The Words of the Harvey Family


Todd Harvey

I am generally hesitant to get involved in theological debates, as I find them usually as relevant to me as the question "how many angels can fit on the head of a pin?". However, the "fall" is so central to a persons general world view, that I think a few words are in order.

The central tenet to everything the Unification Church (and traditional Christian belief, to be sure) rests on is the notion that mankind "fell" from grace in the "Garden of Eden". This fall accounts for all the troubles, suffering, and strife in the world, and our separation from God. The Unification Church would not exist in any recognizable form today if there were no "fall". It's a concept that is not to hard to sell to a potential recruit - it seems to have widespread acceptance, we've all heard of "the fall of man", and after all, it is in the Bible. To a young and idealistic person who dreams of a better world, it seems self evident that something "went wrong". But does this idea really stand up to scrutiny? I would like to challenge this doctrine from several viewpoints: the weaknesses of the arguments supporting it in general and the Unification Church version in particular, secular alternatives to a fall, and alternative biblical interpretations of the story in Genesis.

I think it is fair to point out that any one wishing to convince me of this doctrine's validity has to resort first hand to some very shaky premises - that we must necessarily grant some special authority to the bible, that God "spoke" to people in that time in a way He/She doesn't today, and that any ones interpretation of this book is more trustworthy than an others. Biblical "literalism" (i.e., believing there really were two people Adam and Eve, that they actually were the first ancestors of all humankind on Earth today, that they did something to "fall from grace", and cause all of the worlds problems, etc) is not an intellectually rigorous approach. Any "argument from authority" - "well, we all know the bible is the inspired word of God," etc. is very weak indeed, not unreasonable to reject outright. An honest appraisal of what biblical literalists are doing is this: giving a literal interpretation to uncertain translations of an ancient religious text of unknown provenance, to mythical and allegorical stories. This approach to any other facet of life in the modern age would elicit raised eyebrows and sidelong glances.

There are many problems with the story itself, Unification Church or traditional Christian. The first objection is the old question "Where did Cain's wife come from?" Any attempt to provide some explanation for this dilemma will necessarily raise more questions than answers. Other problems in the Divine Principle version:

1) God had the Archangel Lucifer "help" in the upbringing of Adam and Eve. This seems an absurd proposition - why would God need help? If I remember right, the Divine Principle tries to address this by saying God only relates directly to things in perfection, and couldn't directly raise Adam and Eve. Yet Lucifer was not perfect, still in the growth stage, but could apparently relate directly with God. He knew God's will.
2) Why was Lucifer a sexual being? Are angels busy "up there" creating there own angel families? Why would they if they were created to be "servants to assist in the creation of the universe"?
3) What was the "motivation and process of the fall" for all the other angels who apparently fell along with Lucifer? According to the Divine Principle there were very specific reasons relating to Lucifer's position and mission, which aren't relevant to any other angels.
4) The Divine Principle says Lucifer was a being of love, and not yet grown to perfection himself. It also says the power of love is stronger than the power of the principle, but not stronger than the power of the principle plus the commandment. If God did not give Lucifer the commandment, and Lucifer was a being of love, wouldn't Lucifer necessarily have "fallen"?
5) And if Lucifer HAD fulfilled his responsibility to Adam and Eve without falling, wouldn't he be part creator of Adam and Eve? The Divine Principle says God alone should be creator.
6) In an effort to show that the fruit was not a literal one, the Divine Principle asks "would a God of Love test man so mercilessly by a means that could cause his death?" and "how could God - make a fruit so tempting that his children would risk falling in order to eat it? How could he have placed such a harmful fruit where his children could reach it so easily?" These are good questions, but the same reasoning can be used against the very concept of a fall, or that the fall was sexual in nature.
7) Isaiah 14:12 is quoted to support the Divine Principle version of the fall, yet if read in context, points to hubris and abuse of power as being the nature of the fall.
8) There are other places in Genesis that seem to contradict the Divine Principle version, as in Genesis 2:24 alluding to Adam and Eve having sex, "becoming one flesh" before the fall, in Gen 9:1 God grants the three blessings to Noah, which according to Divine Principle are unobtainable due to the fall, and Genesis 3:22 indicates that eating from the the tree of life would make one live forever, not become perfect. (Now, I'm sure that many Unification Church's have considered some or all of these problems, and can come up with some "explanation" which satisfies them, at least superficially. I decided ultimately that instead of trying to maintain elaborate defenses of the faith, I should start from the beginning and examine everything.)

In support of the concept of a fall, people often refer to the "weakness of the flesh" syndrome, that this conflict between what our "spirit" wants and what our "flesh" wants is a manifestation of the fall. (I think it is fair to point out that religious teachers can't on the one hand continually drum into us the notion that pleasure is sinful, and then point to guilt over our pleasure as a proof of our sinfulness.) I don't accept that "the flesh is weak". People with well-adjusted sense of guilt and responsibility don't flog themselves over natural, biological, hormonally driven urges. And conflicting desires and motivations does not require a fall. Humans are just barely out of the cave, in a geological context, not very far along on this journey to the higher realms. It is not at all surprising that we have primordial urges and instincts, which sometimes come into conflict with what our civilized, compassionate, loving self desires. Animals just behave on instinct, without choice, and don't ponder too greatly the consequences of their behavior. One can presume they don't have a lot of guilt in their lives. As sentient beings who do make choices and do consider the consequences, we will always have some internal wrangling going on, just by virtue of being sentient, while not omnipotent. No "fall" is required.

The really interesting thing is that support for this interpretation can be found in the Genesis story itself. If we look at the essence of what happened, and don't get distracted by symbols of trees and serpents, we can see it in a new light. What exactly was it that caused this expulsion from the Garden - what specifically changed in Adam and Eve to cause this, what was different in them that they couldn't stay? Specifically, it was that their "eyes were opened", and they knew "good and evil", they "became wise, like God." All of this, of course, is just another way of saying becoming aware, becoming conscious, and becoming human. It's easy to live in a perfect world when you don't see what's going on. When you become truly aware, it's much harder to believe that your world is paradise. (If you think this notion far fetched, and proposing something new and radical, consider that this was a central theme in both "The Truman Show" and "Pleasantville")

This interpretation works on two levels - that of individual humans in the process of growing up, and that of humanity as a whole in the process of evolving into sentience. A child lives in a fantasy world, not too connected to reality, and runs around naked without embarrassment. When they get older and start seeing things with adult eyes, it is often an unpleasant awakening. As a species, it was natural that when we developed the brainpower to think about our situation, to ponder the future, we realized that tomorrow we might get stomped on by a woolly mammoth, and the garden suddenly didn't seem so idyllic.

As I was thinking about this, it struck me how similar the Genesis story is - God not wanting people to be like God, - to the Greek and Roman mythologies where angry, jealous gods were ready strike down any mortals arrogant enough to aspire to godliness themselves. (I think the story of Icarus is one example.) In Gen. 3:22 God even says "man has become like us, knowing..." speaking in plural. Was he speaking as a "trinity", to angels, or to other gods? Knowing how often the myths and symbols of one culture are picked up on, retold, modified or embellished, it is not hard to believe that the author(s) of Genesis were simply retelling ancient mythologies.

So, are we to look at the story in Genesis as a secret code revealing paradise lost and angelic misdeeds, or as simply some incredibly insightful ADAM's (ancient dead Abrahamite mystic) attempt, using myth and symbolism, to answer some of the basic questions of life - why isn't the world perfect? Why don't we live forever? Why do women suffer in childbirth? Why must we toil and sweat and work the Earth, and why do weeds and thorns plague our efforts? What are rainbows? Why are we afraid of snakes?

For myself, I don't think there is any compelling reason to get too wrapped up in this fable, any more than I do any other of the myths and creation stories that exist. They were the product of peoples who's understanding of the world was so antiquated, so limited, that their world view can't possibly be a reliable guide today. For them the world was flat, the center of the universe, around which the sun and stars revolved. "Heaven" and the Gods were up in the clouds, fire and the bad place was down below. When people acted strangely, they must be possessed by "demons". Now we know about planets, stars and space. We know about volcanoes and geology. We know about Turets syndrome, epilepsy, neuro-physiology and are getting a grasp on the intricasies of the human brain. We are about to enter the new millennium. Our paradigms and worldviews should be appropriate for the time.

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