Lesson 105- Adam, Eve and Fromm as Types Of Relationships
In my last program I started to discuss the beginning of the third level of evolution, the Mental Level, when the evolutionary process produced a primate-like being whose double lobed arational brain, which lacked the ability to speak or reflect, suddenly became a dialectical brain when the left hemisphere acquired the gift of language and logic. When this happened, it resulted in a qualitative leap into a new level of evolution where, for the first time, the Logos of Reality, who, according to Christian theology is Jesus, became part of a living being.
How and when this happened is not clear and it brings us to the first hurdle that we as Christians have to get over in trying to find a synthesis between the scientific theory of evolution and the Biblical account of Adam and Eve. I have already discussed in my last program the problems presented by a literal interpretation of this account and how many other possible interpretations open up when it is treated allegorically.
It should be noted that the further one goes back in human history, the more information is conveyed through stories and myths that often contained truths that have to be understood allegorically. For example, Greek mythology is full of stories that convey deep psychological truths and the parables of Jesus do the same. In other words, they did not give scientific explanations based on abstract language that were aimed at the left lobe. Rather they used imaginative, pictorial language aimed at the right lobe. We do the same thing with children because, since their left lobes are underdeveloped, we have to use language designed to speak to the right lobe. Let me give you an example.
I am going to tell your left lobe why lying is a sin. “Lying is wrong because the primary purpose of speech is to communicate information and lying “misses the rational target or mark” of language – which is the definition for sin – by communicating misinformation and consequently interferes with the advancement of human knowledge by destroying the trust that people must have in what other people say.” In other words, it is a violation of the logical purpose of speech.
Now I am going to tell your right lobe the same thing in language that it can understand.
“There once was a little boy that lived in a mountain village who was given the job of looking over the sheep. The townspeople told him that if a wolf should appear that he should call out ‘Wolf! Wolf!” and they could come running to save him. The little boy became lonely and wanting the people to visit him cried out “Wolf! Wolf!” When the townspeople realized that he was lying, they warned him not to do it again since they were very busy. However, he became lonely again and did the same thing…”
I’m sure you know the rest of the story of the “Little Boy Who Cried Wolf!” and how he was eaten up by the wolf when the townspeople failed to respond because of his previous lying.
Both explanations contain the same lesson but communicated it in different styles. The first explanation uses abstract language that can’t be pictured. For example, what mental pictures do the words, “The primary purpose of speech is to communicate information…” create? None! They are abstract words that only the left lobe of the brain can appreciate. Now what about words like, “There once was a little boy who lived in a mountain village…”? These are words to which the non-verbal right lobe, which thinks in pictures, can relate and that is why my children always asked me to tell them the story of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” before going to bed instead of the logical explanation that I gave to your left lobe.
Now what would you think if my children ask me, “What was the little boy’s name? Where was the village located? What was the date that this happened? How did his parents feel about the townspeople who refused to go the third time? Did they capture the wolf and what happened to him? Or what would you think if the people to whom Jesus preached asked him, “What was the name of the sower who sowed some seeds? Why did he sow some on rocky grounds? Why didn’t he see that there were thorn bushes that would crowd out the seeds he had sown?
Most of us would agree that such questions are missing the point. These stories are not meant to be taken literally. They are simply imaginative vehicles for conveying a lesson or truth to the right hemisphere of our brains and to treat them as literal accounts detracts from their value as allegorical symbols. But, if this is true, why use them? Why not use literal language to convey literal truths? Because the younger we are and the more primitive we are, the less developed is our left lobe and the more truths have to be presented in stories, myths, and parables. Jesus seems to have understood this and that is why the scriptures say that whenever he spoke, he spoke to the people in parables.
Thus, the account of Adam and Eve, that goes back perhaps thousands of years before Christ, was an explanation aimed at a pre-literate population whose left hemisphere, like those of a child, were underdeveloped. Could you imagine presenting them with an explanation of the beginning of the universe based on our scientific understanding of today. It would go something like this:
“In the beginning was the Event Horizon in which non-linear space existed without time. Compressed within it was all the matter of the universe, including the earth, planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies. At the point of “critical mass”, the Event Horizon exploded and “space begot time” as the universe expanded. At first, the subatomic world, consisting of quarks, leptons, besons, and 200 other subatomic particles, constituted a chaotic world of unstable particles that crashed into each other and split into other particles. Then, a positively charged proton formed and joined with a negatively charged electron and the first stabilized form of energy resulted in the hydrogen atom etc…”
Now, because I barely understand this myself, I have expressed it in common laymen’s terms that an average person might be able to follow. If a physicists were to explain it at his level of understanding and in scientific terms, we would all be lost. Even if what he said was true, it would a truth that would be beyond our understanding and comprehension. He, like Jesus, might have to say, “There are many other truths that I would like to tell you, but you are not ready to received them…”
Therefore, it should not surprise us that the book of Genesis is not a scientific explanation of the Creation and that it might use allegorical material to express deep spiritual truths rather than concrete scientific truths.
How much of the story of Adam and Eve is allegorical and how much of it is literal is subject to interpretation. And since the Church has not made any definitive statement on it, we are free to interpret it either way. Obviously, there had to be a first man and woman and that would be literally true but after that the story seems to contain elements that are better interpreted on the symbolic rather than literal level. However, suit yourself since our salvation does not depend on how we interpret the account in Genesis. Nevertheless, we should at least consider what some of the implications are when it is looked at allegorically. And that is why I spent the last part of my previous program reading an extensive quote by Dr. Eric Fromm, a famous secular humanist, whose views are very close to the Christian gospel. That fact that he is Jewish and a psychiatrists allowed us to see this Biblical account from two different points of view.
Furthermore, unlike some other secular humanist, Dr. Fromm believes that the standards for sanity, truth, and morality are objective rather than subjective. His theory of Normative Humanism opposes the current theory of Sociological Relativism, held by many cultural anthropologists. Whereas Sociological Relativism implies that all cultures are equal since each one is an attempt by a human group to survive by adapting to their environment, Dr. Fromm believes that survival alone is not enough. Whereas the sociological relativist say that different cultures are merely different answers to the problems of human existence, Dr. Fromm says that some answers are better than others and the one that is most compatible with human nature is the best.
His book the Sane Society, which implies that societies themselves can be insane, says that we all share a common human nature and only that society that is most compatible with our basic nature qualifies as the Sane Society. The idea of a shared human nature is basic to Catholic philosophy and the Kingdom of God is just another name for a Sane Society. Unfortunately for Fromm, as for most secular humanist, the Sane Society is some form of Communism or Socialism. In some future program, I will address this issue further. But for now I would like to return to some of the quotes by Dr. Fromm from my last program concerning that point in time in the evolutionary process when the Mental Level begins with the advent of human reason.
Concerning the mental lives of animals, Dr. Fromm wrote:
“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).”
The significance of this is made clear when we read Helen Keller’s description of her own mental life before she acquired language. She wrote:
“For nearly six years I had no idea whatever of nature or mind or death or God. I literally thought with my body. Without a single exception my memories of that time are related to touch. For thirty years, I have examined and reexamined that part of my development in the light of new theories, and I am convinced of the correctness of what I am saying. I know I was impelled like an animal to seek food and warmth. I remember crying, but not the grief that caused the tears. I kicked, and because I recall it physically, I know I was angry. I imitated those about me when I made signs for things I wanted to eat, or helped find eggs in my mother’s farmyard. But there is not one spark of emotion or rational thought in these distinct yet bodily memories. I was like an unconscious clod of earth. Then, suddenly, I knew not how or where or when, my brain felt the impact of another’s mind, and I awoke to language, to knowledge, to love, to the usual concept of nature, of good and evil. I was actually lifted from nothingness to human life.”
In other words, like an animal she was living in Gehenna, the Old Testament word for hell, which means “empty thought? She continues:
“When the sun of consciousness first shone upon me, behold a miracle! Down in the depths of my being I cried, “It’s good to be alive!” I held out two trembling hands to life. The world to which I awoke was still mysterious, but there were hope and love and God in it, and nothing else mattered. Is it not possible that our entrance into heaven may be like this experience of mine?”
Language, you might remember from some of my previous programs, is located in the left hemisphere of our brains that is also the source of rational, logical thought and reason. It is what makes our brains reflective and separates us from the animal kingdom. It is also the source of morality because, since it knows “true, logical purposes”, it possesses the “knowledge of good and evil.” Without it we would all live in Gehenna, which is a Kingdom of Mental Darkness or Empty Thought. Nor could we ever emerge from it because the Logos, which through its knowledge of the Truth could set us free, would be missing.
What this suggests are some revolutionary new insights into the meaning of the Gospel. First, it suggests that there is a correspondence between the evolution of the universe and the development of every human life. As one poet put it, “Man is the macrocosm, microscopically expressed.” In other words, if we understood the universe, we would understand ourselves; or if we understood ourselves, we would understand the universe because we both are operating according to the same principles. Both the universe and we begin in Gehenna, the place of “empty thought” and begin to develop from the “unconscious to the conscious.”
Second, it suggest that in both instances, it is the Logos of God, located in the left hemisphere of our brains or in the laws of Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, that is leading us and the creation out of darkness of “empty thought” into the light of “conscious thought” by revealing to us the Truth that will set us free.
Third, it suggest that the hell of “fire and brimstone” is the one feared by our hedonistic animal nature that lives by its feelings, but it is Gehenna or “empty thought” that is most feared by our rational nature that desires most to “know the Truth, to love the Truth, and to serve the Truth” day by day. The greatest fear of a rational being is to remain an animal when the gift of rational thought was within its grasp. Thus, the devil, who is the Prince of Darkness, is often portrayed as a manlike creature with horns, a tail, and cloven hooves. Get the picture?
Fourth, hell or Gehenna, the place of “empty thought” is not a place that we are “going to” but rather a “state of being” into which we are born and from which we spend our entire life struggling to “get out of.” If this is the case, then hell is not a punishment, it is a “state of being” in which all animals live and salvation from it is a “gift” offered by the Logos of God to rational beings. But like any gift it can be accepted or rejected. Thus, St. John says, “Why does God condemn Man? Because the Light (of Understanding) came into the world and Men loved Darkness or empty thought.” The significance of this is seen by the fact that the word “amusement” means “without thought” and it appears that when one looks at the TV viewing preferences of the American public, programs that amuse draw a much greater audience than programs that inform.
Fifth, since the way out of the prison of Gehenna is to know and follow the Truth, then the Hegelian Dialectic is the path to salvation. It is a path of struggle, death, and rebirth to a higher level of understanding. In other words, it’s the “law of development” that Jesus portrayed in His passion, death, and resurrection. He said that He had come to “show us” the way to eternal life and “if we have eyes to see and ears to hear” we will “pick up our crosses” or antitheses of life and follow Him, the Truth, out of our hell of “empty thought” into the world of “conscious understanding.” Thus, Hegel was right when he said that history or evolution was a struggle to reach God, the Ultimate Truth, through a dialectical process. For a fuller explanation of this, I refer you back to my tapes on the Hegelian Dialectic.
One of the key concepts in Hegel’s dialectic is “struggle”, a concept that Karl Marx borrowed when he turned Hegel on his head by claiming that history was struggling towards a man-made Communist utopia instead of the Ultimate Truth or God. But it is also a concept found in Genesis that resulted when Adam and Eve ate from the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” They were told that as a result of their action, their lives would now become a struggle. What this means is subject to interpretation and Eric Fromm suggests the following ond. He wrote;
“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. 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. 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!”
You might remember that Helen Keller said that before her left lobe was activated through the acquisition of language that “ I had no idea whatever of nature or mind or death or God.” So, was the eating from the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” the beginning of rational thought in human beings? And, if it was, what type of knowledge did they have before? I have already mentioned that we have two types of knowledge: intuitive and logical. The creative, artistic, right hemisphere of our brains knows intuitively without any effort while the logical, technological, left hemisphere knows through the long process of logical analysis. The first knows holistically, that is totally and instantly, while the second knows partially and must build the truth step-by-step. We know that there are human beings, known as savants, that, although they would be considered to be retarded by our standard I.Q. tests that are heavily weighted towards left lobe intelligence, they are able to perform amazing mental feats without any formal learning or training. Sixty Minutes ran a segment about three such savants. The first was a man, who by his appearance and the way he spoke would be immediately identified as being retarded. Yet, in twenty minutes, without any formal artistic training, he was able to mold a piece of wax into the most beautiful and anatomically accurate statues of animal in action poses. When asked how he was able to do this he said that God gave him the talent and that he had a pictorial memory that allowed him to mold the wax without any need to constantly return to an objective model.
The second was a man who was a human calendar. He could give you the day of the week on which any date fell going from the year 1 A.D. to infinity. Yet, he was unable to do simple addition and subtraction. The movie, “Rainman”, described a similar savant, played by Dustin Hoffman.
The third man was Lester Lemke, who was born blind and unable to walk or talk. Yet, through the persistence of his foster mother, he learned to do both. But even more amazing was his ability to play instantly any piece of music that he heard, including complex classical pieces.
His foster mother, who played the piano, awoke one night to the strains of a classical piece that was being played on the piano. At first, she thought she had left the radio on. But when she went to investigate, she found Lester, who was then a teenage, sitting at the piano playing. He never had a lesson, could not even see the keyboard, and yet he was playing classical music effortlessly. How is this possible? We don’t know but it definitely indicates that the human brain is capable of performing mental feats that defy logic. Most of us, even if we could duplicate these feats, would have to study and practice for long periods of time, yet these savants perform them without any effort, and they are as much befuddles as we are as to how they are able to do it. In other words, they know without knowing how they know.
Science is full of examples of scientists who have struggled for years trying to solve an issue through logical analysis and then, during a dream or flash of insight, the answer comes to them total and complete. Sometimes, it is presented in a symbolic form. This, of course, is how the intuitive, holistic right lobe knows.
Is this also how Adam and Eve knew before they ate from the “Tree of the Knowledge or Good and Evil”? If so, then is “reason” a blessing or a curse or both? Let’s return to Eric Fromm’s observations on this issue. He wrote:
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 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.”
Helen Keller throws more light on this question when she writes:
“Several years later my life enlarged when I learned to speak. I can never cease to marvel and be excited by that event of thirty-six years ago, it stands out so isolated, miraculous, baffling. Think of changing mute, soulless air into speech in the midst of midnight silence. Literally, I had no concepts of speech, and my touch was not enough to convey to me the thousand vibrations of spoken words. The pain and disappointment I have endured (in learning to speak clearly) are incalculable; but they are a price worth paying for the joy I have in being able to keep this living bond between the outer world and myself. As I learned to talk and to put feeling into what I said, I sensed more and more the miracle of all time and eternity-- the reality of thought! Thought, out of which are wrought books, philosophies, sciences, civilizations, and the joy and the woe of the human race!”
Notice that she says “the joy and the woe of the human race!” Reason is a two-edge sword that cuts both ways. The price that we pay for it is the loss or diminishing of our intuitive powers and the benefit we gain is “conscious awareness” of ourselves and others. Yet, according to Helen Keller, it was a price worth paying because it took us out of the subjective world of feelings and brought us into the objective world of knowing. Through language, we became able to name and transmit our own feelings and ideas to others and, in the words of Helen Keller, “keep this living bond between the outer world and myself.”
It appears that there is an easy way of knowing and a hard way and language has placed us on the harder path. As one famous scientists put it, “After scientists have climb the long, arduous mountain of ultimate knowledge, they will find theologians and poets already sitting there.”
So what was the Original Sin of Adam and Eve? Was it that they weren’t satisfied with just knowing. They wanted to know “Why?” In other words, they wanted a “reason.” They weren’t satisfied with just knowing “the good”, they wanted to know why it was “good” and, in doing so, they upset their intuitive connection with God and, as a result, entered a long, arduous, struggling path back to Him through painful logical deduction. But maybe it was part of the plan from the beginning because once the Creator bestowed free will on a creature, He accepted the risk that one day it would exercise it in opposition to His will.
Eric Fromm has another theory that might explain why this rebellion was inevitable. Although Fromm began as a Freudian he soon broke with Freud because of Freud’s emphasis on sex or pleasure as being the basic motivating force behind human behavior. Fromm said that there was one thing people desired more than pleasure or sex and feared more than pain. Our greatest desire, he said, was to belong and our greatest fear was “being alone.” And the type of aloneness that we feared most was “moral aloneness” which we experience when we are in the middle of a crowd and feel totally unconnected. To overcome this fear of moral aloneness, humans would face excruciating pain and even death itself. Witness for example, the Islamic suicide bombers and members of the Irish Republican Army who starved themselves to death in defense of their cause.
Thus, according to Fromm, the real test of mental health is how we belong. There are basically two way: destructive and productive. A destructive relationship, which he calls sado/masochistic, uses two opposing methods to establish an order system to which one can belong. The sadist bring order to his world by controlling others and the masochist bring it by having someone control him. In its pathological form it lead to “sado/masochistic” sex based on domination and torture. However, in its normal form it is the typical relationship between parent and child. The parent needs to control the child, for its own good, and the child, being incapable of being free is insecure, and seeks to be controlled. However, this should be just a stepping-stone towards a productive relationship based on creativity and freedom.
As the child grows and learns how to take care of its own needs, it seeks to demand more freedom and independence. Finally, at maturity, it should be ready to break the destructive relationship with the parent that was based on power and obligation. In essence it is an unfree relationship because the unwritten law is that parents must love their children and vice-versa. At this point, a number of things could happen. The parents could refuse to let go and continue to try to rule the child’s life past the point of maturity or the child could refuse to leave by remaining dependent on the parent. In both cases, the destructive relationship would continue. Or the opposite could happen. The child, glad to be free of the parent’s power and control and having never established any meaningful relationship with its parent could leave and never return except for those occasional obligatory visits at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The third possibility is that both the parent and child break the destructive relationship and reestablish a productive one based on freedom and mutual respect.
This is the same scenario that often exists between God and us. We begin with a destructive relationship based on His power over us and our need to depend on Him. Being frightened and insecure, we look upon Him as someone who will remove all the problems from our lives. Then as we grow up and start to have some sense of independence, we become “full of ourselves” and believe ourselves to be self sufficient and independent. Therefore, we stop going to church and forget about any relationship with God. As far as we are concerned it was a forced relationship based on obligation and the only reason we ever had any connection to Him was “what He could do for us” and our fear of being punished for sinning or missing Mass. Once the need, fear, and obligation disappeared that was the end of the relationship.
However, some of us as we matured came to understand that He was not a dictator forcing Himself upon us but, rather, He was Love, and that whenever we experienced it, we experienced Him. At this point, we came to the same conclusion that St. Theresa did: “Even if there were no heaven, we would still obey Him, and even if there were no hell, we would still fear the loss of Him.” At that moment, according to Fromm, we would have replaced a destructive relationship based on need, force, and obligation with a productive one based on love and freedom.
This was the point made by the hymn “The Song of Thanksgiving” that said:
“Love that’s freely given, wants to freely be received…” Therefore, maybe the sin of Adam and Eve had to take place because it might have been the first conscious act of freedom.
Well, I see that my time is up. Here’s Dom!