Two Sides of Original Nature

Humans have long contended and struggled with the two sides of our nature.  Theologically speaking, there is Ireneaus’ and St. Augustine’s “Original Sin,” and more recently Matthew Fox’s “Original Blessing.”  ImageScripture tells us that all of creation, including humans, was created “good.”  But after eating from the fruit of the tree of knowledge, humans and therefore the rest of creation “fell” from the original created “goodness.”  Preston Harold riffs on this dichotomy from the evolutionary viewpoint:

If man is in bondage to his original nature, he is bound to expression in material being, for he was raised up from matter, from cosmic dust – and he is bound to immortality as is the one-cell creature.  Ardrey says: ‘If man is a part of the natural world, then he possesses as do all other species a genetic inheritance from an ancestry as long as life itself.’  Man can use his big brain to attenuate the errors he has acquired throughout his evolutionary journey so that in time knowledge of them will serve to inoculate him against their deadly peril.  He appears to have just enough of Cain’s virulent strain within him and more than enough brain power to do this.  If he is bound to his original nature, he is bound to whatever it is that caused him, alone among all creatures, to speak the one original word, “I.”  And he is bound to that which Ardrey offers as his one redeeming feature: 

‘The command to love is as deeply buried in our nature as the command to hate.’

Harold then goes on to indirectly invoke the preamble to the Gospel of John and the prophecies of Isaiah and Joel :

Through the guidance of the Self-presence that gives man the power of the word, “I,” the power of speech, and the power of love, of truth, Imagehe may come in time to lay down and beat into “ploughshares” his perfected weapons – a move unprecedented, save in his own history.  Once, long ago, he relinquished weapons, his fighting canines, and picked up a tool.  And again he may make this move, a move “irrational” in the “view” of any other creature, for “rationality” has led all others to evolve and perfect their means of offense and defense and then to utilize these means to the fullest extent.

In our next post we will continue to explore man’s irrationality.  Until then, peace…

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Eating Our Way Out of Innocence

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Preston Harold continues describing the amoeba and why its course is humanity’s course…

There is no apparent reason why amoeba should ever die.  In the course of its division a new one is not produced: there are “only fragments of the original individuals, whose life has thus been continuous back to the time when life itself was first created…” Like an amoeba, Adam self-divided, and there is no immediately apparent reason why Adam and Eve should ever die.  But when amoebic animal life comes into the picture, innocence goes – as it does in Eden – and this is connected directly with eating.  Joseph Wood Krutch explains:

…all animals must eat something which is or was alive. …No animal, therefore, can be innocent as a plant may be. …And that, perhaps, is the deepest meaning of Original Sin.

The Eden drama relates that loss of innocence is directly related with eating.

And eating leads to death, which we will explore in our next post.  Until then, peace…

Along Comes Paul

For Paul’s gospel to be effective, he had to tap into man’s primeval and archaic heritage.  Freud says that Paul’s success

“was certainly mainly due to the fact that through the idea of salvation he laid the ghost of Imagethe feeling of guilt.  It was also due to his giving up the idea of the chosen people and its visible sign – circumcision.  That is how the new religion could become all embracing, universal.”  Thus, he concludes that Paul effected a “continuation of primeval history,” and that both Christianity and Judaism stem from “the religion of the primeval father, and the hope of reward, distinction, and finally world sovereignty is bound up with it.

Freud also says that Paul shifted the focus from the father to the son, seizing upon the feeling of guilt for father murder and tracing it to its primeval source:

This he (Paul) called original sin; it was a crime against God that could be expiated only through death… A son of God, innocent himself, had sacrificed himself, and had thereby taken over the guilt of the world… The Mosaic religion had been a Father religion; Christianity became a Son religion.  The old God, the Father, took second place; Christ, the Son, stood in his stead, just as in those dark times every son had longed to do.  Paul, by developing the Jewish religion further, became its destroyer.

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Of course it was St. Augustine, not Paul, who developed the idea of “original sin.”  But Freud’s insights remain relevant.  We will explore his interesting insights into the reason for anti-Semitism in our next post.  Until then, peace…

THE PROBLEM, THE OBJECTIVE, THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS – Part 1

The title of Chapter 1 gives us three foci, of which we will explore in order of importance.  Today’s post will focus on “the problem:”

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The decline of Christianity, religion of the West, bespeaks the decline of faith in the Pauline interpretation of Jesus’ meaning to mankind…

Jawaharal Nehru states: “Essentially, our problems are those of civilization itself.  Religion gave a certain moral and spiritual discipline; it also tried to perpetuate superstition and social usages.  Indeed, those superstitions and social usages enmeshed and overwhelmed the real spirit of religion.  Disillusionment followed.”

The pace of Christianity’s decline, in terms of declining beliefs in its tenets, accelerates.  J.B. Priestly writes: “…if we all joined a Christian Church tomorrow the fundamental situation would be unchanged, because no church existing today has the power – and we could not give it this power by joining it – to undo what has been done…the symbols no longer work, and they cannot be made to work by effort on a conscious level…No matter what is willed by consciousness, that which belongs to the depths can only be restored in the depths.” (emphasis mine)

The depths, huh?  Well then, can psychology help?

Today, psychologists explore and interpret the depths of man, but thus far psychology serves only to present again in professional terms the notion of original sin…man is victim of primordial sex drives incorporated in his being when he is expelled from the paradise of the womb.

(Psychology) cannot defend man against the dehumanizing collectives, or restore in his depths the hope that declines as religion declines – indeed, the human problem is compounded by psychologists theories, and man must seek defense against them.

But…

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Freud and those who followed in this field opened Pandora’s box, but they also presented humanity with vital knowledge, which must be dealt with now, just as nuclear power must be dealt with now – and just as the vacuum created by the decline of religion must be dealt with now, for in Priestly’s words, “it is doubtful if our society can last much longer without religion…”

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Harold believes that for Christianity to thrive, it must look past the Pauline interpretation which has dominated the past 2000 years, and try to make sense of Jesus’ words in the light of today’s knowledge and understanding. As a fan of Paul rightly understood I have a bit of a problem with this, but let’s let Harold have his say…

In orthodox theology, St. Paul’s compelling interpretation of Jesus is highlighted against the background of the disciples messages, obscuring much of their content.  The pre-eminence of Pauline doctrine precludes the idea that there could be another valid concept of Jesus and His mission.  But in the four Gospels another view of Him is precisely drawn, a view as natural and different from the Pauline concept as non-Euclidian geometry is natural and different from Euclid’s.  Since the advent of the Bible, which drew together fragments of His picture, this answer to the question of Jesus has lain before men’s eyes.  It is an answer St. Paul could not give.  In the early days of Christianity only a hint of it could be discerned, and was discerned by Saul of Tarsus – his mighty work is not to be decried.  Nor could this answer been given by those who followed and through the ages developed the Christian religion.  Indeed, not until the twentieth century, when the writings of Darwin, Freud, Einstein and many other scientists had been circulated throughout the world, and science had suffered it’s great revolution, and mathematicians had been freed of the limitations of Greek thought, could the concepts of Jesus to be offered in this study evolve as His own words, works, and drama are measured against the data now available.

After reading the book, it is my understanding that Harold’s problem with Paul doesn’t rest so much on Paul’s actual doctrine, but rather what the Church teaches regarding Paul and it’s understanding of his message.  But Harold will still take us into uncharted, ripe territory, and if he had to bypass his understanding of Paul in order to do so, I am certainly willing to forgive him.  The fruit is delicious!

Harold leaves us on a positive note concerning our present problem:

The problems confronting man in the twentieth century are colossal, but opportunity looms equally large: “…the present situation is a new one, in which new facts and new knowledge are available over new fields to an unprecedented extent, and could be distilled to provide us with the truth that alone can set us free.” – Julian Huxley

In the next post we will explore the crucial questions, and then move on to the objective of the book.  Until then, peace…