Monday, February 22, 2010

The Explosion of the Ego..!

Sure sounds messy, no? And to be sure, it was, and has been ...

Can you imagine being in one of the first generations following the Fall? Hearing your parents or grandparents talking about what life was like, before it got violent? The tales would be told over and over ... looking back with nostalgia and yearning ... and, as with all orally passed-on stories, the retellings would accumulate various embellishments over time. Before long, the stories would become myths ... containers of truth, but enhanced with metaphor, hyperbole, and parable.

Every culture has their version of the story of The Fall ... and the reality of these myths speaks of the truth of something having "gone wrong" in human history. This is the creative expression of what the archaeological evidence shows -- the reality of a more ancient time, when humans lived in harmony, with each other, with the planet, with nature ... when violence, war and selfishness were unheard of. Prior to a falling away, prior to the corruption, and the suffering.

Steve Taylor speaks of two types of Fall myths:

~ The first shows a sudden dramatic event, an environmental change that forces human beings out of a previously lush environment, into a harsh one. One example is the Iranian myth of a paradise on a mountain ... complete with water of life, and a tree of life (interesting!). The first man, Yima lived there in a garden... no death, no disease (these being hyperbolic statements of a lack of suffering and violence, not meant to be taken literally). The perfect age came to an abrupt end when an evil being intervened, changing the mild climate to a harsh one.

~ The second contains the biblical story of the Garden of Eden (which was told in Sumer, 2,000 years prior to when it is said to have taken place by those who take the Bible literally. Ur is a city in Sumer ...). Like the Iranian story, there is a river of life, and a tree of life, and a garden. Most who read this blog are likely quite familiar with the story in Genesis.

Both of these Fall myths seem to be a means of explaining what happened when the Saharasian people experienced aridity, and watched the fertile land become infertile, and the climate become harsh and inhospitable. Due to the climate change, the people were indeed forced into exile ... and it's easy to imagine how they would attribute this to God's doing ... that God banished them from the paradise they'd previously known, that they were punished by having to go into migration.

The focus on the myths is more on the character/behavior changes that came to the humans.

So, what clues can be derived from the myths?

In Genesis, we see the Fall being connected to having eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil -- this suggests that the Fall was associated with gaining a new intellectual power, or awareness. Self-awareness. "Adam and Eve" became self-conscious, full of shame. They also perceived themselves to be separated from God, and from each other (even blaming one another for what had happened).

In the Chinese version of the Fall-myth, human beings fell out of the Tao (the Way), and developed a new kind of individuality and self-sufficiency .. living by their own will, rather than the will of nature.

In the African version of the Fall-myth, human beings fell into ego, and out of compassion and empathy. As ego goes up, compassion goes down ... if we were able to "feel with", we could not inflict harm, for we would recognize, intuitively, that we were also harming ourselves.

I find this one fascinating: In the Sumerian myth (the Sumerians being the earliest post-Fall civilization), the earth goddess Tiamat (represented as a serpent -- who symbolized feminine wisdom) is killed by the sky-god Marduk .. Marduk takes her place as the creator of life ... and how human beings are "outside" nature, separate ... detached from creation rather than being a part of it.

(It doesn't escape notice that in the Genesis account, the serpent takes on the role of the "villain" ... and enmity is put between her, and the serpent.)

Various philosophers and scholars have commented on The Fall ... Joseph Campbell says:
"For many in the Orient as well as the West, the sense of holiness departed from their experience both of the universe and of their own nature, and a yearning for release from what was felt to be an insufferable state of sin, exile or delusion supervened."

Imagine what it must have been like, to have an idyllic, contented, life-of-flow suddenly interrupted with hardships ... crops failed, animals died or migrated, water supplies dried up ... life became hard, supply was scarce, and sharing was no longer an option -- survival took over, which required selfishness, and eventually, force -- just in order to survive. You were no longer an extension of me -- you were now in the way of my survival! Also, due to the famine, heat, dust, pain and suffering were experienced ... if my body is suffering, I'm tempted to withdraw, to dissociate, from my body, in order to cope. Nature had been a benevolent friend -- now she was a harsh enemy ... a thing to be conquered.

Also, whereas women had been revered before, now women were in the way ... a distraction that kept a man from hunting for sustained survival ... sex, too, was a distraction ... and eventually, a dangerous evil. Children were now extra mouths to feed -- competition for food. As these people walled themselves off from connecting, the children were neglected, even abandoned. Receiving less attention and affection had a strong and damaging impact on the children ... and this would be passed on to *their* children.

It doesn't take too many generations to live in this "shrinking inward" state, before it became part of the collective psyche. According to Steve Taylor,
"There is a great deal of evidence showing that behavioral traits and personal characteristics can spread to whole groups of peoples in this way - even to whole species. As Rupert Sheldrake's theory of 'Morphic Resonance' suggests, for example, animals develop new instincts when a certain critical number of them perform a new act (or show a new characteristic or trait). At this point it has built up the required resonance to become a permanent part of the group or species 'blueprint' which every member develops in accordance with from birth."

Steve Taylor ends Part I of his book this way:
" The Ego Explosion was the most momentous event in the history of the human race. The last 6,000 years of history can only be understood in terms of it. All of the different kinds of social and psychic pathology we've looked at - war, patriarchy, social stratification, materialism, the desire for status and power, sexual repression, environmental destruction, as well as the inner discontent and disharmony which affect us -- all of these traits can be traced back to the intensified sense of ego which came into existence in the deserts of Middle East and central Asia 6,000 years ago."

Oh there is SO much more to explore here...! I'm hitting some of the highlights, but I strongly encourage you all to not only read this book, but to encourage others to do so as well...

More on the destruction, and the benefits, of this ego explosion, next.

Shalom, Dena

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