The History of Good & Evil
Could Genesis be Historically Accurate?
Within many religious practices, much time is spend telling stories of what is good and what is evil. Analogies are drawn, myths are set in place and much time is devoted to defining what is beneficial to what is destructive across all religious services. To me, the story of Genesis is one of the better myths behind the beginning foundation of the knowledge of what is good, and what is evil. It is extremely insightful and surpisingly relevant.
It starts out simply enough. God created the body of man, and breaths life into something that was inanimate. This is a revalation in itself. The idea that god can create living flesh (organic chemsitry) from the clay. For many, this idea is far fetched, that clay can be turned into life, but the scientific reality is not far from this story. It is a matter of about two billion years of time between the formation of the earth and when life began. No one knows exactly how it began, but we know that organic chemistry evolved from its simple inorganic structures, to form new molecules that could reproduce themselves and begin the long road that led to humanity today. (Some argue that the building blocks of life exist everywhere in the universe and just needs the right conditions to start on the path to self-awareness.)
Once we arrived from God’s breath, we immediately began the tasks of labeling and defining the world. The first Man (Adam in this case) named the plants and the animals. He began to understand that all things had a life that was separate from himself. That they had purpose unto themselves and were important not only to their own place in the world, but to him as well. (Something that is often taken for granted or ignored today.)
Eventually God creates a woman for Adam (he's sees all the other animals have mates) so that he can have a mate and someone to share his life with. Its not usually phrased like this, as the texts were written from a very male point of view. You always have to take the context of the time and society into consideration when reading spiritual mythologies. This is where the realtionship between two thinking people begins in the story of Genesis. Before this point, its about man’s relationship to God. Now we have a couple’s relationship to the divine. Its no longer about the individual's belief system, now it has to be reconsiled with the person your living with and speaking to.
On to Setting the Rules
Of course there has to be rules. Without any rules, how can you break them? So within the garden that Adam and his mate Eve, are living within, there is this tree. God said, you can have anything in the garden, but don’t eat anything from this tree. At this point, you might ask yourself - Is this a test? The answer is YES. Adam seems to take this kind of unconditialally. God said no, so he just seems to forget about it. But Eve, well, she's kind of curious. At this point, in the Bible’s original perspective, a serpent comes along, but later its interprested as the “adversary” to god. Again, not really sure why God leaves them alone in such peril, but remember that perhaps God feels that there is no real danger here, but wouldn’t an omnipotent God know? The answer is that God is not omnipotent in this story.
Notice that the snake looks to be a deadly coral snake but its not, its a king snake. Red next to yellow, kill a fellow; red next to black, friend of Jack. I was left to wonder about the artist's intention in colorizing the snake this way. And the Latin translation is Principles • Consent • Exit...
Once Eve is tempemted and takes the fruit to Adam to eat, they realize that they are naked. They feel shame. Not sure why. Its a bit of an odd thought when God’s creations are quite beautiful, but somehow they feel ugly. One can easily argue that its the act of disobedience that makes them feel shameful, but the story pretty clearly states that its the nakedness they wish to cover up... Back to the Omnipotence thing.
Its not long when God comes for a visit but he does not see them. He calls for them repeatedly. He doesn't know where they are. He cannot see them. He doesn't know what happened either. This can be interpreted two ways to my mind. Either he is not omnipotent and does not know everything or he cannot see them anymore because they have sinned and are no longer “visible” to God’s perception. Either way, its an intersting part of the story.
With paradise lost due to the trust being broken, the Lord sends an Angel to remove the couple form the garden and to act as a guardian so that they cannot return. Literally, once you have understood good from evil, you cannot go back to paradise! Ignorance was bliss! As further insult he basically says to them, “You are cursed to toil in the earth the rest of your days and you really won't enjoy any of it”. This is the very accurate foreshadowing of the agricultural revolution as well.
From Animals to Humanity
What this really means is once you have understood good from evil, you are no longer ignorant of the self. You have developed empathy and can comprehend positive experiences from negative ones and the events that lead to them. You have awareness of yourself and what others feel and want. With this, its a small step to realize that tomorrow could bring no food, no water or no shelter if your wandering out of the garden where everything is supplied. You don’t need to think if you have everything you want! The consequence is that you now have to plan (best you can) for your future. You have to toil on the good days to make sure you can survive the bad days. You are conscious that you can easily die without some food in reserve, a good weapon for protection and some lands to work and hunt on.
Its a startling revelation that the ancient writer of the story realized all these things. Is the stroy to be taken literally. Of course not. But is it historically true that we passed through the portal of the animal mind to one of self awareness. Yes! Did we become responsible on how to live within large groups and cities. Yes. Did it happen generally like the story in nearly the same alligorical sequence. Yes it did.
Image Credits: Top Graphic - Neil Dring 2015, Adam and Eve is unknown