Sep 2, 2012

The Sun and the Sea

Is that an angel?

hu·bris   /ˈ(h)yo͞obris/

Noun: 1. Excessive pride or self-confidence.
          2. (in Greek tragedy) Excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.

Synonyms: arrogance - hauteur - haughtiness - pride - insolence

When we speak of the Original Sin, we refer, of course, to Eve, and then Adam, eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. From Genesis 3:

1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
If you've read my previous post, you'll see where I'm going with this. The idea is that Christianity, along with all forms of monotheism, stems from an original cult down in Ancient Egypt, led by pharaoh Akhenaten, which worshiped one god over all, Aten. You'll be excused if you see the points in common between Akhenaten's story and Moses'. This original one-god religion gave birth to all forms of cults, each a distinct distortion of the original message (already distorted by the Aten cult itself). One of the most important distortions, presented by Christianity, Islam, and many others, is the sublimation and silencing of the female polarity. We can see this clearly in the Bible, with Eve being responsible for the Fall of Man. You'll notice it's not implied anywhere that Eve told Adam that it was the Forbidden Fruit, which essentially absolves him of guilt. Of course, what's not to be missed is that it was the snake who beguiled Eve, which makes her guilty of, at worst, gullibility.

What strikes me about this whole story is that, if the main message was that Man should not have Knowledge of Good and Evil, why not make him responsible for his choices? In the case of Genesis, Adam is not so much a willful sinner (you could also argue that it is impossible to commit a crime if one has no notion of good and evil - polarity) as an unfortunate victim of fate. This means that the Original Sin is not actually the eating of the fruit.

It's clear that there is an underlying bias in the story against the feminine principle. In addition to Eve being responsible, we have two more allusions to the feminine in the story: the fruit (whose association to the feminine is well-known) and the Knowledge of Good and Evil itself. The Tree gives one knowledge of the idea of polarity, that is, of seeing two where there is one. Polarity itself is, of course, a feminine idea - the number 2 is association with the feminine, from the Tarot (the second card is the High priestess) to astrology (Venus-ruled Taurus being the second sign) to numerology itself. We have a clear message, then: if it's feminine, don't touch it! The irony is that we cannot understand the concept of forbidden without the concept of polarity (for there is no 'forbidden' without 'allowed').

The idea, however, that the feminine is inferior to the masculine is entirely artificial: everything in Creation respects the principles of duality, and two opposite principles are in dynamic equilibrium. It is only Man, in his hubris (ah, a clue, Sherlock), who assumed that he could tilt the balance in one direction without consequence. It is not 'natural' then to disrespect either polarity (notice that the male-female dynamic is much more important in non-monotheistic religions, from the abstractions of Buddhism and Taoism to the co-ed Pantheon of polytheistic religions).

Notice that God even condemns the snake to "eat dust" forever. This implies that being sent to the feminine, yin ground is some sort of punishment (as opposed to the reward of being sent upwards to Heaven for being good), that is, that the feminine is inferior, once again, to the masculine. Gnostics fared a little better here, for they saw the snake's actions as productive:

Some Gnostic sects honored the snake. They did not view the snake as a seducer who led the Adam and Eve into sinful behavior. Rather, they saw the snake as a liberator who brought knowledge to Adam and Eve by convincing them to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and thus to become fully human.
Some even saw the snake as an incarnation of Jesus. They were not, however, without fault: "They believe in the duality of spirit and body: Spirit is of divine origin and good; the body is inherently earthly and evil. Gnostics were hostile to the physical world, to matter and the human body." Once again, the Earth is cast in a negative light. This all speaks to the impressive distortions away from the feminine that can be found in monotheistic religions, which, if you think about it, probably shun the concept of duality from the get-go.

So, if this bias against the feminine is artificial, then the Original Sin did not take place in the Garden of Eden. Let us go back, then, to an earlier part of Genesis:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
We have a few problems here. The first is that God created matter: "1 First God made heaven & earth 2 The earth was without form and void." This means that God is outside of matter, which by definition makes Him non-corporeal. Therefore, He has no image to speak of. If anything, God is all images. Furthermore, it is said that Man is given dominion over the animals and the land, but anyone who's had a run-in with a grizzly bear or a failed harvest knows that picture's not quite accurate (and if you need further evidence, just read about Fukushima, Krakatoa, Pinatubo, Katrina, and so on). In fact, it seems as if the Earth is intent on reminding us that we're not quite the masters we think we are.

Notice also that "male and female he created them," which seems to be at odds with the 'creation' of Eve further on. We can surmise then that Eve is not quite the 'first' woman we take her to be (Lilith would agree here - once more we find a demonisation of the female). In fact, it's telling that Eve was created out of Adam's rib - it's a partial female, because the true female came along with Adam. It's only when Eve eats the fruit (or when she is snakebitten) that she truly becomes a woman again.

A parallel can be drawn to the story of Psyche and Cupid, which I've discussed previously. Psyche is in Paradise after being whisked away by Cupid, with the only condition being that she cannot see Cupid. Her older sisters (unlike the popular conception, older sisters in fables are generally wise - a more mature voice) tell her it might be a demon or beast, and convince her to gaze upon him as he sleeps. However, wax from her lamp falls on Cupid and wakes him (knowledge = fire, pain), and he banishes Psyche from Paradise.

The female principle is thusly torn from the womb, and the woman is truly born. She cannot be truly herself until she has encountered pain and suffering, but she is at an advantage from this point of view: women go through three initiatory experiences (not necessarily all of them, but again, we're thinking archetypically here) - the menarche, the loss of virginity (tearing of the hymen, specifically), and childbirth. It was just a matter of time, then, until Psyche came to confront the masculine through pain.

Persephone is another case in point, but I imagine readers are getting a bit tired of this story. Suffice it to say that wisdom tends to be more natural to women because it comes from pain, loss and confrontation. It's easier for men to avoid suffering (especially in a [pseudo]patriarchal society), and they go through great lengths indeed to accomplish that. The connections of this principle of pain are astrologically linked to, naturally, Scorpio. A few quotations from a post on Global Astrology are worth highlighting:

"And Scorpio, though much maligned and tied to venom, pain, and burning fire, is linked to judgment, wisdom, and insight. After all, fire is the element that both consumes and yet enlightens when it is tamed. Even so pain: if it doesn't kill us, it makes us wiser." 
"Remember, scorpions prefer dark holes and crevices as their hiding places, so in the heavens, it looks as though Scorpio has crawled out from the dark hole that leads down to the land of the dead and damned."
"Dsubba and Jabbah and Acrab are all stars in the head of Scorpio, called "the crown of Scorpio," whose names all mean "the forbidden tree of life" or "the forbidden tree of knowledge," which indicate how this struggle all started. [...] We are all lawbreakers because of what our first Father and Mother did, and this is the crown that Scorpio wears, the authority he has to triumph in our death and destruction."
"Bear in mind, that though the stars can be pulled together to show us pictures of evil, the stars are not evil. The stars declare the righteousness of God, and the function of Antares [the heart of Scorpio] is to point out the evil that is upon the earth and God's righteousness in bringing salvation and judgment."

This last one is a hint as to the nature of the discussion on the third entry in the Devil series (here are parts one and two). But enough about the Underworld. Since the Genesis story does not give us the Original Sin, perhaps we can take a look at another story of blissful beginnings. Once again in Greek mythology, we have a lesson in sin. Back in Paradise, there were men, women and androgynes, all living in a blissful state. We all grew insolent, however, and decided we could best the gods. Not happy at all, Zeus and the gods punished us by splitting us into two (thus the idea of finding your better half).

We don't even have to leave the Christian myth, however. Lucifer was banished from Heaven because he thought he was on par with God. What was then this original sin that cast us away from Paradise: as you may have gathered by now, it was hubris, or pride: the belief that we are equal or superior to the gods (which, the gods being noumenal and not 'real,' is quite paradoxal). All mythologies warn us not to believe that we have the power of the gods (we do, but it's an inner, not outer, power). Where does this hubris come from, however?

If you've ever thought that we look oddly like underdeveloped great apes (physically), you are actually quite right. This is actually where the 'missing link' controversy stems from: seemingly overnight, our predecessors became bipedal and erect, their brains tripled in size, their jaws shrunk (allowing for a better development of oral communication, and thus, language) - you won't get a retort from me if you want to argue that this screams of outside interference, but that's not the point.

One of the consequences of this development was that, since our heads grew to such great sizes, we could no longer spend the appropriate time in the womb, for the vagina, flexible though it might be, can only stretch so much. This concept is important in psychoanalysis (and Freudian astrology), because it explains a wide range of behaviours and characteristics of human beings. We may have issues, then, but it cannot be denied that our superior brains led to the development of the intellect, the defining characteristic of Man in relation to Animal*.

That we became vastly more intelligent than the other beasts around us might seem like good news, but it had one terrible effect: we began to see ourselves as superior. Rather than live in dynamic harmony with our environment, we attempted to subdue it, and thus began to lose our connection to this environment. Prometheus gave us fire, but instead of handling it carefully, we waved it around and accidentally burnt half the forest.

It's important that the fire is put into a cup
It is this crime that was the true Fall of Man. It is the shunning of the female principles of wisdom, patience and humility that led us down this path. It is the sense of entitlement and superiority - still pervasive nowadays, as the 2012 election freakshow indicates - that has blinded us from the idea that there is no true superior. The Hittites learned this lesson painfully: they thought their quick and robust chariots guaranteed their superiority in the battlefield, but the Sea Peoples easily defeated them with javelins, possibly the oldest weapon in our arsenal. No doubt America will provide us with plenty of examples in the near future.

If you want to repent, then, do not submit yourself to any hierarchical order. Respect the principle of duality to which Mother Earth tries so hard to lead us. Remember that for every thing there is an equivalent opposite, and certainly do not forget that nothing is truly static in this Universe, especially not one's position in relation to others. Heed the warning the Lucifer cries out from the Underworld: any attempt to equal the gods ends in utter failure. Fear not knowledge, but fear not wisdom either. We have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to the latter.

And never forget that you are One with All - and say a little prayer for Venus or Gaia tonight. One final cautionary tale is that of a young boy named Icarus, who flew too close to the Sun (fire, knowledge, masculine) and thus too far from the ocean (water, wisdom, feminine). We as a species seem to be in need of a good bath, and we are parched. So take a dip!

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, by Pieter Bruegel

* A number of species might challenge the assumption that we are the dominant species on Earth: the mass of all humans is about equivalent to the mass of all ants; furthermore, building a Great Wall of China is everyday business for them.

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