Our story of the Fall in the Garden sees nature as corrupt; and that myth corrupts the whole world for us. Because nature is thought of as corrupt, every spontaneous act is sinful and must not be yielded to. You get a totally different civilization and a totally different way of living according to whether your myth presents nature as fallen or whether nature is in itself a manifestation of divinity, and the spirit is the revelation of the divinity that is inherent in nature.
Joseph Campbell: The Power of Myth p. 99
Many years ago, during the 1980's, two Jungian analysts, Anne Baring & Jules Cashford asked themselves these same questions & joined forces to research & write the much acclaimed & classic book, Myth of the Goddess. I remember a friend lending me her copy when it came out in 1991 - & my eyes were literally on stalks!
They wanted to trace the history of the Feminine Archetype historically & mythologically to see how such a fall from grace had come about. How had we come to pour such scorn on Eve & her descendants and how had we become so separated & estranged from Nature? They found a wealth of material to show it had not always been so.
From as long ago as 40,000 BC, the Great Mother was an image that connected the tiny human self to the greater dimension in which it was embedded. The self was, so to speak, contained within the matrix of the cosmic and Earth Mother, like a child in the womb. The consciousness of this time was largely unconscious and instinctive - what the philosopher Owen Barfield called Original Participation.It was a totally different way of perceiving and relating to life than the one we have now. We lived within the life of the Great Mother who was the Earth and the Cosmos. There was no clear differentiation between ourselves and the ensouled life that surrounded us. Everything had meaning; everything was numinous and alive.
Anne Baring - The Lunar Era - Chatres Presention - www.annebaring.com
In the field of archaeology the Lithuanian Marija Gimbutas showed that up until the Bronze Age these early societies, which stretched across vast swathes of Old Europe were peaceful, matrilineal & revered a Great Mother Deity.
The primordial deity for our Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors was female, reflecting the sovereignty of motherhood. In fact, there are no images that have been found of a Father God throughout the prehistoric record. Paleolithic and Neolithic symbols and images cluster around a self-generating Goddess and her basic functions as Giver-of-Life, Wielder-of-Death, and as Regeneratrix.
The multiple categories, functions, and symbols used by prehistoric peoples to express the Great Mystery are all aspects of the unbroken unity of one deity, a Goddess who is ultimately Nature herself.
Marija Gimbutas:The Civilization of the Goddess (1991),
(2000 BC to 2000 AD)
Mythologically the great turning point came at the start of the Babylonian Empire. A new creation myth emerged that enshrined the new attitude. It tells of Marduk, the young Solar God, who kills Tiamat, the once beloved Mother Goddess. He shoots an arrow into her mouth which tears through her body, splitting open her belly and her heart. He then throws her to the ground and triumphantly cuts her in half – creating the sky from one half of her and the earth from the other.
Hence forth the earth was divested of spirit - no longer divine – no longer sacred - just matter - bereft of sentience. It effectively separated humanity from nature, from instinct and led the way for the development of an individuated phase of maturation, rather like an adolescent moves toward independence, away from the mother and her domain.
With this myth the cyclical time of the goddess culture ends; linear time begins; death becomes final and terrifying. With this myth creation has a beginning and will have an end. The conflict between light and darkness, good and evil is constellated and this imagery pervades the Old Testament and other mythologies, in India (The Mahabharata) as well as the Near East. The myth sets the paradigm of duality and opposition between spirit and nature, light and darkness for the next 4000 years. This paradigm still controls our own modern culture with its emphasis on the conquest of nature, of space, of our enemies.
The expulsion of Eve from the Garden reflects this trend - deeply established by the time the biblical story was set down. As in the Babylonian myth, Eve is divested of her original divinity. Everything switches around. Whilst she is still given the title, Mother of all Living which directly connects her to the Canaanite goddess Asherah - God now becomes the sole creator. Eve is brought into being by him - created from Adam's Rib.
The serpent, also associated with her name & venerated for thousands of years in the ancient world as a symbol of renewal, now becomes the source of temptation, a transgressor of God's law. As punishment it will forfeit its traditional upright posture and thereafter crawl on its belly and eat only dust.
Eve will bring forth her children in sorrow whereas before goddesses gave birth painlessly. God becomes the sole proprietor of the Garden, overturning many centuries of Goddess veneration in Sacred Groves.
By the fourth century AD the western world had lost all its goddesses.
Early Christianity too, which at its inception embraced women as healers, teachers and even Apostles of Christ was streamlined by the same priestly politics as above, most notably reflected by the Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, under whose auspices entire books were removed from the gospels, the Holy Spirit of the Trinity was deemed male instead of female as it had first been conceived; potentially empowering wisdoms were cut from the remaining texts and the key women who surrounded Jesus were diminished morally or edited into insignificance.
Deviance from the new creed was punishable by death but thankfully many of the early gospels were hidden and have since come to light, revealing a very different Christianity than the one we know.
.... the evolution of the Western mind has been founded on the repression of the feminine - on the repression of undifferentiated unitary consciousness, of the participation mystique with nature: a progressive denial of the anima mundi, of the soul of the world, of the community of being, of the all-pervading, of mystery and ambiguity, of imagination, emotion, instinct, body, nature, woman - of all that which the masculine has projectively identified as "other."
But this separation necessarily calls forth a longing for a reunion with that which has been lost -
from the Epilogue, The Passion of the Western Mind, by Richard Tarnas
Date between 1440 and 1442
The new gods of the Solar Era, went it alone, so to speak, divorcing their previous lovers & bringing the world into being through their word. It couldn't have been more different!
The themes are universal. Something precious is lost, searched for, and finally found. Only then can the kingdom thrive. It is no coincidence that our heroes are so frequently called to discover a lost, female figure. The tales alert us the missing dimension in both the personal and collective life - and show us what needs to be done to restore a healthy balance.
Jung’s hypothesis of the collective unconscious – a realm of the psyche shared by us all – suggests that ‘nothing is ever lost’ and moreover, that which seems lost must be found if we are to function at our highest capacity.
There has been a quiet revolution in Quantum Theory that brings the entire paradigm into question. Consciousness now is understood as the prime causal reality not matter. Atoms are waves of possibility before every they achieve form. It is no longer possible to separate observer and observed - as quantum theory shows how each affect one another. The long-established certainties of the Solar Era now look shaky.
Consciousness comes first; it is the ground of all being. Everything else, including matter, is a possibility of consciousness.
Amit Goswami - The Self Aware Universe
There is the most beautiful myth, Indra’s Net, often times quoted by the Dalia Lama, and referred to by Anne Baring in many of her inspiring talks. It tells of a holographic cosmos - the interconnectedness of all things & of the non-local consciousness reflected in the new scientific paradigm of non - duality. What a different world it would be if we could bare to accept it.
All is One, One is All,
'In Lak’ech - I am you: you are me'
“Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net which has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out indefinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel at the net’s every node, and since the net itself is infinite in dimension, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that the process of reflection is infinite.
The Hua’yen school [of Buddhism] has been fond of this image, mentioned many times in its literature, because it symbolizes a cosmos in which there is an infinitely repeated interrelationship among all the members of the cosmos. This relationship is said to be one of simultaneous mutual identity and mututal intercausality.”
~ Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra
It is easy to see where Eve fits in to this long tale and why in a sense she ate the fateful apple.
The great tragedy has been that the myth was and still is taken literally. Viewed symbolically its meaning is quite different. Then the eating of the apple can be seen as an initiation into a new consciousness - a solar consciousness as it were - & awareness of our separation from the Divine and original unity. Without Eve there could have been no onward story, no journey into the realms of free will, of choice. The achievement of this consciousness inevitably involves loss of the original paradisiacal, Golden Age state - a tragedy in the senses discussed, especially when told from the patriarchal perspective come down to us - and yet - from what we now understand from people returning from Near Death Experiences - souls are incredibly keen to come to earth for these very experiences, for the opportunity to evolve. Yes, it is a fall - in a sense - but one that is chosen. It is not a sin - and this is the crucial difference - in doctrine - in storytelling - in perspective.
Trailing clouds of glory, sang the mystic poet Wordsworth, from some far-off heavenly abode.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come.
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience."
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.
Looked at from these perspectives, Eve can be re-framed in her ancient role - as a great facilitator of human experience - as Mother of All Living in it's original, pre-Biblical sense. Then we might see the story - as Eric Fromm has suggested, not as a 'fall', but as an awakening and the beginning of our rise.
But at last the time has come to return to greater awareness, to gather up the parts of ourselves lost & devalued along the way - and to arrive home changed and humbled by long experience.
Joseph Campbell famously tells us that our myths are public dreams, dreams are public myths. And of course the basic pattern of mythology is cyclical - it tells the story, without exception in its true form, of Paradise Lost, searched for and finally regained.
This is the promise & the hope.
Maybe these are the times in which we might finally remember, as Anne Baring suggests,
... that we are not fallen, sinful creatures, banished from the Garden of Eden to this planet. On the contrary, we are cosmic beings, carrying divinity – the pearl of great price – at the core of our being.
Anne Baring talk at Brahma Kumaris Retreat Centre June 2017
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