Eden

Many human myths contain the story of an ancient garden, among them the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden described in the Book of Revelation from the Hebrew and Christian bibles. Many other ancient religions contain similar stories, leading to one of two conclusions:

  • The story is true
  • Something else is going on here

Since I am fairly sure that Satan did not literally appear to a woman named Eve in the form of a snake in order to tempt Eve into rebelling against God’s first law, I suspect that something else is going on here. This article tends to confirm what I suspect: The Garden of Eden myth is an echo of our ancient lives as paleolithic humans. While life as a paleolithic hunter gather would have been harder than our current lives in some respects (shelter from the weather, for example), in many ways, paleolithic life was pretty idyllic. Once the agricultural revolution occurred (about 15,000 BC), for humans that embraced agriculture, life became much, much harder: Death rates from disease soared and lifespan plummeted. Although human numbers increased hugely, the quality of life of early neolithic humans was terrible. Thus, early neolithic humans (especially those displaced and enslaved by early neolithic empires like Sumeria, Accadia, Egypt, and, later, the Roman Empire) would have looked back upon the days of paleolithic life with incredible longing and nostalgia. This is the basic idea behind the Shadow World series of posts I have been writing. There is no doubt that paleolithic humans survived in large number into the time of the Roman Empire. (They still survive to this day in some areas like Australia.) Many of the “barbarians” displaced and enslaved by the Romans were paleolithic hunter-gather cultures which have disappeared today.

One such group that has always fascinated me is the Faerie. Yes, there actually were people known as the Faeries. They were described in detail by the American writer Parke Godwin in his exception book Firelord, no longer available in print, unfortunately. The Faerie were likely the original human inhabitants of the British Isles, and were still extent at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD. The movie The Eagle (an excellent film which is annoyingly not available on any digital form I have found) shows the collision between paleolithic humans in far northern Britain and the Roman Empire. I suspect they had the Faerie in mind when they made this film, although the race portrayed in the film is not a pygmy race, as the Faerie apparently were. Arthur was supposedly the child of a Faerie queen (Igraine) and a Roman centurion (Uther Pendragon).

The Faerie were regarded as magical. They lived in holes in the ground, had amazing woodcraft, herbology and the like, and were adamantly opposed to agriculture. They worshipped a Goddess named Lugh who was represented as the Earth. When someone plowed a field, the Faerie regarded it as wounding their Goddess. Also, the term “beyond the pale” refers to the circle of metal spikes that Roman folks would place around their villages to keep out the Faerie, who feared and avoided metal.

The fate of the Faerie was annoyingly typical: They were wiped out. Their genetics still survive in the descendants of Romans whose children were stolen and replaced by Faerie babies, a term known at the time as fostering (from which we get the term foster child). Since the Faerie were remarkable as midwives, the Roman women who lived in the British Ilses would often use them for helping with child birth. In lean years, the Faerie midwives would secretly kill the Roman baby and replace it with one of their own, knowing that the Romans would raise the child and feed it. Arthur’s mother, Igraine, was supposedly one of these foster children. Other than that, though, the Faerie, like most paleolithic cultures in the world, are all gone.

More later.

Naughty God

I have continued to devour Karen Armstrong’s stuff. On my iPad I am reading “A History of God“, and on my phone I am reading “The Great Transformation“. I actually can’t put either one down. The thing that went off today (very powerfully, actually; I had goosebumps when this one hit) is that the Christianity that I know is not necessarily the real Christianity (if that even exists).

Armstrong is discussing the division between Eastern Christianity (out of which comes Greek Orthodox, for example) vs. Western or “Latin” Christianity (initially Roman Catholicism, but all forms of Protestantism also fall into this category).

The issue of Sin is critical to this division. In the case of the Western tradition, the idea that physical matter is evil and corrupt crept in (borrowed from various forms of Greek philosophy). As Armstrong discusses in detail, during the early years of Roman Christianity, the leaders were so obsessed with sin (especially sex), that they seemed positively deranged. This slight dysfunction affected the theology profoundly. God became what I call a “Naughty God”, very demanding, cruel, judgmental, and so forth.

Eastern Christianity was not like this. First of all, the Father was regarded as so elevated as to be similar to Aristotle’s unmoved mover: Utterly unchanging and remote. Certainly completely incapable of relating to mere creatures like us. The idea of praying to the Father was anathema to these Christians. In this respect, Eastern Christianity actually resembles Buddhism more closely than Roman Christianity.

Since Eastern Christians never absorbed the idea that the physical universe is evil and fallen, the concept of sin was much less central to them. I find this intriguing because I have been steeped in Western Christianity for so long. It is simply amazing to me that other people who claim to be Christians believe so profoundly differently from what I was taught.

According to Armstrong, these Christians would have regarded many of the practices of modern Protestantism as idolatry. Like the idea that the Father is involved in human affairs, speaks to people, causes miracles and so forth. Although they had very spiritual lives, with many amazing experiences, that would simply not sit with the basic idea of the Father for them

More later.