by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
"All creation groaneth for redemption." — Paul
There is this peculiar myth seemingly running throughout every religious tradition — the belief in an ancient Golden Age lost through a Fall. Corollaries are that we and the world must be saved, and when that has happened, there will be a new utopian age.
Creator-gods require such a fall, of course, for otherwise they must assume direct responsibility for this mess. There are still philosophical problems, of course, so devils are added to the mix. But even they have been created, so the 'problem of evil' persists.
But I can think of no religion which does not in some way believe in a fall and the need of redemption. Even philosophical Taoism makes frequent reference to a time when all human beings were sages, a time of innocence, a time, indeed, before religion.
This should not surprise us, I guess, given the way things are. This quote from Paul cited above does somehow seem to ring true. The world is an incredibly beautiful place, yet it is still red in tooth and claw. Everything is eating everything else, usually alive. Everything dies, and not always in its sleep. Yesterday, I removed a young, tire-flattened garter snake from the driveway. I groanethed.
Is this a problem? Maybe not. We are, after all, a work in progress, and thus require myths to sustain us in our imperfect groanings. And there is certainly something wonderful in the very hunger that we have for perfection and a perfect world.
Still, for many in today's world, these myths are no longer available as possibilities. The beauty of evolutionary theory (myth?) is that it does away with direct creation and, consequentially, the need for a fall. Nor does it posit any purpose, past or future. If things seem to be a mess, that's because that's the way Nature works, and that's all there is to say about it. Nothing requires redemption, because nothing was ever 'lost'. It's all just emerging, arising. There is no lost 'ideal', and thus no need to measure present reality against it.
Nature is not moral. Reality is not moral. That humanity is moral, has a moral sense, is wonderful and is probably necessary to our survival, at least in the complexity of our present hive. We should exercise that morality as an expression of our humanity. It is a mistake, however, to superimpose that morality onto Reality. Rather, should we wish to realize harmony with Reality, we must allow it to inform us. It's a matter of perspective. When we "walk two roads", as Zhuangzi suggests, we do not abandon one for the other, but rather transcend the boxes of our minds in being informed by both.
I am not implying that we adopt evolutionary theory, or any other theory, as our new myth. It seems reasonable enough, 'scientific', but the real point is, as much as possible, to be free of all myths. We do not 'know' anything. We do, however, seem to require a working paradigm.
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