Thursday, October 12, 2023
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
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You are granite. I am an empty wineglass. You know what happens when we touch! You laugh like the sun coming up laughs at a star that disappears into it. Love opens my chest, and thought returns to its confines. Patient and rational considerations leave. Only passion stays, whimpering and feverish. Some men fall down in the road like dregs thrown out. Then, totally reckless, the next morning they gallop out with new purposes. Love is the reality, and poetry is the drum that calls us to that. Don’t keep complaining about loneliness! Let the fear-language of that theme crack open and float away. Let the priest come down from his tower, and not go back up!
In this poem by the 13th century poet and Sufi mystic, Rumi, we are invited to journey into the heart of our humanity, the fragile space between rock and glass, Lover and Beloved, where Love is the reality, and poetry is the drum that calls us.
Similarly, the mythologist, Joseph Campbell describes the call to purpose and meaning in the poetic imagination of myth:
Mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth--penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images... Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.
Mythology is the notes between the lines, beneath the surface intellect, where we may find meaning in the images and symbols woven together in the poet’s dream. It invites the priest to come down from his tower, and not go back up.
Elsewhere, Campbell states:
Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed.
Likewise, it is may also be killed when we rationalize and distort the sacred construct of a myth in order to make it say what we would like it to say. This is the predicament of one of the most profound myths in human history—the myth of love within the universal family painted in the sacred Torah-Gospel mythology. From its inception, it is distorted into various systems of idolatry and social control, symbolized by eating the immature fruit or morality, ultimately becoming the various moralistic traditions of the Abrahamic religions. The myth itself is an invitation to move beyond the fear-based religious systems and hierarchies into the way of love and relationship, of one transcendent family.
The Torah-Gospel myth is wholly and elementally about love. The myth internally contrasts this developmental journey towards love with our need for control, born of fear and doubt. It defines maturity as a prosocial morality of responsibility and love for one another, supporting and nurturing the value and well-being of any and all we encounter on the road of life, regardless of caste, custom, conduct, or creed.
As most have only been exposed to the distorted religious narrative, I shall endeavor to restore the broader themes of this powerful myth of love and relationship bounded by a mythological journey over two millennia. However, I am not prescribing any specific spiritual cosmology regarding the existence or non-existence of any deeper realities. That is the responsibility of the individual traveler to seek out for themselves. But it is important to note that the meaning of the myth is not arbitrary—any inspiration or conclusion that is not founded on the unadulterated narrative of the myth cannot and should not be considered to be founded in that particular mythology.
A myth is by nature sacred—whether one considers its origins divine or by the crucible of time, purified over many generations. If I take a glass of pure water and add anything to it, there is still water in the glass but it will no longer be a glass of water—it is fundamentally changed.
Following is an attempt to go back to examining the glass of water in the written text, albeit, given the brevity of this format, highly condensed. I have explored this myth more deeply, with more pages and bigger words, in the much longer format of my book, Serpent in the Cellar: Love and Death in Life and Myth.
The Torah-Gospel mythology is essentially a moral psychology beginning with the Tree of Morality in the Garden of Eden and taking us on a journey over three elemental eons or ages—Primordial, National, and Universal. Each of these Ages represents a developmental level from juvenile to adolescent and then adult morality. Each level describes a type of relationship and its disintegration.
The Primordial Age is outlined in the first Book of the Torah, Bereshit-Genesis. It lays out the juvenile framework for morality beginning in Eden and ending in Egypt—from Adam to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It begins with the establishment of a family of Elohim—a term meaning a very great power. It describes an intimate relationship between the Parent Elohim, Yahweh, and the Child Elohim, Eve and Adam, who eventually become the progenitors of all humanity, the universal family of Elohim. The core moral principle is Knowledge developing the central theme of “awakening” beginning with creation, leading to the knowledge of goodness and badness, or morality, and then to the artifice of human civilization with all its strengths and weaknesses.
In the myth, there is a subtext, later developed in the Mosaic Law, that truthfulness, trustworthiness, respectfulness, and generosity are the basis for relationship. The central theme of Awakening disintegrates into separation and death based on the premise that the consequence of breaking these relational principles breaks a relationship. Rather than some moralistic notion of angering the gods by breaking the rules, dooming humanity to eternal punishment, as traditionally posited, the Exile narrative is simply a core metaphor for the failure of conscience through doubt and false accusations of negative intentions upon another, in this case, the Parent Elohim. The death of intimacy in the Garden of Eden between Parent and Child is portrayed in the myth as wandering in the wilderness East of Eden.
Archetypally, the juvenile morality of the Child-Parent relationship disintegrates into the imbalance of power represented by the Victim-Villain-Victor archetype based on fear and scarcity. As such, Cain, the first born of Adam and Eve, embodies the villain, monster, or perpetrator by killing his brother Abel out of jealousy. He is then cursed to wander in Nod, dispossessed from the land, but still protected by the Parent Elohim. Cain’s offspring develop the hallmarks of human civilization—music, metallurgy, and the herding of cattle—and build the first cities. Rather than some moralistic narrative of good and evil, the myth is more nuanced in representing Cain as the embodiment of the power and pitfalls of humanity based on scarcity and control, or conversely, the failure to love. By the end of the Book of Genesis, Egypt comes to represent the Kingdom of Cain as a great civilization with a powerful king who enslaves his own people and then eventually, enslaves the nascent tribes of Israel.
This leads into the National Age which is covered in the rest of the books of the Torah and the books of History, Prophets, and Poetry, customarily identified as the Tanakh or Old Testament in the Judeochristian traditions. The sacred text covers a mythological description of the nation of Israel’s relationship to the Parent Elohim through about the 5th century BCE. Additional myth and selective history is described by ancient scholars over the next few centuries, in particular Josephus and then the Gospel mythographers, leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple during the First Jewish Roman War in 70 CE and then the final banishment of the Jews from Palestine after the Third Jewish Roman War in 136 CE, ending the National Age of Israel.
The National Age lays out the adolescent framework for morality. The juvenile Child-Parent relationship of the Primordial Age evolves into the adolescent Servant-Savior relationship. The symbol of the Tree of Morality in the Midst of the Garden develops into the Mosaic Law and the Tabernacle in the Midst of the Israelite people. The core moral principle is “Love” developing the central theme of “obligation” represented by the tenets of the Mosaic Law. The National Age can be divided into three eras—the Kingdom of Cain in Egypt, the Kingdom of Elohim in Israel, and then the Political Kingdoms of Israel.
The National Age begins by establishing the Servant-Savior relationship between Yahweh and the family of Jacob also named Israel through his favored son Joseph in Egypt. After Joseph becomes the second-most powerful man in Egypt during a great famine, Jacob-Israel’s family settles in Goshen in northeast Egypt. However, over generations as the children of Israel grow exponentially, this devolves into slavery to the Egyptians. And archetypally, the Servant-Savior relationship disintegrates into a Slave-Master relationship.
The Servant-Savior relationship is restored through the anointed leader, Moses, who leads the tribes of Israel out of Egypt towards the Promised Land of Canaan, where their forefather Abraham had previously settled centuries before. This begins the second era of the National Age, the Kingdom of Yahweh-Elohim in Israel which lasts another four centuries and represents the height of the mythic relationship between Yahweh and Israel.
Eventually, the Servant-Savior relationship of the Kingdom of Elohim in Israel disintegrates back into the Slave-Master relationship in the next era of the Political Kingdoms of Israel. According to myth and history, the Political Kingdoms of Israel last for another 12 centuries. This era is initiated when the Israelites reject the benevolent rule of Yahweh as their Patriarch, requesting that they put themselves under the authority of a new master, a human King. In the narrative of the Judge Samuel, Yahweh withdraws his direct blessing from Israel warning that they will suffer under their new Regal Masters.
He shall take your menservants, your maidservants and your choice young men, the best ones, and your donkeys, and he will use them for his work. He shall take the tenth of your flock; and you shall become slaves for him. You will cry out on that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves; yet Yahweh shall not answer you on that day.
For the rest of the mythological history of Israel, Yahweh continually invites the Israelite people back into the Servant-Savior relationship through various prophets, only to time again be rejected for a National Kingdom. Within the mythological framework, this then leads to their dissolution as a nation according to the later prophets and the gospel accounts.
The Era of the Political Kingdoms can be divided into three periods beginning with the Israelite Kingdoms, then the Vassal Kingdoms, and then finally the Messianic Crusades—each demonstrating some aspect of the Slave-Master relationship. During the first period, the initial unified Israelite Kingdoms of Saul, David, and Solomon disintegrate into the Divided Kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judea in the south. After a couple of centuries, the northern Kingdom of Israel is then conquered and forced into captivity by the Neo-Assyrians in 722 BCE leaving only a remnant, which became derisively known by Judeans in later accounts as the Samaritans. A little over a century later Judea is similarly conquered by the Neo-Babylonians in 588 BCE and also forced into captivity. The Judean capital of Jerusalem is destroyed along with their center of worship, the Solomonic Temple, thus ending the Period of the Kingdoms of Israel.
The Vassal Kingdoms arise after the Persians conquer the Babylonians in 516 BCE who then release the captive Judeans from Babylon; allowing them to return to rebuild Jerusalem and a second Temple as vassals of the Persian Empire. The Persians are then conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great in 332 BCE who shortly thereafter dies leaving his generals to divide the kingdom locally into the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Egypt and the Seleucid Dynasty in Syria. The Vassal Kingdom of Judea which sits between these warring dynasties consequently bounced back and forth over the next couple of centuries.
The next period of the Messianic Crusades describes a series of revolts led by messianic leaders intending to reestablish autonomous political rule in Judea. Who and what is the awaited Messiah or Anointed One referred to by the Jewish Prophets is highly contentious throughout this period. But the dominant view is that the Jewish God would send a Warrior-King, a political messiah, to destroy Judea’s enemies, delivering them from oppression, and reestablishing a powerful Jewish Kingdom. The proof whether someone was The Messiah, instead of just a failed or false messiah, tended to be whether the leader succeeded in battle, which didn’t happen very often, or whether they were killed, which did happen very often.
However, the first successful revolt of this period was the Maccabean uprising in 167 BCE against the Hellenistic Jews and the Seleucid Kingdom. The warrior-priest-king Simon Maccabee was a messianic leader that ultimately defeated the Seleucid coalition thus establishing the Hasmonean Dynasty around 140 BCE, gaining greater independence, although not complete autonomy from the Seleucid Kings. This came to an end shortly after the Romans conquered Palestine in 63 BCE who then established their own vassal kingdom in Palestine in 37 BCE under a quasi-Jewish Herodian Dynasty.
Over the next century, various messianic leaders arose attempting to free Palestine from their Roman masters. Early on, these revolts were mostly minor guerrilla squabbles that were quickly squashed by the Romans. Then in 66 CE a larger revolt arose, known as the First Jewish Roman War, which resulted in the apocalyptic destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the second temple by the Romans in 70 CE. While this cataclysm destroyed the heart of the Jewish political and religious culture, the Jews persisted on for another 66 years through two more wars. In the Third Jewish Roman war, the last political messiah of the Messianic Crusade Period, Simon Bar Kokbah briefly succeeded in establishing a degree of autonomous rule in parts of Judea for a few years before being killed and then the last of the revolt was finally defeated by the Romans in 136 CE. This time the Romans decided to end these messianic revolts once and for all and banished all Jews from Palestine, thus ending the National Age of Israel.
In the midst of the Messianic Crusade against Roman rule in the first century CE, a different kind of Messiah arose, seeking peace not war, declaring the responsibility to love one another, including one’s enemies, thus restoring the Universal Family founded in Eden. In this mythology, the Familial Messiah is the Anointed Son of the Parent Elohim, Yahweh, founded in the ancient poetry of love underlying the Torah-Gospel myth.
In the cultural traditions of Mesopotamia and the Levant, a father anointed one of his sons, customarily his first born, to represent his authority and identity in his absence or death. Rarely, the father might spurn a first-born child whom he felt did not represent his authority or identity. In the Torah, this rare occurrence is not so rare, but rather the predominant pattern in the mythology. After Adam’s first-born Cain murders the second-born Abel, the third-born Seth becomes the anointed son to carry the family forward. In the patriarchal narrative, Abraham’s first-born Ishmael is spurned for the second-born Isaac. Isaac’s first-born Esau is spurned for the second-born Jacob. And Jacob’s first-born Rueben is spurned for his eleventh-born Joseph.
Archetypally, in the final plague of the Exodus myth which sets up Israel’s emancipation from slavery in Egypt, the Angel of Death kills the first-born of Egypt and passes over the first-born of Israel that are marked by the lamb’s blood on the doorpost. At the end of the previous Book of Genesis, the Egyptians were identified with the Kingdom of Adam’s first-born Cain as the preeminent archetype of human civilization. In the Passover myth, these archetypal first-born of Adam are symbolically replaced by the subsequently born Israelites as his newly anointed favored nation going forward to represent the Father’s authority and identity.
In the Torah mythology, the authority and identity of Yahweh is represented by his name. Hebrew scholars have often interpreted the name Yahweh to indicate One who has self-referential existence to the tune of “I am that I am,” which connotes that he cannot be defined or represented by another. This is the context for the commandment in the Decalogue to not take Yahweh’s name in vain, that is, to not misrepresent his identity or attempt to illicitly speak on his behalf.
A more developed theory is that the name Yahweh is initially Arabic, a closely related Semitic language to Hebrew. In the Exodus myth, Yahweh reveals his name to Moses at the foot of the sacred Mount of Elohim in the land of the Arabic-speaking Midianites where Moses has lived for the past 40 years after being exiled from Egypt. As such, the name Yahweh invokes the Arabic meaning of One who loves, breathes, or falls, which is more consistent with the fullness of the Parent Elohim’s character throughout the mythology as the Parent who breathes life into his children within the juvenile stage of moral development, then the Savior from whom blessings fall upon his Servants within the adolescent stage, and then finally, the Lover who loves his Beloved within the adult stage.
This is then expanded in the Gospel mythology of the Familial Messiah, wherein the Anointed Son from the tribal lineage of Israel reestablishes the continuity of the Parent Elohim’s authority and identity by archetypally replacing the first-born Elohim, Adam, who had previously failed to represent the truth of the Father’s authority and identity.
In the Gospel mythology, the Anointed Son, or Familial Messiah, is identified as Rabbi Jeshua. His life and ministry are intended to restore the truth of the Father’s identity as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with kindness and truth.”
Rabbi Jeshua identifies the central Gospel message with a passage in the Book of Isaiah stating that his mission, or anointing, is to bear good tidings to the powerless, to bind up the broken-hearted, to herald liberty to captives, sight to the sightless, and emancipation to the bound. In the first part of this passage, the Hebrew word basar is translated as “good tidings” which is elsewhere translated into Greek as evangel and then later into English as the more commonly used religious word “gospel”.
In the Torah-Gospel mythology, Rabbi Jeshua restores the Servant-Savior relationship based on the Torah obligation to love one another that was originally established in the Kingdom of Elohim in Israel which had disintegrated into the Slave-Master relationship of the Political Kingdoms. However, this is only the adolescent stage of moral development. It is not the end of the story. It is intended to develop further into the next stage of morality.
The subsequent and final Universal Age lays out the adult framework for morality. The adolescent Servant-Savior relationship of the National Age is intended to evolve into the mature Lover-Beloved relationship. The symbol of the Tree of Morality in the Midst of the Garden that had developed into the Mosaic Law and the tabernacle in the Midst of the People, finally becomes a mature conscience written in the Sacred Midst of the heart.
Rather than some oblique goal of attaining moral perfection as proposed by the various moralistic religions, the core moral principle is “Goodness” supporting the central theme of “restoration” governed by the dynamics of compassion and empathy—thus, actively seeking to maintain intimacy within community by being ready to restore any value taken or lost in offense of a relationship, to embody the experience of love for one another.
The Universal Age can be divided into two eras—the Lower Kingdom of Elohim on Earth and the Upper Kingdom of Yahweh Elohim in the Sky, beyond life and death. The Lower Kingdom is foreshadowed by Rabbi Jeshua in the Gospel accounts equating his own death with the eventual destruction of the Temple. Thus, Jeshua’s resurrection from death symbolically ushers in a new age of love, truth, and healing after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, beginning the Universal Age.
It is important to re-note here that Myth is poetry not history. It may however be a selective interpretation of history in support of a specified storyline. Poetry is built from the flow of meaning. The poetry of the Torah-Gospel myth is focused on moral development leading to loving relationships.
It is at this point that we, in the here and now, become myth. We inhabit the Lower Kingdom of Elohim on Earth that Rabbi Jeshua invoked in the Gospel Accounts. We are the Elohim in the Kingdom of Elohim—the Great Powers in the Kingdom of Great Power. In this living myth, it has become our responsibility to embody the poetry of love, the heart of Yahweh, to build a society, a universal family, based on compassion and empathy. In the arc of the mythology, the poetry of love gives us all we need to become mature adult Elohim, great powers formed in the image of the Parent Elohim. We have the power to choose to be compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and truth.
The Upper Kingdom in the mythology is a symbol of hope. It invokes a more powerful realm of love and intimacy between the Lover and Beloved beyond life and death. Other than that, this Kingdom beyond life and death is an article of faith for the traveler to explore as a part of their own spiritual cosmology.
However, it is important to note that the Universal Age is not some utopian cosmology as often portrayed in the moralistic Religions. The adult Lover-Beloved relationship may still deteriorate into a Rival-Adversary relationship motivated by domination and control. Over the first two millennia of the Universal Age, the Poetry of Love has been continuously mixed with a miasma of institutional religious and political power.
Historically, Rabbinic Judaism is, of course, the earliest institutional branch of the Abrahamic traditions coming into the Universal Age. After the destruction of the temple cult, the Jewish tradition that espoused the centrality of the Temple sacrifice ceased to have any relevance. The local Synagogue became the primary foundation for Jewish religious life.
Over the centuries, Rabbinic Judaism has continued to deepen the racial theology of God’s chosen people, while searching for a political messiah to establish an ethno-theocratic nation in Palestine based on the religion of Judaism. Eventually, in the mid twentieth century, in large part as a response to the suffering of the Holocaust caused by the Nazi’s attempt to expel the Jews from Europe (mostly by murdering them), the Zionists stopped waiting for a messiah and took up arms to forcibly expel the modern inhabitants of Palestine from the lands that the Jews had been expelled from nearly two millennia before. Thus a new nation of Israel was born in 1949—although 70 years later, it continues to be at war with the local Palestinians who were inconveniently expelled from their homes.
Theologically, from the first century through modernity, new prophets have arisen claiming an entirely new vision of the Abrahamic tradition. The earliest prophet at the transition from the National Age to the Universal Age was the neo-Apostle Paul who became the Father of Christianity. Paul declares a new moralistic gospel that Jesus died for your sins to save you from the judgment of the Angry God—in other words, paradoxically, the Christian God must save humanity from himself. In his letter to the Galatians written around 50 CE Paul claims that his new gospel of sin and salvation was received from a prophetic vision separate from the Gospel accounts and teachings of Rabbi Jeshua as understood by his students, stating:
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
This new prophetic gospel soon overtakes the original Isaiah Gospel message of love, freedom, and safety proclaimed by Rabbi Jeshua. By the second century it becomes firmly established as the basis for the new religion of Christianity based on Paul’s prophetic epistles.
The next major prophet to come out of the Abrahamic tradition in the Universal Age is Mohammed who, in the early 7th century, becomes the Father of Islam after the angel Gabriel reveals a new message from God. Islam develops as a mixture of selective interpretations of the Torah-Gospel mythology along with these new prophetic revelations as written in the Quran.
And a more recent prophet of the Universal Age is Joseph Smith who, in the early 19th century, became the Father of Mormonism after an angel visited him and gave him several golden plates inscribed with esoteric Judeochristian history which was then translated and published as the Book of Mormon.
Beyond these Founding Fathers of new religious traditions, there have also been innumerable Master Teachers that have expanded the interpretations of these new religious mythologies to create countless new sects within the Abrahamic religions. Rabbinic Judaism has developed various sects based on differing interpretations of the Talmudic commentary on the Mosaic Law and ritual practices. Within the Christian tradition, it has been estimated that there have been over thirty thousand sects over the past two millennia based on the various teachings of those claiming to be Master Teachers. And Islam, a name which ironically means “peace,” has been in a perpetual war between the followers of its main Master Teachers for centuries.
Whereas religious authority was forbidden by Rabbi Jeshua, this has been politely put aside by necessity of the political nature of the institutional church. From the high church Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops to an army of Pastors, Priests, Deacons, and Church Leaders spread across the globe, these religious officials enforce the authority of each denomination’s political claim to power.
So from the beginning of the Universal Age, the Isaiah Gospel message of love, freedom, and safety quickly became suffused with various additive theologies starting with Paul’s prophetic gospel of salvation from sin a decade or so after the crucifixion of Rabbi Jeshua. Soon after, Hellenistic Gnosticism was fused with the gospel framework to create Christian Gnosticism inspiring a plethora of new Gnostic gospel writings over the course of the next few centuries. In early Christianity, aspects of Hellenistic Mystery Religions and Neo-Platonism were infused into the gospel framework of mainstream institutional Christian theology by way of the Early Church Fathers.
Politically, in mainstream Christianity, the institutional church is formalized under the Council of Nicaea as mandated by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 CE—establishing a universal church dogma canonizing Paul’s moralistic gospel. A few decades later, in 380 CE, Christianity becomes the official state religion of the Roman Empire under the Edict of Thessalonica by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I.
These are just a few highlights. The pattern of hierarchical power and control continues throughout history up to and including today as each generation invokes a new political messiah for their time and purpose.
Ultimately, we have the power to choose Love over Control. However, as we have seen, the outcome is not preordained. The myth merely provides a moral framework of possibilities. In the Gospel accounts, Rabbi Jeshua forbids his followers from taking on the principal roles of Master Teacher, Hallowed Father, or Religious Authority—emphasizing that we are all brothers and sister of one family and that he is our one and only Master Teacher and authority, and that Yahweh is our one and only Father.
He then tells his students that power is found in service to others which he demonstrates by getting down on his knees and washing their filthy feet after a long day on the road. And when asked by his students who of them will be the greatest, he states that the first must be last, that they must become open and uninhibited like little children. He emphasizes that the Kingdom of Elohim will not be found in any institution or system, rather it is in their hearts. The Torah-Gospel mythology is radically, diametrically opposed to any canonical religion, systemic authority, or hierarchic order—and cannot coexist with the worship of wealth or power.
Fundamentally, the poetry of love, founded in the Torah-Gospel mythology, is a moral psychology, a way of living that happens in any mundane moment we instinctually reach out in kindness and generosity towards another human being in need. It is motivated by a mature conscience, symbolized as the Sacred Spirit or Breath, and founded on the essential value of all within the universal family as brothers and sisters. It comes to life when we embody our responsibility to proactively and prosocially respond to the needs of others, to build a society and community based on love.
Ergo, as a wineglasses emptied by the struggles of life, we may then be broken by the granitic reality of the poetry of love—as Lover meets Beloved. Only passion stays, whimpering and feverish, like stars consumed by the morning sun. Love becomes reality, the drumbeat that calls us to a new purpose beyond loneliness and fear. As Love opens up our chest, thought returns to its confines, patient and rational considerations leave, the priest may then come down from his tower, never to return.
Monday, September 11, 2023
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In the movie,Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Arthur, “son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeator of the Saxons, sovereign of all England,” is on a quest to find the legendary Holy Grail. In a remote, muddy hill country, Arthur travels, seeking knights to join his sacred quest. Here he encounters Dennis, a bedraggled 37-year-old man from an anarcho-syndicalist mud collective and a female comrade--neither have ever heard of the Britons, nor any King, So Arthur, King of the Britons, attempts to explain:
King Arthur: I am your king.
Peasant Woman: Well, I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Peasant Woman: Well, how'd you become king, then?
[Angelic music plays... ]
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king.
Dennis the Peasant: Listen. Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
Arthur: Be quiet!
Dennis the Peasant: You can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!
In the ancient tale of Camelot, upon which this Monty Python parody is loosely based, this, pretty much, describes how Arthur is made King of the Britons. In medieval society, the King was ordained by God or by some other supernatural entity, such as a “watery tart [throwing] swords,” to establish a natural order wherein the class of nobility ruled over the peasantry by divine providence.
Similarly, in the early 19th century collection of Grimms’ Fairytales, the story of Eve and her Children recounts how, after leaving Eden, Adam and Eve settled down and began to make a life for themselves. Here they beget a large family of a couple dozen kids. As the tale goes, half their offspring are handsome and half are ugly. When the Lord God announces that he will come for a visit, Eve tidies up the place and disconcertingly hides all her ugly children.
So when the Lord comes to the cottage, he meets the good-looking kids and blesses them, giving each a noble role and title. Impressed with the Lord’s generosity, Eve then brings out her ugly children. However, rather than a noble title, he gives each of them a job as blacksmith, weaver, carpenter, mason, laborer, tailor, seamstress, and so on. Taken a back, Eve asks why these children are not treated equally—to which, the Lord responds:
If they were all princes and lords, who would grow corn, thresh it, grind and bake it? Who would be blacksmiths, weavers, carpenters, masons, labourers, tailors and seamstresses? Each shall have his own place, so that one shall support the other, and all shall be fed like the limbs of one body.
Thus, wealth and class structure are ordained by the grace and wisdom of God so that all mankind may abide on the earth.
Today, a thousand years after the medieval tale of Camelot and two hundred years after Grimms published his fairytales, the belief in a magical ruling class continues to have its enthusiastic followers. There has been a resurgence worldwide of rightwing groups actively seeking to install authoritarian and oligarchic governments in the hope that their celebrated rulers will conserve the prejudicial power of their tribal group, protecting them against some adversarial strawman. Authoritarian power is inherently built on the foundation of fear and hatred of some outside group.
Likewise, in his mid-19th century treatise, The Christian Doctrine of Slavery, George Armstrong, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, Virginia gave a lengthy defense on why God has ordained for some to be Masters and others to be Slaves. His central argument is that White Christians must evangelize the sinful heathens from Africa, to bring them to Christ. And, at the same time, incongruently, to be the hand of God’s punishment for the Africans’ long history of sins.
Pastor George, then, argues that this is the natural course of god-given authority, in line with how the Neo-Apostle Paul described the subservient relationship between Husband and Wife, wherein a Man is head of his household, and his wife is his dutiful servant. Thusly, God ordains that the benevolent Masters of the superior White Christian race should oversee the weaker sinful and childlike races of Africa (and elsewhere) according to this same god-given authority. Colonialism, of course, was just another name for this evangelical Christian racism that spread across Africa and the Americas, and other parts of the globe—religion and economics under the flag of white supremacy—zealously destroying the lives and livelihood of indigenous people and societies everywhere for the glory of God and Gold.
On more charitable terms, Pastor George did argue that a good Christian Master should not mistreat his slaves, nor commit adultery, nor cause a slave’s family to be broken up. Notwithstanding, all these practices were, in fact, quite common in American slavery as a way for slave owners to maintain control over their ungrateful slaves, and to maximize profitability. After hundreds of years of American slavery and what I will politely call “adultery,” very few slaves were purely of African descent or, for that matter, had ever been in Africa. Thus, Pastor George’s entire argument was a bit contrived and confused.
At this point, Southern slave owners were predominantly enslaving their own children, and the children and grandchildren of other slave owners. In this racist mentality, if you had even a drop of “colored blood,” you were identified as “colored,” regardless of parental relationship or where you fit on the perverse family tree of Southern heritage. The racist invention of the terms “white” and “black” or “colored” to indicate some delineation of human identity by skin color is deeply rooted in a prejudicial fear of “otherness”. It has no basis on any scientific classification of people groups, such as genetics, or even any distinctive cultural identity.
Beyond presumed racial traits, the cultural traditions regarding sexual identity and roles is even more central to the story of what defines us as members of a society. As sexual behavior represents something both primitive and transcendent, it often evokes our most powerful moral prescriptions and prejudices. Even racism, at least in part, is just an aspect of sexual morality, imbuing the prohibition on marrying, reproducing, or otherwise associating outside of certain tribal norms.
Whereas sexual morality defines the basic parameters of social interaction and association between males and females, it typically drives cultural norms on dress and appearance, often to foster sexual pairing. However, it may also go further, to emphasize the reproductive rights of men over women in patriarchal societies. This preoccupation with gender roles is often institutionalized in the core construction of a society’s language, mysteriously requiring every sentence to identify the sex of a subject, or the gender of an inanimate object, such as a cup or tree. This, of course, tells you more about the sexual obsession of a society than the sexual nature of a cup or tree, or one’s sexual capacity to cross the street.
However, in some pre-modern societies, the survival of the tribe could not afford gender-based role stratification. All members of the tribe hunted, farmed, and defended the tribe against outside forces. Some women were even celebrated as great warriors by being ritually sent off to the afterlife surrounded by their weaponry. The presumption that sexual identity imbues any dominant characteristics of strength, intelligence, or moral superiority upon one sex over another is a culturally bound fiction.
As so-called civilizations developed, so did roles within society, often based on prescriptions around roles within the family unit. In Western civilization, in particular, this eventually becomes the patriarchal narrative of male dominance that we all know today. Within this narrative, sexual morality is mandated to be an exclusive binary proposition. In the patriarchal interpretation of the Judeo-Christian mythologies, it is emphasized that Adam and Eve were created male and female, and the animals were created after their own kind, which is moralized to set the prescriptions of the cultural narrative on sexuality.
In a more scientific reality, sex is not inherent or binary. While biologically in order to reproduce offspring, one must have a male possessing sperm and a female with an egg, the sexual characteristics of an individual within a species is not always determinative at birth and may not fit on a narrower scale of just female and male. In the animal kingdom, some animals will actually change sex throughout their life, depending on environmental conditions and reproductive needs. While humans are characteristically gonochoric, indicating more stable sexual characteristics, they are not inherently sexually binary.
Statistically, if I go to a football game in a stadium with a hundred thousand attendees, between 20 and 50 people sitting next to me during the game will be intersex. On a planetary level, that is about 4 million people. The term intersex describes the taboo subject of the naturally occurring variations in human sexual traits outside the statistical norm and narrative. These variations may or may not have phenotypic, or observable, characteristics. Some individuals may have extra sex chromosomes, some may have both male and female genitalia, and some may have hormonal make ups that are more stereotypical of the opposite sexual phenotype.
On the field, the American Adam and Eve are represented by the football player and cheerleader—an archetype of American gender norms. The football player is the masculine ideal—a heroic, strong, virile male ever ready and willing to do battle with his adversaries. The cheerleader is the feminine ideal—the domestic, supportive, sexually desirable female who stands on the sidelines to inspire the warring men in battle.
Of course, most humans fall on a spectrum of so-called masculine and feminine traits. However, any male or female that fails to meet these idealized standards of masculinity and femininity is derided for their deficiencies. It is a prejudice so strong and predictable that it is universally capitalized on by Hollywood and advertisers to sell more goods. #sex_sells.
Across different cultures, these standards can vary as to what the ideal characteristics of a man or woman should be and may change over time or within subgroups. But the prejudicial dynamics of exclusion, censure, and control remain the same in enforcing these social norms. These biased narratives create a blindness to the reality and truth of the complexity and diversity of human experiences, both for oneself and for others.
The dynamic of prejudice and bigotry develops out of a judgment of others based upon some imagined ideal, myth, or standard outside oneself rather than on any actual quality or capability presented in the moment, or by any individual. Thus, for example, the belief that men are stronger than women is evoked because the ideal football player is stronger than the cheerleader standing on the sidelines. The elite female athlete, whether sprinter, shot-putter, or weightlifter, is deficient in comparison to the ideal standard of a cheerleader and therefore cannot represent the relative strength of a woman to a man, or just between human beings.
Ergo, I, as a man, feel that I am stronger and consequently superior to all women, because I identify with the ideal Man, even if I can barely bend over to tie my shoelaces. From this perch, I also feel qualified to personally judge the value and worth of any female I encounter. If I believe a woman is less sexually desirable to myself, whether due to aging or natural variations on the placement of eyes, nose, or chin, then, correspondingly, I deem that this subpar female has less value and is deserving of my attacks on her deficiencies. This, of course, is the law of the internet and the pub, which empowers me to publically enforce societal norms and values as I see them.
Unfortunately, these dominant narratives may at times become the accepted norms of their victims. The common practice of a woman greeting another woman or responding to another woman who feels devalued and depressed by telling her she is “beautiful” reinforces the belief that the central criteria of her valuation is her appearance, rather than stepping back to change the narrative by celebrating her true value based on strength of character—intelligence, honesty, goodness, or capability. When a darker skinned person accepts that skin tone is the basis for their identity or worth, they reinforce the “colored” narrative of the American and European racists of what it means to be included in society, rather than stepping back to change the narrative by celebrating their true value based on strength of character—intelligence, honesty, goodness, or capability. This was essentially what Gandhi, and then Martin Luther King, proposed—changing the narrative of value and worth to be about fundamental human character and dignity rather than conformity to the stereotypical standards of a racist and sexist society.
Classism, authoritarianism, racism, tribalism, nationalism, colonialism, religiosity, moralism, sexism, and egotism all represent different narratives of the belief in the superiority of one person, group, or ideology over another. They represent different criteria on which I may associate my identity and worth, apart from my personal abilities and characteristics. My individual strengths and weaknesses are no longer who I am. I am powerful because I am given a role, or belong to a group that I believe is powerful. Or else, I may esteem my value based on a celebrated authority figure who I identify as powerful or valuable. I may be a lousy baseball player or politically very weak, but if my sports team or political party wins, I projectively feel powerful and worthwhile.
The term conservative is used widely to describe political parties and policies; however, it is psychologically founded in the visceral reaction to a threat one feels to their perceived identity, safety, or circumstance, founded in a belief that power is scarce, reserved, and hierarchical. This, then motivates one to act out of fear to conserve the power or privilege of one’s own person, group, or tradition over another. The flimsy rationale of this hierarchical construct based on fear is fundamentally at odds with reality, and thus, rife with insecurities. It requires a great deal of time and energy, constant reinforcement and defensiveness, violence and suppression of outside views, to maintain the illusion of physical or moral superiority over another group, class, person, or team.
At the dawn of the American Civil Rights movement in the middle of the 20th century, Martin Luther King laid out a shared dream for a human family living together with love and respect:
So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today…
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.
King’s vision of freedom for all humanity became a rallying cry against oppression and exclusion, against those who seek to exert undue control over others for any reason, but in particular, against the racist powers within American politics and society. The speech was made only two months before President and civil rights advocate, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Five years later, King’s peaceful civil rights advocacy for equal treatment of the Negro before the law led to his own assassination. Two months later, prominent civil rights advocate and presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy was also assassinated.
Today, White Identity movements in America and across the globe continue to fight against King’s Dream. While King himself was a protestant minister, today evangelical Christianity has become one of the largest movements to embrace the White Nationalist vision for the racial superiority of the so-called white race in politics, religion, and society, reimagining themselves as the new Civil Rights movement to surreptitiously preserve White Rights and Identity. Pastor George would most certainly be proud of his spiritual progeny carrying on the fight for Christian White Supremacy into the 21st century.
On the other hand, in King’s Dream, all of God's children, Black men and White men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholic join hands and sing, “we are free at last.” King invokes the foundational narrative of the Torah mythology, that we are all God’s children, regardless or inclusive, of our feeble identification as Black, White, Jew, Gentile, Protestant, or Catholic.
Each of us constructs our identity as a human being in layers based on cultural, personal, and universal principles. At the base, most immature level are Cultural norms that define tribal identity and the rules of participation. On one hand, the rules of participation may be benign, defining what it means to be a good neighbor, how to be a pro golfer, or to be a member in good standing of some club or association. But then, the cultural mythology may also lay out an exclusionary narrative of who is in and who is out of the dominant moral framework or group, which then results in subgroups of those who are excluded.
The dominant Euro-American racial mythos evokes a narrative of manifest destiny, exploitative economics, and god’s privilege and blessings upon the White Christian race. This mythos establishes the supremacy of White culture over all other immigrant cultures and indigenous groups leading up to the current times. However, as White is a made up concept, it has historically struggled to define what is the White race? Are the Irish white? What about Catholics, Muslims, or Jews? What if one of your parents or grandparents are “colored” but your skin tone is “white”? All of these classifications of people were excluded from the White mythos at some point in history, and some even today.
In the patriarchal mythos of male supremacy, the female is objectified. Her primary role is to be subservient to the dominant male. She is the receptor of a man’s sperm, to reproduce in his image. She must always appear sexually attractive to the male gaze, whether the man is a mate, a stranger, or just a business associate. She is a servant in all aspects of life. Men hold power and authority over the inferior race of women in marriage, religion, politics, and society.
In religious sectarianism, my faith is superior to all others because god has chosen to reveal his truth to me. I have authority because I am obedient to his authority. It is my duty and calling to battle inferior and heretical religious beliefs, even when I may share some primary moralistic tenets. I am a Christian—but not like those Christians. I am a Jew—but not like those Jews. I am a Muslim—but not like those Muslims. My god is superior to yours and angrier. Thus, I must subjugate all of society to his will to validate the truth that he has revealed to me personally and through his prophets.
These dominant narratives then lead to the development of minority groups in reaction to these exclusionary mythos regarding race, religion, gender, sexual attraction, sexual traits, or even musical tastes. While this unfortunately divides humanity further, it also compensates for the prejudicial attitudes of the dominant group by empowering the disenfranchised peoples, helping them to survive in a hostile world. Over time, even the most arbitrary subgroup will then develop its own exclusionary cultural mythos.
The next developmental level of identity formation is founded in my personal mythology that defines who I am in relationship to others. This evolves out of the semantics of the cultural mythos, establishing a dialogue between my personal experience, my perceived traits, and the larger social narratives of class, race, nationality, privilege, and disposition. While the cultural mythos is about exclusion, defining how others may see me or exclude me, my personal mythos is about inclusion, defining what classifications or groups I self-identify with—do I see myself as Black, White, Jew, Gentile, Protestant, or Catholic, whether or not others do?
The highest developmental level of identity formation is founded in a universal mythology, which defines constitutionally who I am with respect to our common humanity by way of shared genetics or family history. However, this advanced level of moral development is often overshadowed or negated by the fears and cultural prejudices of those who are narrowly bound by their egotistic or ethnocentric identity.
In King’s Dream, the universal mythology is founded in a shared identity as “all god’s children.” This is an inclusive classification for humanity founded in an initial narrative of Yahweh as the parent of his first children, Eve and Adam, who then become the ancestors of all humanity through the Generations of Noah outlined in the Table of Nations. This by purpose and intent includes everyone on the planet throughout all history. In contradiction to this, many moralistic Christian sects redefine this core narrative to identify a “child of god” as only those who qualify by the specific rules of salvation prescribed by their group’s theology. However, according to the actual Torah mythology that underlies Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as invoked by Pastor King, we are all god’s children. Humans are all related—we are family—deserving love and respect.
Scientifically, in the genetic anthology of Homo sapiens, we all descend from an African Eve. Our early ancestors were a curious and adventurous lot who were determined to blaze new paths, to travel the world. Unfortunately there were no cars, roads, or cruise ships, so they had to walk, often taking years or even generations to get somewhere else.
While some of our ancestors did stay on the African continent, others traveled northeast into the fertile crescent of Western Asia. Then some migrated along the coast of the Indian Ocean. Eventually, some ended up as far away as Australia and the Pacific Islands. Others migrated north into the Asian steppes, then across the Pacific by either the Bering land bridge or by boat, moving further down the coast into South America and across the North American continent. At the end of the European Ice Age, groups of our ancestors moved out of Western Asia into the European continent where they encountered and occasionally interbred with their close cousins the Neanderthals creating a mixed genetic heritage for many European tribal groups. Some groups migrated back and forth across Asia, occasionally interbreeding with another close cousin, the Denosivans.
A major genetic variation within the human family tree is called a haplotype. Given the mobility and horniness of our ancestors some of these haplotypes are not regional but are distributed across both the Asian and European continents. This diverse genetic history contradicts numerous racial theories proposed before the advent of genetic anthropology, which attempted to support White Supremacy doctrines through racial phrenology or by invoking a mythic Aryan race of pure blooded Caucasians. To the contrary, according to current genetic research, humans are all related—we are family—thus, deserving love and respect.
All humans have a heart, a brain, the nerves, as well as lungs and digestive organs, without which human life is not possible. These same life sustaining organs also keep dogs and frogs and even worms alive. We share a great deal of genetic morphology with the entirety of the animal kingdom. However, Homo sapiens as a species are genetically nearly-identical, with only very small sub variants that bestow unique eyes, nose, chin, height, hair and skin color based on evolutionary pressures and inherited family traits.
Scientifically, race is an outdated fiction and, in particular, there are no separate genetic branches of the human family tree for males and females—no men from Mars or women from Venus. The same sex organs that become testes in male development become ovaries in female development—and a small number of humans end up with both. Contrary to the dominant narrative, sex and race do not define what it is to be a human being. For those who are not familiar, women have given birth to both male and female children in an unbroken chain going back to our common ancestral mother in Africa, or else the creation of the mythic Eve, however you wish to frame it.
There is beauty in our narrow differences that give us a sense of individuality. And part of this social experiment called life is to find the innate excellence in everyone. Social norms can help us to function day to day but when they are based on erroneous assumptions or are too restrictive or prescriptive, they become harmful. They also are harmful when they become exclusionary, failing to recognize our mutual value, connection, and heritage in the human family.
Ultimately, it is the fear of our differences that forges the bitter bonds of hatred, animosity, division, and separation. The Dream of Dr. King invites us to embrace our minor differences, to rise above ignorance, suspicion, and superficial judgment of others based on outward appearances. He urges us to see ourselves in one another, acknowledging that our differences are not so different, by committing ourselves to the prospect that all humans are created with equal value. He invokes the ancient mythology of the Universal Family, in parallel with our genetic history, as the foundation of a new society built on love and respect, establishing a deeper meaning and purpose for human relationships.
And hopefully, when this happens—when we all dream of one another as family, as valued brothers and sisters, descendants of the same ancient mother from long ago—we will be freed from the shackles of fear and strife; thus, letting true freedom develop out of our shared identity and destiny as earthlings, living together in peace, love, and understanding, as we hurl through a vast, cold, dark universe, holding on to this beautiful rock we share, called Earth.
Friday, September 1, 2023
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Midway through Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Frankenstein, Or The Modern Prometheus, the Creature finally meets his Creator at the foot of a glacier just below the highest peak in the Swiss Alps. Earlier, the Creator, Victor Frankenstein, abandoned his eight foot, yellowish Creation in disgust. The Creature, in humiliation and resentment, searches out and murders Frankenstein’s brother, William. The Creator, in anguish, then pursues his Creation high into the Alps to seek vengeance. Upon finding him, the Creature beseeches his Creator for mercy, stating:
Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me.
Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.
The line between Victim, Monster, and Hero blurs in this promethean tale of morality and human nature, hubris and retribution, obsession and denial.
In Greek mythology, Prometheus is the Titan God who creates the clay form of Man into which Zeus breathes life. He is one of only a few gods who actually loves and cares for humanity. He takes the lessons of civilization from Athena and teaches Man how to rise above his animal instincts. On observing Man’s suffering, in defiance of Zeus, he steals fire from Mount Olympus and gives it to Man for warmth and industry.
In Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein is the Modern Prometheus, who breaks the bounds of the gods by discovering the secret of life itself and bestowing it upon a lifeless body. Shelley then explores the fretted bond between the Creature and the Creator—uncertain of whom is the actual monster in the unfolding narrative.
In the Jewish Torah mythology, Eve and Adam embody the archetype of Prometheus as well by stealing from the Elohim the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Goodness and Badness, or Morality. This evolving myth, likewise, explores the relationship between Creature and Creator—morality and human nature developing out of hubris and retribution, obsession and denial.
The prevailing religious interpretation of the story of Eve and Adam traditionally paints this narrative as a morality play based in the underlying archetype of Victim, Monster, and Hero motivated by vengeance and the possibility of salvation. The actual myth is, in fact, something deeper and more profound—a tale of a parent’s love for his children and family bonds that transcend moral perfection and performance based in the underlying archetype of the Lover and Beloved, motivated by compassion and generosity.
In the Victim-Villain-Victor archetype, the Monster or Villain is the archetypal embodiment of obsession and hunger—a desire to acquire and then retain some object, quality, or aspect owned or represented by the Victim. The Victim is the archetypal representation of the loss of identity or integrity as a consequence of some violation by the perpetrator, the Monster. The Victor or moralistic Hero is the archetypal representation of the power manifest in the cultural or religious moral code. He defends the social order against the intrusive actions of the Monster—to restore a particular interpretation of justice.
In a simplistic moral tale, the moralistic Hero is a one-dimensional embodiment of social good. He wears a white hat or a hero’s cape. The Villain or Monster is a one-dimensional embodiment of evil and immorality. He may wear a black hat, and often has a facial deformity or some animalistic feature that somehow embodies the face of darkness. And then, the Victim is the archetypal embodiment of life, beauty, innocence, or goodness, which the Monster desires to possess. The Hero is obligated to defeat the valueless Monster, utterly destroying his power or existence in life or the social realm.
The morality of justice and retribution muddy this simplistic tale. One man’s Hero will often be another man’s Monster depending on one’s perspective in battle. The Victim’s moral behavior may often be the catalyst for their own demise. The Titan Prometheus does in fact violate the moral code of the Gods by stealing fire, acting against Zeus as the Perpetrator of a crime, but at the same time helping Man as a Hero.
Frankenstein’s Creature, victimized by his Creator’s rejection, sets out in the role of the Hero to avenge this wrong. But the Creature is also a Monster, the perpetrator of evil upon several innocent Victims whom he murders. The Creator, having been slighted by the actions of the Creature, then lashes out against him, seeking revenge in the role of the Hero against the Monster that he initially victimizes. In this more realistic tale of morality, vengeance creates a cycle of violence. As the great moral philosopher and activist, Gandhi once stated, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
In the Jewish Torah mythology, the Serpent embodies this moral complexity by its position and orientation in the narrative. It is introduced as a facet of the Tree of Morality and is further identified in the text by a Hebrew word that means “to make naked or to reveal”—painting the picture of one who reveals morality. As a composite picture, the Serpent is thus the archetype of moral conscience, the mediator between impulse and action, the revealer of a deeper moral character, or the Soul. Initially, on the Tree of Morality, the Serpent Conscience reveals Eve’s inner thoughts on her relationship with her Parent. She doubts his benevolent character as a Good Parent. The Serpent reveals that Eve suspects that the Elohim are selfishly keeping this powerful goodness of wisdom and moral consciousness from her. As such, she chooses to take what is not hers to have, at least not in that moment of her juvenile development as an Elohim. Her adversarial conscience of selfishness and greed are represented by the lowered Serpent on the ground. Later in the mythology, the raised Serpent will represent healing and a morality of love, compassion, and generosity as a resolution to this mythic tale.
Traditionally, patriarchal religious interpreters wholly identify Eve by her vagina, or more to the point, her lack of a penis. Men and women are seen as morally and inherently separate and distinct subspecies. Women are a characteristically weak, inferior subspecies of human beings who lack moral character and are the cause the fall of mankind. Nakedness in the Garden is sexualized and temptation is thus a prominent characteristic of women’s sexuality that lures men to their doom. However, this tells you more about the religious and patriarchal institutions than the actual myth.
In the mythology, Eve is fundamentally and equally human, or more specifically, Elohim, a Hebrew word meaning “one who is a very great power”, which is then extrapolated to a family of Elohim. She represents two distinct dimensions of the Elohim story. One is her capacity to perpetuate human life as a mother in the sexual pairing with her husband when she eventually is mature enough. However, in the Garden narrative, this capacity for reproduction is merely a potential of her biology. In the juvenile developmental narrative of the Garden, there is no bumpety-bump procreat’in go’in on, or as the ancient he-bros liked to say, “know’in each other”. Eve and Adam are presented as immature Elohim, acting in the role of brother and sister, still grappling with their powers and responsibilities, uncertain of themselves or their relationship to one another.
This, then, portends the second dimension of Eve’s identity as the second born of humanity. As such, she represents the inheritor of ancestral and cultural myths, passed down from one generation to another. Adam is the first born. In the ancient traditions of Mesopotamia and the Levant, he is designated to represent the desires and identity of the Father, to take care of the family in his absence. He is specifically instructed by the Good Parent as to his position and responsibilities in the Garden. He is then responsible to pass this along to the next generation, in this case, his younger sister.
The myth actually indicates he screwed that up and adds “Do not touch” to the one prohibition of eating the Fruit of Morality—establishing the first religious edict intended to control the behavior of others in the tribe. Within the mythology, it is from this dimension of her narrowed experience as an imperfect inheritor of the cultural myth that Eve’s doubts arise (not because she lacks a penis). Adam then responds to the opportunity for wisdom and moral consciousness out of his own doubts, immaturity, and insecurities, likely as any adolescent lacking in impulse control (and not because of sexual temptation.)
Similar to the divine origins of fire in the initial story of Prometheus or the spark of life in the story of Frankenstein, moral maturity is the domain of the Adult Elohim in the Torah myth. Each of these desired capabilities is stolen from the greater powers who own them. The fundamental need for these powers arises out of specific vulnerabilities in human nature—suffering, death, and ignorance.
The Promethean Paradox of the Torah-Gospel mythology is that “Bringing Back the Fire of the Gods”—fixing the original problem presented in the first part of the myth— does not involve a journey back to where we began in order to return what was stolen. Nor does it require a punitive transaction in payment. But rather, it motivates a developmental journey, moving us forward, to essentially become the Fire, to become morally mature Adult Elohim, embodying the mature fruit of the Tree of Morality.
Later in the Torah-Gospel myth, the Tree of Morality is brought to life as the Law of Moses. This is then summarized by Rabbi Jeshua as love—love for the Parent Elohim and love for all within the Universal Family of Elohim—establishing the relational archetypal paradigm of the Lover and Beloved.
To the contrary, many of the traditional moralistic religious interpretations of the so-called “Fall of Man” are founded in the adversarial paradigm of the Victim-Villain-Victor archetype. These versions of the narrative envision a moral battlefield, pitting Man against God in a perpetual struggle against his Laws. Religious moralism by intent and purpose is fundamentally transactional and rule-based. Thus, in the various Abrahamic religious systems, the Mosaic Law is portrayed as a list of rules one must follow. To break a rule is to incur the wrath of the rule-maker, the Divine Judge. In this religious paradigm, Adam and Eve are the original sinners or rule-breakers that bring condemnation and death into the world, which then, must be paid for by a punitive transaction to satisfy the holiness and justice of the Angry God, and, of course, necessitates a system of intermediaries to represent the God and enforce this code in the daily life of the tribe.
Conspicuously, in spite of the obligations that the Mosaic Law lays out to amend for one’s routine failures against each other and the Divine Ruler, this is never enough for those seeking social control. Consequently, various traditions evolved throughout the ages and across the Abrahamic traditions to “fence in the law”—to add additional boundaries and conditions.
As such, in formulating the Christian religion, several new moralistic layers are added to the original relational mandate given by Rabbi Jeshua to love one another. Based on the later prophetic vision and writings of the neo-apostle Paul, Christianity becomes fixated on Paul’s transactional gospel that an ultimate sacrifice must be given as a payment for sin, once and for all, to satisfy the blood thirst of the Angry God. This idealized human sacrifice, shedding the blood of the Son of the Christian God, Jesus Christ, becomes the ultimate payment for the sins of humanity throughout history from Adam to the end of the world. Well… sort of. Mysteriously, unlike the sacrifices under the Mosaic Law, this human sacrifice doesn’t actually absolve one’s guilt unless other criteria are met. These conditions vary according to the extrapolated doctrines of some thirty thousand Christian sects over the last two millennia, each claiming to represent the Word of God. Perversely, many of these disagreements between sects were only resolved by torture, banishment, or the point of a sword to get the opposing side to agree, or else disappear in the backwaters of history.
Elseways, Greek moralism is certainly more consistent and straightforward. Prometheus is directly punished for his insubordination to Zeus by being chained to a rock in Tartarus, the great pit, to have his liver eaten out each day by an Eagle. Since he is a god, his liver grows back each night only to have the torment repeated the next day. And then, for receiving stolen goods, Men are punished by the creation of the first woman, Pandora. Similar to the misogynistic interpretation of the Judeo-Christian Eve, Pandora is formed most beautifully and deceitfully to bring all manner of suffering and evil into the world.
And then, in the story of Frankenstein, his breach of the boundary of human mortality is punished by the Creator’s ultimate death in pursuit of revenge. The Creature is forever lost wandering alone in the barren ice fields of the Arctic, an aberration and cautionary tale to the limits of scientific hubris.
On the other hand, in the relational paradigm of the Torah-Gospel myth, the failure of Eve and Adam is portrayed as the falsification of the identity and character of the Parent Elohim, doubting his good intentions and assuming a malevolent purpose in keeping the fruit of Morality for himself. Rather than a violation of some magical divine code, this is merely the consequence of defying a universal relational equation that defines truthfulness, trustworthiness, respectfulness, and generosity as the basis for relationship.
In this equation, one side of a relationship is defined by the truth of who I am. The other side is defined by the truth of who you are. If either side of this truth-telling contract is violated, whether I lie about who I am or otherwise, who you are, or else vice versa, you lie about who I am, the false identification will imminently inhibit the relationship—eventually leading to separation and death of the relationship.
The Garden of Eden symbolizes the Adamite’s intimacy with their Parent. Their exile from the Garden symbolizes the death of that relationship. The rest of the mythology is the path to the restoration of intimacy with the Good Parent by reaffirming the truth of his good character and intentions as a loving Parent Elohim, bringing new life to that relationship, and moral maturity to the Child Elohim.
The primary symbol of the toxicity of false identification is the Viper or Ground Serpent. Initially, the Serpent Conscience on the Tree of Morality is cursed to crawl on the ground as a consequence of Eve and Adams false identification of the Good Parent’s intentions regarding the Tree of Morality. Then, in a pivotal story in the Exodus myth of the Bronze Serpent in the wilderness, the Parent Elohim sends poisonous vipers to attack the Israelites, representing their prior false accusation against the Parent Elohim and his guides, Moses and Aaron.
Likewise, in the Gospel accounts, the religious elite are described as Vipers, symbolizing their false attribution of the Parent Elohim as a tribal god. Many believed that if the entire tribe would follow the Mosaic Law completely even for a day, this moralistic Tribal Elohim would send an anointed Warrior-King, a messiah, who would slay their foes and make them a powerful nation again. However, in context to Rabbi Jeshua’s teaching, the political aims of the Jewish religious establishment were irreconcilably in conflict with the relational paradigm to love one another, inclusive of one’s enemies. The narrative of a familial messiah who reconciles humanity to the Parent Elohim and to one another is identified as treasonous to the cause of the expected political messiah who would kill their enemies and establish a new Jewish kingdom. As both cannot be true, the religious elite accuse Rabbi Jeshua of blasphemy and he is then crucified under Roman Law as a valueless traitor.
In the Victim-Villain-Victor archetypal dynamic, the Monster-Villain is identified as a valueless entity who deserves to be destroyed. When we falsely imagine our adversaries, those we fear and hate, to be valueless, we justify all manner of violence. They no longer deserve compassion, kindness, or empathy. In this adversarial paradigm, any possibility of relationship, or love, is destroyed the moment we project onto our adversary false and demeaning characteristics and motivations, whether consciously or not.
Thus, in the Mosaic Law, two of the primary Ten Commandments are prohibitions against making false attribution to the character or identity of another. And, later, Rabbi Jeshua states that all failures will be forgiven, or let go, except to vilify or attribute false intentions to the motivating spirit of the Parent Elohim. The truth of each person’s identity is central to our ability to love and accept one another according to the Torah-Gospel mythology.
In the Exodus myth of the Bronze Serpent that was mentioned earlier, those bitten by the poisonous Ground Vipers, sent to embody their prior false accusations, are healed when they look upon the raised Bronze Serpent, embodying healing and truth. Later, this develops as a symbol of a mature Conscience founded in love as Rabbi Jeshua identifies himself as the raised Bronze Serpent. This gives meaning to his impending death on the cross as a representation of the possibility of love and healing over the powers of false identity and broken relationship.
Relationships can only develop when we embrace the truth of one another and ourselves, both our strengths and weaknesses. Human systems for control, whether personal or institutional, only serve to destroy intimacy between one another. In our pursuit of love and relationship, we must let go of the dogma of moral perfection and inauthentic behavior to embrace each other in all our beauty, imperfection, and vulnerability—sharing our strengths and supporting our weaknesses. Ultimately, we must embrace the fire of loving one another.