Saturday, November 26, 2011

My First Night of Bible Study -- A Brief Report

At last I understand: the Eden story in Genesis is about a drug bust and its aftermath. It begins by discussing the prohibition of a potent psychedelic substance: a plant or a fruit that grants those who ingest it personal access to divine capacities. Most damningly to those who wrote the story (with the goal, I suppose, of consolidating their hold on law-giving and other 'holy' prerogatives), this prohibited substance sensitizes the mind to the presence of 'good' and 'evil, essentially making priests of those who take it. (And making other, conventional priests redundant.)

Then the people take the stuff. As it happens, the creature who assists them dwells as close to nature, to the soil, and as far from hierarchies and sky gods as it is possible to get. The serpent, by virtue of living on its belly, is a most earthy, egalitarian animal.

The rest of the story concerns the people's punishment for unlocking their latent godliness through commerce with the psychoactive plant.  Banishment and hard labor are some of their punishments. And shame, of course, which is the fiercest lashing of all because the people give it to themselves.

How weird, how unexpected and how weird, that the establishing myth or narrative of Jewish and Christian morality deals not with murder, deceit, or theft but with altered consciousness, with tripping. How strange to learn that our Original Sin -- at least in the minds of those who wrote the Bible -- was closer to taking mushrooms than taking a life.

17 comments:

  1. Taking mushrooms leads to taking a life. So the older, "source" sin is taking mushrooms.

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  2. I think you totally missed the point of the Garden of Eden and man's fall from grace. It was man's disobedience to God's law in taking from the fruit of the the tree of life. Believe it or not God sees the Big Picture whereas Man cannot. As Jesus says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts...my ways are not your ways." But do not miss the most important thing: God loves us (you, me) so much that He provided a way to live with Him forever through His Son Jesus Christ! Believe. Repent. Live. Abundant Life!

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  3. If the sin was 'disobedience,' generic disobedience, then the 'loyalty test' could have involved anything -- don't stand by that rock, don't ever use the word 'nipple.' and there wouldn't need to be an explanation of the effects of doing the forbiddden thing. sorry, i see this disobedience business as a way to avoid through abstraction the vivid detail and specificity of the myth itself.

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  4. swansrswimn, your choices of capitalization are interesting.

    Walt, how funny that the apple is also a sense of clarity, a divined way of shedding blissful ignorance. And how funny that not only is a creature so close to nature our supposed undoing in reaching such enlightenment, but so too that a god watching on high, already divine, might admonish mankind for such discretions. Is god then a pretentious, snobby hipster so proud of his/her/its divine feeling and state that he/she/it would not allow others to feel in this way, even if by synthesis?

    And to skip a few chapters in that proverbially good book, I've often been fascinated with the idea of the immaculate conception, especially having been raised as an outsider of Christianity, and now outside of it all. I was surprised to learn that the immaculate conception was not the virgin birth of Jesus by Mary, but rather of the birth of Mary, who was born free of original sin. Is Mary then exonerated through a predetermined association to divinity? Is Mary then ignorant and blissfully unsynthesized, thus granting her son natural, unsynthesized divinity? Just some thoughts working off of your own. I'm sure the sacrilegious nature of this quality intellectual reading of a book has us damned to punishment.

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  5. emerson -- there are eccentric thinkers out there (google the british philologist and dead sea scroll translater john allegro) who believe that 'immaculate conception' is an actual reference to the way that psychedelic mushrooma grow, seemingly out of nowhere, and that the christian gospels are actually -- get this -- a cover story or narrative disguise for a set of instructions and communications issued by a mushroom-based fertility cult determined to remain hidden from the authorities. wacky when you first hear it, less wacky when you research it a little. john allegro. was told about this stuff last night by someone who read the post.

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  6. Walter, I love this interpretation. I find it interesting that ayahuasca visions are often accompanied by snakes as well.

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  7. That's a massively reductive interprettion of the myth. First off, there's no mention of apples, still less of mushrooms. And you left out the serpent. The fable is about growing up and acquiring the power to choose and to be aware of the difference between good and evil. Acquiring autonomy, so that one is not merely God's puppet. About discovering attraction for another body and realizing that one's own body possesses a disturbing magic. And about inscribing oneself in the cycle of birth and death. Adam and Eve lost immortality and untroubled ease. They gained autonomy, passionate love, and parenthood. If you go on to the add-on of the Gospels, immortality is regained through an act of boundless mercy.

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  8. Alfred old friend,

    that's as eloquent and lovely an interpretation of the myth as i've ever read. i'd like to believe it is there on the page, but i'm not so sure it is.

    yes indeed there is mention of forbidden 'fruit.' (i never specified apples, btw, and i only alluded to 'taking mushrooms' to conjure up a general drug experience.) "But of the fruit that of the tree which is in the midst of the Garden, God hath said, 'ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it...'"

    and i did indeed mention the serpent.

    also, part of eve's curse is to be ruled over by her husband. so her power to choose is lessened, is it not? no more freely roaming around eating whatever plants she wants conversing with animals for her! she may not be god's puppet now; she's adam's. "and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."

    in fact, i don't think that adam and eve ever were 'god's puppets.' when would that have been? the first things they, did, practically, were to not heed him. they had the power to choose right from the start. i guess they weren't supposed to use it, though? what a booby prize that would be.

    anyway, though there is a 'God' in the story, he appears to be one of many, or part of a team. 'And the Lord God said, Behold, This man is become as one of us.'

    actually, the crime seems to be that the people had acquired divine powers, not simple free will. so what was the punishment? partly it was separating them from the garden that supplied the materials for this transformation. (and putting a cop-like cherubim with a flaming sword on guard to make sure they didn't sneak back in) it's never made explicit, but one assumes that the tree of life and its fruit do not grow outside the garden.

    i think the outline of the fable is awfully clear: there is a substance which can make you like us, the gods, immortal and full of wisdom. we are warning you not to touch it. shit, you touched it. you listened to an animal, to a natural being, not us. you will pay by living in pain and want and having no further access to the substance. don't try this achieving god-hood trick again.

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  9. It's about nudity. Moses sums up paradise with, "And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" [gen. 2:25]. And then the immediate result of the sin: "Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked" [gen. 3:7]. A little further into my own interpretation is that the nudity/shame leaves me feeling vulnerable and alone [insecure]. Somehow I gotta fix this because the all mighty and wonderful God is no longer available to hang (me trying to be God and dictating to myself how the world works and what I can and can't do, threw off all the relational dynamics). Its right there in the text, God asks Adam whats up, and Adam wants what he lost, to feel okay, to feel loved and affirmed by God, to be in fellowship with God, so Adam says, in an effort to fix what he broke: don't blame me, don't punish me, I'm not bad, I didn't do wrong, its her fault (and she gets to take it down the line to the serpent) [gen. 3:9-13]. They get punished, banned from paradise, banned from God [the rest of gen. 3], and as you know, the story goes on for awhile, then enter Jesus, paying for the punishment of sin (separation from God/despair/futility/lack of hope and joy) [the gospels], so that one day all can/will be made new, and we can experience a life of peace/comfort/fulfillment/joy/thriving (sorry for all the verbiage, I don't know what word describes all of these feelings) [john's revelation]. Until that happens though I'm just going to have to make due abusing comfort and approval (or power or accomplishment), to get rid of my insecurities, to feel exhilarated. In all sincerity, I apologize if we come across one another some day, and my insecurities cause me to act in a way that hurts you.

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  10. Walter, I was partly responding to you and partly to the earlier comments. Which mentioned "apples." You mention the serpent as a animal but not as a Tempter. He diesn't go on his belly till after the Fall, after which his head will be bruised by the heel of men. Think of the fruit as a metonymy for the woman's body, and the serpent as one for male genitalia. Bring in Jung. Pre-sexual existence is experienced as immortality. Once you begin sexual relations, you enter the inexorable cycle of birth and death. Why do so many men resist marriage? Because it ends their existence as a =puer aeternus=, immortal boy, and makes them susceptible to death. The fable helped earlier people deal with the old conundrum: If God is good, if God loves us, why is life so hard? For women in early societies in particular. When subsistence is dependent on large physical frames and strong muscles, the bulk of male activity must be devoted to hunting and defense. Infants needed to be nursed and the woman's body could do that. It is an act of obedience women were forced into because of the circumstances. If they felt it was unjust, the fable gave them an explanation for it. As our circumstances are different from early people's, we aren't constrained to follow the old directives. Women can earn and fight, men can make homes and nurse (with the help of a bottle). But the fable is some 3000 years old and will not completely satisfy modern people as an explanation for everything. And we are still left with the conundrum: If God is good, and God loves us, why is life so hard and why must we die?

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  11. I'm rooting for the pomegranate.

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  12. It's setting up a test God must now they'll fail. They need to get out of the garden and grow up. The writer also has a beef with previous cults that like snakes and women.

    (from Bender)

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  13. Walt,
    For the record, we Catlicks were taught back in the day that original sin has its true source in the rebellion of Lucifer -- pride goeth before the fall and all that. You'll recall your Milton etc.
    I like your reading however: do you remember the whole 70s thing about all this evidence that aliens had been to earth thousands of years ago -- I can't remember the book title, something "of the Gods" -- the plurality of the god figure in Genesis was an indication that it was the aliens talking. Somehow this also leads to Jesus being called "Son of Man"-- that man as a species came to be through an alien race who brought knowledge etc. (See also ape monolith scene in 2001, leading to murder and the survival that came from eating meat....)
    Since you mentioned the curious pronoun mix up I thought I'd throw that bit your way. Giant patterns on mountaintops and singed into cornfields were further proof. There was a TV show to go with the book, syndicated.

    I think the Bermuda Triangle figured in somehow. Or maybe that was another book.

    Vince

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  14. Also, did you notice how eerily well the immediate creation story -- darkness then let there be light etc -- tracks out in tandem with Big Bang theory? This amuses me to think about sometimes. Like, you meshugenah Jews you had it right all along! And they're like, "take that Spencer Tracy you goyïsche pretty-man!!!" People get hung up on the 7 days bit. But as St. Peter wrote "There is no time with God, a thousand years, a single day, it is all one."

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  15. They've been mulling over this one for about as long @ quora.
    http://www.quora.com/The-Bible/What-precisely-was-the-knowledge-that-God-didnt-want-Adam-Eve-to-have
    The shrooms are a new twist.

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  16. Personally, I think this is the best interpretation of the garden of Eden myth that I've come across so far. Original Sin = a forbidden altered state of consciousness? Beautiful. Especially since, really, all we're really doing is looking for some altered state of consciousness--be it faith or meditation or 'shrooms--to give us guidance through this mess called life.

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  17. One can also consider the serpent as the great emancipator of human self awareness. The monolith to Hal, no longer a program but conscious of itself and it's surroundings. Without a reading we are lead to believe that the serpent deceives Eve, yet he lies in no way to her, the high of eating from the tree is exactly as the serpent says.

    From my reading the only negative consequence from eating from the tree are the punishments from God.

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