doubt will be for some time to come debatable: there is the question of ways and means of opportunity for expression, the question of the female mind bringing to bear upon the male mind, and the part woman has played in bringing to life the reward of mental effort, civilization… Homo sapiens cultural development allowed him to adapt to widely varying environments, but this serves only to present the deeper mystery of the human mind, male and female, which led mankind in time to state the Golden Rule. Man’s ability to learn returns one to the mystery of his brain which, in Arthur Koestler’s words, is an “evolutionary novelty…quite out of proportion with the demands of his natural environment.”
A mystery indeed. Until next time, peace…
The human being is driven by irrational desires to push the body and mind to the limits constantly. Who hasn’t heard the inquiry, “Why would a person want to climb Mt. Everest?,” followed by the answer, “Because it’s there.” Even great personal risk cannot inhibit the human spirit’s thirst for knowledge and discovery…
The Eden legend says a “serpent” induced Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, saying, “Ye shall not surely die…,” and she gave of it to Adam… the important point is that neither the threat of death nor the promise of life influenced Eve – it was her “irrational” desire to know that led her to accept this food: the fruit was desired to make one wise….ancestral-man began to be a thinking creature early in the day of his being and thought irrationally enough to risk death to gain freedom from ignorance though he was well provided for in his bondage.
Man’s irrational desire to know leads to his having to work. He leaves his parents home and strikes out on his own. But where does he learn his skills to survive and fend for himself? Harold ruminates:
Man’s life changes completely as it shifts from Eden to the ground of this world wherin work, now seen to be his saving grace, has been imposed on him…. Who taught him to work? Did he learn from the ants – oldest cultivators of the soil and keepers of flocks, making war and capturing slaves, suggesting human beings – pyramid, apartment house, and tunnel builders that they are? Man appears to possess many of their instincts, and yet he is not of them.
Irrationally, man keeps on seeking more than survival; irrationally, he still thinks he would rather his species die than survive in a new type of society resembling all too closely an old, old ant heap. He cannot function as a human being without love…Eve’s act precipitated ancestral-man’s expulsion from a gardener’s job in a world that knew not love and hung only upon the idea of survival.
Once work outside paradise becomes a reality, what roles do the female and the male play to survive? We will explore that in our next post. Until then, peace…