Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The Expulsion From Paradise
THE EXPULSION FROM PARADISE
I have already mentioned that consciousness is bound up with polarity. That is why in Paradise man was forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge, on pain of becoming mortal. In Paradise man possessed cosmic consciousness but no individual consciousness. The snake crept from the tree and persuaded man to go the way of knowledge. Through eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge man became aware of good and evil. He plunged from oneness into polarity of consciousness, separating himself from oneness and thereby becoming sinful. Sin is separation from the primal oneness. Consequently every human being is sinful, for polarity and sin are the same thing. This state of affairs is what the Church calls original sin. Sin is the pride we pay for knowledge. All too often we overlook this inseparable connection between knowledge and sin.
The expulsion of man from Paradise or from cosmic consciousness is the fall into polarity and, at the same time, into matter. Only material man is mortal, only the material world sinful. This is what we meant when, in talking about the preparation of homeopathic remedies, we spoke of the poisonous nature of the whole of creation. The entire material world is sinful, has fallen from unity and longs to return. The coarsest matter represents the farthest departure from the source, from the primal light. Matter symbolizes darkness. The Qabalists define evil as “lack of light”. Therefore matter has always been associated with evil, dark and satanic attributes. Thus Satan, as the polar opposite of light, has rightly been called “Lord of this world”. Light falling into material darkness is an involution, a downward movement which reaches a nadir and is then changed into an upward movement, an evolution, just as a pendulum, when it reaches a certain point, begins to swing in the opposite direction. Thus in all living beings there is an innate longing which constantly causes them to seek their true home. Mankind calls this the longing for happiness, but happiness is synonymous with the overcoming of polarity and the rediscovery of unity.
On the material and physical level the search for unity is called sexuality. Polarity, which manifests itself physically as sexual division, is overcome through the sexual act, and the blissful feeling of unity is experienced in the orgasm. In this physical unity people become “god-like” and can do something that they cannot do as polarized beings: namely generate life. However, the joy that goes with physical union is not lasting, which is why we try to regain it again and again by frequent repetition of the sexual act. The physical world is subject to time, which is why all material and physical joy is ephemeral.
If we translate the experience of sexuality onto the mental and spiritual plane it becomes clear that the human longing for eternal happiness can only be stilled by a return to the unity from which we originally came. This ultimate fusion with the great, all-embracing consciousness is the goal common to many different religions and esoteric systems, and a variety of images and terms are used to describe it: the Chemical Wedding of the alchemists, the conjunction of opposites, the unio mystica, and so on.
All these images and terms indicate the same thing: the return to divine unity. This step is, however, inseparably bound up with the task of the ego. As long as a person fortifies this ego-dominance he will further reinforce polarity. As long as there is an “I” there is also something that is “not I”. Every time we say “I will” we raise the wall that divides us from unity. This is why all religions teach us to love our neighbour, for only love is able to overcome the dominance of the ego.
The question arises why creation came into being at all, if the goal is to return to the original unity. Any attempt to answer this question requires a certain degree of boldness as it takes us into issues which are so remote from ordinary human consciousness that our minds are hardly adequate to deal with them. Nevertheless by means of images and metaphor we can at least approach the answer analogically. When creation returns to its origin, it returns richer and more conscious than when it left the state of unity. It is precisely through the progress of becoming separate and individual that the journey of apprenticeship is completed and unity is ultimately enriched. Thus the myth of Lucifer, the light-bringer, states that God was especially fond of him because he broke the law of unity, fell and sinned. One day he will return, voluntarily, purified by experience, and God will rejoice like the father who, when his long-lost son returned, slaughtered a calf and held a feast.
The central meaning of man's part in the story of creation lies precisely in his fall on account of knowledge. Thus it is not a question of labelling the world as a devilish thing and demanding that man escape from all earthly things as quickly as possible to seek his happiness on a plane of pseudo-spirituality. Unfortunately there are groups that take this attitude, believing that it is “esoteric” to flee from the world, even though one cannot solve a problem by skirting around it, only by confronting it directly. Flight from the world has nothing to do with overcoming or redeeming the world.
Jesus taught redemption by descending fully into mankind, a descent described in numerous images in the Bible. Into darkness came light. That is why we celebrate Christmas, the birth of the light at the time of greatest darkness, the winter solstice. Jesus was born into poverty in a stable, he associated with tax gatherers and prostitutes, endured injustice, torture and death, and descended into hell. Not until man has descended fully into darkness is he ready to begin the upward ascent. This law is the stumbling block of all those who use esoteric teachings as an excuse for the fact that they will not or cannot master their earthly life. As long as man possesses a physical body he is bound to polarity. Every breach or infringement of polarity brings inescapable downfall.
The crown of a tree can only spread and develop to the degree that the roots are extended. If it neglects its root growth in favour of the crown it will be toppled by the first gust of wind. The upward thrust must always be anchored in the opposite pole. You cannot escape darkness by not looking at it; you have to transmute it into light if you do not want to drag it behind as your shadow.
If one had to point out a salient difference between Christianity and the oriental religions, it would surely lie in the life-affirming nature of the original Christianity, however much the Church later distorted this into its opposite. Herein lie the strength and the secret of Christianity: to recognize the world and mankind as sinful and yet to affirm them in their sinfulness.
This profound connection between knowledge and sin, fall and redemption is brought out in the Grail legend when it relates that the Grail cup in which Christ's blood was collected had been carved from the gem the dropped out of the crown of Lucifer when he fell. The fall is the descent from unity into polarity. Man per se is sinful only when he exists as a polarized being. This is what is meant by the concept of original sin. Humanity cannot be released from guilt – but it can be redeemed.