The Essence of Christianity

Chapter 3: The Loss of Paradise

Among the forces at work in this historical development is also the Power opposed to the divine plan. Man contains within him the possibility of evil, a possibility which has all too frequently found expression in the world. But, interestingly, man always feels the evil in himself as something foreign, as fundamentally alien to his nature, despite the fact that it may exert enormous power over him at a given moment. When we allow these alien forces of evil to work within us, we speak of ‘letting ourselves go’, of not knowing ourselves’. Each of us in his true nature would really like to be ‘good’ even if he does not admit it.

This elemental feeling that evil is something alien, not a part of our true being, confirms the view of the biblical tradition that evil did not reside in man from the beginning but entered him only at a specific point in time. At this moment it entered man as a foreign influence, as what one could call an infection of the soul-life. The Bible describes this event as the Fall, using the images of the serpent, tree and apple. These are of course pictures, but pictures which present themselves in a meaningful way to supersensory perception. Present-day man needs to translate them into modern concepts if he is to perceive them once more as higher truths.

How could a wise and loving God allow the power of evil to approach the still childlike, innocent human being and, as it were, infect his soul with egotism, thereby opening the way to all the future misery of mankind? We can begin to understand why by recalling that, as we all know well, a young person is not helped in his development by remaining constantly under the protection of his parents. If anything is to come of him, he must free himself from this protection. Parents must overcome their shortsighted fears and allow their young to step out into the hostile, dangerous world outside. The dangers must simply be taken as part of the deal. An insight like this, gained through experience of life, can offer us a window through which we gaze into deep secrets of the history of man. We begin to sense something of the quality of risk and daring in the divine plaii for humankind.

God’s nearness to created man would not have permitted true independence to arise. In his original natural state, man’s being and actions could not be anything but good. But the innocence of paradisal man was not the state ultimately intended for humankind. Following the Fall, our innocence is to be regained in future as holiness. Man will only become fully human when he can freely develop the good out the beginning but entered him only at a specific point in time. At this moment it entered man as a foreign influence, as what one could call an infection of the soul-life. The Bible describes this event as the Fall, using the images of the serpent, tree and apple. These are of course pictures, but pictures which present themselves in a meaningful way to supersensory perception. Present-day man needs to translate them into modern concepts if he is to perceive them once more as higher truths.

Following the Fall, our innocence is to be regained in future as holiness. Man will only become fully human when he can freely develop the good out of his innermost nature. Only then will the good actually be good. Between the innocence of Eden and the innocence of holiness, however, lies man’s tragic involvement with guilt.

With the Fall there began man’s increasing alienation from his divine origin. He became more and more independent. As a result of this progressive detachment, man found himself in an increasingly solidified, hardened environment. The more physical his body became, the more it shut him off from the divine world. This gave the increasingly isolated human being, whose environment was becoming ever more solid and earthly, the chance to take his first steps towards independent existence. In this way the Fall of man inaugurated a long process which even today has not reached its end. Even now, man’s alienation from his divine origin may go through many more transformations as it encroaches upon more and more areas of his existence.

The ancient dreams of a lost Eden, of a vanished golden age, were therefore visionary. But we must avoid the error of conceiving ‘paradise lost’ in a clumsy, materialistic sense. To do so would be to misinterpret the imaginative language of the ancient sacred texts. In reality it was man’s original condition of childlike, innocent nearness to God which echoed in the memory of the ancient peoples.

This ‘origin in the Light’ is thus the source of the primordial revelation which gradually faded and became obscured. It shines forth in the wisdom of all peoples and may still be recognized through all later disguises and elaborations. In this context belong also the so-called ‘mysteries’ of antiquity. In these mysteries a chosen person was led through an ‘initiation’ which enabled him, to a degree, to overcome his alienation from the divine world. The mysteries, in so far as was possible, reversed the process of the Fall. The old pre-Chnstian religions originate in the echoes of the primordial revelation. Not only in Israel but also in pagan religions, there was great wisdom, although the Fall manifested itself here, too. The original pagan ‘gods’ were higher spiritual beings – angels, archangels and other supersensory beings – who revealed the divine world to man. At one time man still had contact with them. Gradually, however, he lost the ability to perceive these higher powers. The place of the ‘gods’ was frequently taken over by demons and ghosts. In this way, the mysteries themselves were largely drawn into decadence.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.