Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Future of Religion

Scott Roberts mentioned this book on Stephen Law's blog the other day, so I picked it up and give it a read this morning.

I loved it - and will have to absord it and make some comments at some point.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


The Transfiguration of Voice

It seems to me a great tragedy had befallen mankind when his voice became lost amidst the beast and fowl. Somewhere, it seems, between the simple name and the mist that obscures all that is beyond the horizon, a song bird sang, and wrapped within itself was a nature that was not unlike the mans. Lacking a sense of anything good or evil, he was, at first, a distant image glimpsed ever so briefly and unassumingly upon a canvas painted for eternity. With every spoken word a brush stroke colored in the landscape, filling the trees with a warm evening wind, painting the sounds of the rain, and dotting the heavens with patterns of thought. Yet somewhere within the land, beyond and within all he could see with his eyes and hear with his ears, was a colorless figure through which everything flowed, and the light of creation could be felt and remain nameless….

Through a reflection given forth from the waters, he looks into its eyes for the first time….


It is a common notion that what we have reflected in the creation myth of Genesis is the voice of God. Furthermore that, as the voice of God brought forth creation, than creation itself must speak a certain language, one that is mans task to decipher. What I’d like to suggest is that this is a gross misinterpretation - so one begins in the middle, which is, to be sure, the beginning:

Genesis 2:19, 20:
19. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto to Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
20. And Adam gave names to the cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field;

It is made implicit here that language is a creation of man, and therefore perspective and interpretation along with it (although creation is a bad word to use here). As well, within the myth, this is the first act of man, the first behavior that we see reflected; man behaving as something which makes noises and marks, something which differentiates, and has a perspective.

Considering this, it’s interesting to note that God first speaks to man prior to his first act by saying, (Genesis 2:16, 17):16.”And the Lord God commanded the man saying, “Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat:
17. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, though shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

It is, to be sure, a case of hopeless circularity that man would speak and be spoken to in the same voice. Surely it’s an obvious question to ask; did man understand this voice? Or is this implied metaphor for something more fundamental? His speech is prefaced with, “Lord God commanded”, however within the command itself seems to lie something more sinister than mere orders. On the other hand it must be considered that the text itself was written post hoc, and clearly the writer has granted himself some pre-suppositional freedom. He’s granted that prior to man having named everything, that he’d understood language; but, perhaps this assumption wasn’t made at all. Following the text faithfully another point comes to light; prior to eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it must be assumed (mythically/poetically) that man has no real notion of duality per se, but has a childlike view of indifference towards the world. Which is to say his view is non-discriminate (for the most part) - like a child who sees a certain beauty and curiosity contained in everything. In this way the language he uses to differentiate the world becomes less for the purposes of creating dualities (of separating good and evil), and more for the purposes behavior and interaction. In essence, we’re looking at a child’s mind.

With that in mind I’d merely invite one to consider the first thing that becomes evident to a child’s mind prior to any notion of good or evil. Without knowing any different, what lay before the mind as it views the world in this (mythological) state? I would answer, that it’s contained in the Lord God’s command. “Do not…. Or you will surely…” To do, or not to do, with no real sense of consequence. “Don’t touch the stove, or you’ll surely get burned.” What does that mean, ‘get burned’? What lay before the mind, I’d suggest, is temptation.

Genesis 3 (paraphrase):
The serpent was more crafty than any of the other animals that God had made, and he said to Eve, “Did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree of the garden’.”

Hold the show, wait – God never said anything to the woman, God had not yet created Eve when he spoke his command…

Nonetheless Eve responds to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will surely die.’”

The serpent responds, “You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

(insert the sound of a scratching record, and rewind)
Didn’t God see that all of his creation was Good? Of course he did, and this is key, but I’ll get back to it.

Anyway, Eve responds quite beautifully, Genesis 3:6-7 goes as follows:When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and at it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

The woman displays the first use of logic in the bible, bravo to the woman. Not to mention that, before even taking a bite or touching the tree, she saw that the tree was Good. What? Didn’t you first have to eat of the tree to have the knowledge of good and evil? Of course not; again, the tree being a metaphor for temptation, one only need yield to the temptation. Furthermore, what opened ones eyes to the knowledge of good and evil wasn’t the apple per se (the metaphor) but the use of logic. The woman went against a dogma and used logic to make a choice, and that choice was relative to her (and her husbands) needs and interests with respect to food and wisdom. That dirty dirty woman... Suddenly then, they find themselves thrust from childhood into adulthood. Temptation, Logic, then shame. Although, I think a better suited word for this occasion is not so much logic as it should be choice.

Let me take a step back to my previous point about God and the nature of his creation, because I believe something more tragic is happening here than meets the eye. It’s important to note that, contrary to the serpents suggestion that eating of the tree would make one like the Gods, the reality is that (as stated throughout creation) God saw everything as GOOD. Or more importantly, mans interpretation of God’s view of creation is one that is Good in every way shape or form, including the serpent. The knowledge of good and evil is a knowledge attributed to mankind and mankind alone; it is the event that plunges man into duality and into his first reaction to that duality, shame. Man can no longer see the good in all of creation because his vision is now forever obscured by his own needs and interests.

To the Transfiguration of Voice:

The point I’d like to make is twofold;
A.) It’s implicit that language is mans own, that it’s part of his character, his behavior.
B.) It is part of mans nature to eventually fall to logic and dualism.

Before man can say anything about God, before he can say that, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’, he must realize that these words (and meaning) are a reflection of his own character. In this way, the universe could never have been created by a God who spoke a certain language, whereby it is our duty to decipher that language such that we can know the character of God. Afteral, creation is a human word, and with all our lack of knowledge we attribute it to that which we don’t understand. God didn’t create anything (in any linguistic form) that we didn’t first create in ourselves, that we didn’t first recognize when we looked around and started naming things. To see God, to come to God, is to see past the suffering that is the tragedy of our own nature.

Somewhere along the line man’s voice became the voice of God, and people started chasing down dogmas and swatting at ‘flies’, mixing logic and dialogue with the ultimate source of wisdom. Of course it was just that vary thing that pushed man away from God in the first place.