Synopsis: The birth and development of consciousness , what was created 6000 years ago, resolving the Creationist – Darwinism debate.(Word Count=1299)
One of the central tenets of Jungian psychology is that we live in two worlds – the outer world where things happen out in the open, where wars occur and what we normally call "history" happens, and the inner world, to which Jung devoted a lifetime of study. This is the world where the Ego, the part of ourselves that we call "me" or "I", experiences a monumental struggle to maintain it's coherency and path of development. However, because the struggle is very difficult, and the forces of the unconscious facing the Ego so powerful and frightening, direct experience of this inner world is rare. Most people must be content with experiencing the inner life in a second-hand manner, through other people or, commonly, through other stories which are created for this purpose and which we call myths. In Jungian theory, myths are a story we tell ourselves so that we can make sense of our experiences in this world. Some myths are private, created by the individual for his own purposes, but some experiences are so universal that the myths created about them appeal to most everyone, throughout the ages. One such myth is the powerful story of Genesis, which continues to fascinate us to this day, In fact, it so meaningful that it is still a central issue in American public life, driving the debate between "Creationism and Darwinism".
This post will try to explain what the Genesis myth is concerned with from a psychological point of view, and how this is still relevant for us today.
What The Genesis Story Can Teach Us About Our Psyche
I will assume that the reader is familiar with the story of Genesis and will proceed to count several defining characteristics of this creation story:
- Creation needs light. Without light nothing can be seen nor identified because nothing has form.
- Creation is shaping things out of chaos, defining boundaries, separating one thing from another, naming them.
- A Supreme being called "God" is The Creator and ruler of everything He creates.
- Man has a special relationship with God, as a son to a Father.
- In the Beginning man lives an effortless, blissful existence in the Garden of Eden, devoid of self-awareness.
- Man discovers self-consciousness, the good life ends and is replaced by a harsh existence of struggle with the world. Self-Consciousness is punished.
- The way back to Eden is barred by guards and a vigilant sword.
- Immortality is forbidden to man.
The story of Genesis is usually understood to be the story of the creation of the world and man. But in the Jungian view this is the story of the creation of the world as understood and experienced by the Ego and told by itself to itself – and to others sharing the same experience. In other words, this is the story of the birth of self-consciousness – projected upon the outer world. In this story, the Ego answers the universal question – where did "I" come from? Since the question is timeless as well as universal, it comes as no surprise that the answer is still relevant today, and more – that similar answers have been given in other origin myths all over the world throughout history. In such myths, consciousness is always born out of darkness – the unconsciousness - and it is always depicted as light. Self-consciousness is always and everywhere understood to be a dividing, defining, delineating, separating, naming agent. The beginning of human life is always a delightful, effortless existence, and the birth of self-consciousness is described as a painful and shocking experience, one that runs contrary to the natural order of the world. Always the way back to the prior unconscious existence is blocked, and immortality denied to the Ego. Finally, the relationship between God and His creation, man, is actually the relationship between the Ego and the Self. In other words – we really are "created", so to speak, by a higher or at least more complete and knowing "being", since the Self – the totality of the personality - is indeed omniscient, at least in regard to our own personal existence. In this respect it is quite correct to speak of a personal destiny, a calling, and a higher purpose laid down for us, partly hidden, by the Self. The Genesis myth reminds us that human history, personal as well as collective, is first and foremost the tale of our relationship with ourselves, the relationship between the Ego and the Self, between us and God.
When Was The World Really Created?
Interestingly, Jewish tradition holds that the world was created nearly 6000 thousand years ago, in the fourth millennium. Scientific evidence tells us that this is patently false. However, from the psychological viewpoint this date certainly has some merit. If we accept that the story of Genesis is indeed the story of the birth and development of consciousness, then there are many historic dates that can be celebrated as "The Beginning" of self-consciousness. The beginning of the world may relate to the first time man spoke, the first tool made, perhaps the discovery of fire. But Judaism specifically mentions the middle of the fourth millennium as the beginning, and it is there that we must search for a significant event in human history. Interestingly enough, the fourth millennium is commonly agreed to be the beginning of history, in other words this was the first time that writing appears as a complete and coherent system in ancient, nearby Sumeria. I suggest that the ability to record events for posterity is, psychologically, a day of independence for the Ego. It signifies our ability to step out of the natural cycle and create an abstract, alternative world, with a linear time-line as opposed to the natural cyclical one. In this world the Ego can reign supreme, and it is also immortal - since words cannot be erased. Perhaps in the mind of the author of the myth this event was seen as "The Beginning" - the birthday of a new era of human independence and self-sufficiency, after thousands of years of constant struggle with his own inner nature, and the natural outer world.
Understanding the Creationist – Darwinist Debate
Creationism is a belief in a literal interpretation of the Genesis story and the Bible, a belief which cannot possibly be reconciled with the theory of evolution developed by Darwin. Creationists in the United States have been campaigning to give the creationist theory an equal standing with the scientific one, especially in school curriculum. But if we understand the story correctly, then the debate is moot. One side is talking about the origins of the psychical world and its center of experience – the Ego, while the other group is talking about the origins of the physical world. I believe that the passion of the creationists derives not from the bare facts of their argument, which rests on belief, but rather from their intuitive understanding that denying the origin of the Ego, and the special subservient relationship between the Ego and God (the Self), is extremely dangerous to the individual and even to society, as indeed it is. But, so is the opposite: negating the outer world in such a manner as to deny the senses and reason is no less an inflation of the Ego and no less dangerous. In order to live in harmony with ourselves we must recognize the validity of both viewpoints and work to incorporate them in our own lives. We must understand that we live in both worlds – inside ourselves as well as outside.
Next Week: Find Out If The Legendary Jewish Mother Is A Maximizer!