Lesson 104- Adam, Eve and Eric Fromm
So far in previous programs I have described the first two levels of evolution, according to the theistic theory of Fr. Tielhard de Chardin. These two levels consisting of the Chemical Non-living Level and the Organic Living Level are right called the Kingdom of Mental Darkness because there is not one spark of rational thought in either. Any progress in either level is the result of the Logos of Reality that through the Laws of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest is moving the evolutionary process forward towards higher forms of life. As each new life form radiated into multiple types of the same species, different evolutionary ages came and went as new advantages evolved that allowed a higher form to replace a lower form as the dominant species. Thus, we had the Age of Plants, Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Marsupials, and Mammals. And from the mammals eventually radiated a group known as the primates that, in all honesty, we bear a striking biological resemblance. However, that as far as the resemblance goes because once you get beyond our organs, hormones, and enzymes and begin to look at our minds, you discover a qualitative difference between us and other biological primates. They have arational brains in which the right and left lobes are duplicates of each other and therefore are not dialectical in nature. Their right lobes possess intuitive knowledge that is capable of performing amazing instinctive acts without any conscious or logical understanding. Bees built hives and beavers built dams without engineering degrees. Blind bats, through their ability to interpret sound waves bouncing off other objects used a form of radar, to find small insects and avoided obstacles while flying. Homing pigeons find their way home over great distances without any compass or map. How do these creatures do these things? We don’t know. All we know is that the knowledge is built-in and internal and does not seem to be learned through any conscious effort on their part. Their knowledge, so far as we can determine, is unconscious or subconscious.
It wasn’t until a primate-like being appeared whose left hemisphere acquired the capacity for language that the next level- the Mental or Cultural Level of evolution – began. How or when this happened, no one knows for sure. The Bible explanation is found in the story of Adam and Eve while scientist continue to look for the missing link. The most that we can say is that when the Logos of Reality, that was guiding evolution through the first two levels through the laws of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, entered the left hemisphere of an arational brain, it became a rational, reflective mind made in the “image and likeness” of the rational mind that created the universe. This is the view of evolution that the Catholic Church would be willing to accept so long as it was understood that it was an act of God that caused this transition.
However it happened, this primate-like being’s right lobe, like those of other animals, continued to contain intuitive knowledge that knew without consciously knowing how it knew. To the extent that we know anything instinctively, we share in this ability. Like an artist, it’s right lobe was a creative genius that thought holistically and spatially in pictures. However, without a logical left lobe, it had no way of objectively testing the feasibility of its insights or planning the step-by-step process that would move its creative imaginings from the potential to the actual. In other words, once the Logos entered it left hemisphere, its mind operated just like the rational mind of its Divine Creator, where the creative, artistic genius of the Father, that contained the potential of the universe, needed the actualizing logical agent of the Son using the creative energy of the Spirit that resulted from the agreement and love that flowed between the two of them.
It is interesting to note here that the universe began when a spatial Event Horizon exploded and begot time and the two lobes of the human brain correspond to space and time, with the creative right lobe being spatial and the logical left lobe being temporal. And, just as “space begot time” we could say that the spatial right lobe of the Creator begot the temporal logical left lobe by modifying its opposite and duplicate partner so that it became a reflective agent upon itself. In the light of this, listen to the Nicene Creed that is the official belief statement for all Christians. It states,
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father, through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven… We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son…” Do you see the Hegelian Dialectic in this?
Now consider Proverbs 8 in the Old Testament where Divine Wisdom tells us that the Creator begot it at the beginning of time to be His craftsman and that it had a special love for Mankind. It concludes by saying that those that find it have eternal life and those that miss it choose death.
Now move up to the New Testament where Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me shall not hunger. He who believes in me shall not thirst and unless you eat my Body and drink my Blood, you shall not have life within you” and add to this the belief of the ancient Jews that the inner man, or spirit that would live forever, ate Wisdom, which was known as the Bread of Life, and
we start to understand why the Church says that Jesus is the Incarnation of the Divine Wisdom that the Creator used to build the universe.
And, if any doubt should remain, go to John 1 where St. John speaks of the Cosmic nature of Jesus that existed before the beginning of time. He writes:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. A man named John (the Baptist) was sent from God. He came …to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. It was the true light that enlightens everyone, and it was coming into the world. He was in the world and the world came to be through him but the world did not know him. But to those who did accept him he gave them the power to become the children of God, to those who believe in his name who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only begotten Son full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received; grace from grace because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
In previous programs, I have already mentioned that in the original Greek, Word is spelled LOGOS, from which we get LOGIC. Thus it should be clear that, as Catholics, we believe that Jesus is the Wisdom or Logic that the Creative Father used to make the universe. And, although non-Christians might not believe this, they still have to deal with whether the universe is the result of a totally accidental process, as many Existentialist thinkers claim, or whether it is the result of “intelligent logical design.” On this issue, we at least have a “talking point” with the scientists and the humanists because there are prominent scientists such as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and others who, throughout the ages, saw the laws of the universe as indicative of “intelligent design.” In fact, the philosopher Hegel said that the universe was totally rational and logical and Buckminster Fuller, a more recent thinker, said that it was the result of fantastic technology.
The major stumbling block for many Christians and scientists is the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Book of Genesis in the Bible speaks of a time when Adam and Eve, our first parents, lived in total harmony with God in the Garden of Eden between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers near the Persian Gulf. How this account should be interpreted is unclear because it contains elements that seem to be allegorical. According to the dictionary “allegory” is something that “has a hidden spiritual meaning that goes beyond the literal meaning.” In other words, it is an account that uses people, places and things as symbols for concepts with deep symbolic meaning. For example, two trees mentioned in the Genesis account- the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life , certainly seem to be more symbolic than literal. So does the talking serpent who tempts Eve and is punished by losing his legs and being forced to eat dirt for the rest of his life.
Many fundamentalist Christians think that this should be interpreted literally rather than allegorically but, as Catholics, we are free to look at it either way. In truth, most allegorical stories are deeper and more meaningful than literal ones because symbols have levels of meanings that literal facts don’t. When we interpret allegorical material literally, we miss these deeper levels of meaning and we run into a lot of practical problems. For example, if we interpret the account of Adam and Eve too literally, we run into the following problems.
First, the story says that the Garden contained all types of animals and there was no death. If we interpret this literally then it would mean that none of the animals, including Adam, had teeth, digestive juices, stomachs, or intestines, since these are all related to our need to survive by eating other living things. In other words, “life feed on life” and, in doing so, the life that it feeds on must die.
Second it says they were innocent and there was no sin. Since the word sin means to “miss the target’, in order to sin in a moral sense one has to know what the rational target is. Animals and young children are sinless, not because they don’t miss the target but because, lacking a logical sense of purpose, they don’t know what the target is. In other words, they don’t have the knowledge of good and evil. They have the innocence of ignorance. This raises the question whether Adam and Eve were innocent is the same sense because it wasn’t until they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that sin in a moral sense entered the world. When Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the Bible says that her “eyes were opened.” It seems obvious that this indicates that her understanding increased and should be interpreted figuratively rather than literally. Thus, knowledge and morality seem to be connected. What this might mean is further confused by the fact that it is the left lobe with its linear, goal directed, logical sense that seems to be the source of a moral sense rather than the right lobe that, like animals, seems to be non-judgmental and amoral.
Third , it says that Adam was created first and, when God saw that He was lonely, He put him into a deep sleep and created Eve from a rib that he took from Adam’s side. This literal interpretation caused one of my aunts to tell me as a child that men had one less rib than women. Was I surprise when I took my first anatomy class. Taken literally it also suggests that “man came before women” However, embryological studies have reveal that it is just the opposite. The default sex is female. In other words, everybody starts out as females and it is only the introduction of the male hormones testosterone around the 7th week in those children having a “Y” chromosome, that causes the two female ovaries to descend out of the body to become testicles and the female clitoris to enlarge to become a penis. Thus, just as we can say “space begot time” and the “right lobe begot the left lobe”, and the Father begot the Son, we can now add “the female begot the male” because men are modified females, just as the left lobe is a modified right lobe.
The evidence has been staring us in the face but “having eyes to see we could not see and having ears to hear we could not hear.” For example, men have nipples on their chest indicating a latent potential for developing mammilla glands that females use to feed their young. In fact, it has been known in rare occasions for some men to lactate or produce milk. Also, persons known as hermaphrodites are born with both female and male sexual characteristics. They have the womb of the female and the penis of the male. Finally, the most startling example comes from an island in the West Indies where the females in one family turn into males at puberty when, because of a defective gene, their bodies are flooded with the male hormone, testosterone. Their breasts disappear and are replaced by hair on their chest. Their shoulders broaden, their hips narrow, their muscles enlarge, their voices deepen, and their wombs heal over and their clitorises enlarge to become penises. Not only do they become biological males, but they also start to talk and act like men. Their only problem is that they can’t reproduce.
Now what are we to do when faced with counter evidence like this? The Church’s position is that truth and revelation cannot disagree and when it appears that they do, it is because either the evidence is wrong or insufficient or our interpretation of scriptures is wrong. For example, “of my rib” in Hebrew refers to a very close relationship. So close that Jesus said that husband and wife were “one flesh” and what God has joined together let no man put asunder. So how should we interpret this account in Genesis?
If we were totally dependent on the Bible, as many fundamentalists are, we would be forced to defend what seems to be indefensible. But fortunately, Jesus foresaw that, as human knowledge grew, we would have to revise our understanding in the light of new truths. Thus, He said that there was much more that He wanted to reveal to the Apostles but that they were not ready to receive it. Therefore, he would send the Holy Spirit of Truth and that He would teach the Church all truth. “Seek!” he said, “and you will find. Knock! And it will be open unto you.”
Then, so that the Church would not run into the problem of multiple interpreters contradicting each other, He gave Peter, the Apostles, and their successors, the “Keys to the Kingdom” of heaven and the power of binding and loosening. He said, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Thus, as Catholics, we have a Magisterium to guide us when issues involving a conflict between scriptural truth and other truth arises.
As Christians we are obligated to follow the Truth no matter what its source and we are not allowed to “stick our heads in the sand” and ignore the issues that arise as human understanding increases. So, if it is scientifically true that men are modified females, how should we interpret the account in Genesis: literally or figuratively?
Once we switch from a literal to an allegorical interpretation, the task becomes easier because symbols allow for a wider range of interpretations. For example if the Garden is a symbol for a “state of being” rather than a geographical location, and Adam and Eve are symbolic of the first female and male from whom the human race sprung, and if the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is symbolic of a change that took place in their mental processes, and if the serpent is symbolic of a force that played a role in leading them away from their original innocent state, then the whole account takes on a new, and sometimes deeper, meaning.
The Garden of Eden becomes a symbol for a state of being when humans were in harmony with God. Adam, which means “from the earth”, becomes a symbol for the first man and our origin. Perhaps this is why on Ash Wednesday the priest anoints our forehead with ashes and says, “Remember man, thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” Eve becomes a symbol for the first woman whose union with Adam was so close that she was “from his rib.” The “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” symbolizes logical knowledge or reason that, unlike intuitive knowledge, which is instant and holistic, is the result of a linear dialectical struggle requiring us to discover truth through Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis. The serpent becomes a symbol for the devil who tempts them to commit the only unforgivable sin, the sin of Pride that, because it places its own understanding before that of its Creator, refuses to repent and/or reform. It occurs when the creature assumes a Yang attitude towards God instead of the receptive Yin position. In doing so, it breaks the relationship with the Creator who, because He is totally full and has no need to receive, is totally Yang in nature. Therefore, His nature is to give and everything must assume the Yin position of humility in His presence. Yang to Yang doesn’t work. Only Yang to Yin.
Therefore, if Eve broke the relationship through the sin of Pride, which is Yang, then Mary restored it through her attitude of humility, which is Yin.
So what might this first act of rebellion have been? It might have occurred when Adam and Eve or the human mind, instead of just following the instinctual rules of their nature, asked the question “Why?” Like children, entering the “Terrible Two’s” who begin to challenge their parent’s commands, they demanded to know the reason. If this is true, then when our first parents ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they acquired the power of reason, which, as we shall see, might have been both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it made them consciously aware of things that they had only known in a intuitive, subconscious, instinctive way. A curse because knowing became a struggle full of errors and pitfalls. Is this the correct interpretation? I don’t know but it is one of the possible interpretations once we allow ourselves to see the story of Adam and Eve in an allegorical sense.
It is interesting to note that the left lobe of the brain, according to modern brain researchers, is the only lobe that demands a reason. In fact, in split-brain people, it constantly invents reasons for actions done by the right lobe even when it doesn’t know the motivation behind it.
At this point, I would like to share with you the views of Eric Fromm, a famous secular humanist psychologist who was raised in the Jewish tradition. Even though he is a secular humanist, his views are so close to Catholic philosophy that his books were required reading at the Catholic university that I attended. Unlike some other secular humanist, he believes in objective truth and rejects the theory of relativism in moral behavior. He writes:
“…Animals live through biological laws of nature; they are part of nature and never go beyond nature. They have no idea of morality- that is right or wrong- and no awareness of themselves and of their existence. They have no reason, if by reason we mean the ability to understand the essences of things (their real purpose). Therefore the animals have no concept of truth, even though they may have an idea of what is useful (or pragmatic). Animal existence is one of harmony between the animal and nature in the sense that the animal is equipped by nature to survive within the very conditions they are to meet. (In other words, they are adapted to their environment.)
At a certain point of animal evolution, there occurred a unique break, comparable to the first appearance of matter, to the first time that chemicals showed life, and to the first time that life became an animal. This new event happens when in the evolutionary process, action ceases to be essentially determined by instinct... When the animal goes beyond nature, when it goes beyond the purely passive role of the creature, when it becomes, biologically speaking, the most helpless of animals, MAN IS BORN. (Here Fromm is referring to what zoologist call infantalism indicating that human beings, among all animals are born with “soft wired brain” that have many neural connections that are unconnected. Therefore, they must be connected after birth through cultural training. Thus learned knowledge replaces instinctual knowledge).
“This birth of man may have lasted for hundreds of thousands of years, but what matters is that anew specie arose, going beyond nature, that life became aware of itself. In other words, life became reflective…
Self-awareness, reason and imagination upset the harmony. With (reason and imagination) man became the “freak” of nature, subject to her laws and unable to change them, yet he is above the rest of nature. He is set apart while being a part; he is homeless, yet chained to the home he share with all creatures. Being aware of himself, he realized his powerlessness and the limitation of his existence. He can see his own end: DEATH!
Reason, man’s blessing, is also his curse; it forces him to deal everlastingly with the job of solving the problems of life. He is different from other animals in that he lives in a state of constant and unavoidable imbalance. Man’s life cannot “be lived” by repeating the pattern of his species; he must live (by responding creatively to the challenges of life). Man is the only animal that can be bored, that can feel evicted (or thrown out of) paradise. Man is the only animal who finds his own existence a problem that has to solve and from which he cannot escape. He cannot go back to the pre-human state of harmony with nature. He must proceed to develop his reason until he becomes the master of nature, and of himself. (self control)
The problem of man’s existence, then, is unique in the whole of nature. He has fallen out of nature, as it were, and is still in it. He is partly like God, and partly like animal; partly infinite and partly finite. The necessity to find ever-new solutions for the contradictions of his existence, to find ever-higher forms of unity with nature, his fellow men and himself, is the source of all psychic forces which motivate men, of all his passions, feelings, and anxieties.
The animal is satisfied if its physiological needs- its hunger, its thirst and its sexual needs- are satisfied. (In other words, they can “live by bread alone.)Inasmuch as man is also an animal, these needs are likewise important and must be satisfied. But inasmuch as man is human, the satisfaction of these instinctual needs is not enough to make him happy; they are not even enough to make him sane. All attempts to understand man’s mind must be based on the understanding of man’s need to find and establish an order to which he can belong.
The problem, then, which the human race, as well as each individual, has to solve is that of being born. Physical birth is by no means as decisive and singular an act as it appears to be. In many ways the infant after birth is not different from the infant before birth. It cannot feed itself. It is completely dependent on the mother, and would die without her help. Actually, the process of birth continues…. Birth then, in the normal meaning of the word, is only the beginning of birth in the broader sense. The whole life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself. Indeed, we should be fully born when we die although it is the tragic fate of most individuals to die before they are born.
The fact that man’s birth is primarily a negative act, that of being “thrown out” of the original oneness with nature; that he cannot return to where he came from, means that the process of birth is by no means an easy one. Each step into his new human existence is frightening. It always means to give up a secure state, to which he has adjusted, for a new state, which he has not yet mastered. Without a doubt, if the infant could think at the moment when the umbilical cord is cut, he would experience the fear of dying. A loving fate protects us from this first panic. But at any new step, at any new stage of our birth, we are afraid again. We are never free from two conflicting tendencies: one to emerge from the womb, from the animal form of existence into a more human existence, from slavery and dependence to freedom; and the other to return to the womb, to nature, to certainty and security. In the history of the individual and the race, the progressive tendency has proven to be stronger, yet the fact of mental illness and the regression of the human race to old stages of development, show the intense struggle which accompanies each new act of birth.”
I could spend an entire program just analyzing some of the insights that Dr. Fromm expresses in this piece and perhaps I will devote some time to it in my next program. He presents an interesting interpretation of what happened when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and, like any Antithesis it challenges the previous interpretation based on a literal understanding of Genesis. We should not be frightened by this because it causes us to rethink old ideas in the light of new knowledge and motivates us to seek a synthesis between the old and the new. We are experiencing the pang of the birth process that he described when he said, “We are never free from two conflicting tendencies: one to emerge from the womb, from the animal form of existence into a more human existence, from slavery and dependence to freedom; another to return to the womb, to nature, to certainty and security. In the history of the individual and the race, the progressive tendency has proven to be stronger.”
In other words, we are never free from the conflict between our conservative need to preserve what we have inherited from the past and our liberal need to pursue new truths in the future and it is only those who can restore a balance by forming a synthesis that will incorporate what is best in both of them that will possess the future. It’s the law of growth and development. It’s the Hegelian Dialectic.
Even though Dr. Fromm is a secular humanist, it is obvious that many of his insights are compatible with those of Jesus. For example, Dr. Fromm says that our entire life is the process of giving birth to ourselves and Jesus says that “unless you are born again, you can not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Fromm says that in order to be born to the next level, we must “leg go” or die to the old level and Jesus says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it cannot become the plant.” Fromm see life as a progressive struggle towards a fuller expression of life both in the individual and in society as a whole and Jesus says, “If you want life and you want it fully, pick up your cross and follow Me.” Of course, since He claimed to be the Truth, this means to face the difficulties and struggles of life and follow the Truth. I have already mentioned in previous programs how His passion and death could be seen as living parable designed to show us the way to salvation. It involved pain, suffering, struggle and death that, instead of ending in defeat, rose to a new and higher level. In other words, after every crucifixion there is a resurrection.
In many way, secular humanist, like Fromm, are not far from the Christian gospel and if we are ever going to get passed this conflict with them, both sides are going to have to revisit their positions and try to see what unites them instead of what separates them. However, whenever a Thesis seeks of synthesis with its Antithesis it must remember the Law of Identity that says that everything must protect its basic identity by incorporating only those things in the Antithesis that are compatible with itself. This is something that liberals in the church often forget because in the name of tolerance and peace, they “give away the store.”
Well, I see that my time is up. Here’s Dom!