Beyond the Wail
Or was it the Tree of the Burden of Self-consciousness and shame ?
While it is ridiculous (if not insane) to imagine that mere nudity or actual sexual reproduction - or even masturbation (much practised by apes) - could stunt our capacity for wholeness or happiness, might it not be the result of the curious biology of Homo sapiens sapiens, whose females become fertile once a month rather than once every six months ? In other words:
Original Sin was biological: frequent strus leading to our high reproductivity rate, which, in turn (because of our rapaciousness) has, by degrees, led to the devastation of all the lands and seas of our little planet. This, too, might be contained in Arostophanes' parable in Plato's Symposium, where 'the original' hermaphrodite humans overreached themselves and began to storm Olympus - so had to be sliced down the middle, and their heads turned round to make the 'half-people' who now form our species. On the other hand, mere over-reproduction would not have the dreadful effect we have had on the planet without our rapaciousness, the hubristic tendency to excess and lack of satisfaction, unsatisfiability.
However, this puts Original Sin back to 3 million years ago, when humans had just become largely-upright, had developed noticeable buttocks to compensate for the new invisibility of female genitals, was starting to lose body-hair and to grow uniquely-large penises in order to reach female vulvas from behind. Three million years is rather long for a folk-memory to endure.
If Our Flaw (of unlimited excess because of the adaptation of our brains to problem-solving and tool-devising ad infinitum without a care for the consequences - man is the only irresponsible species, as well as the only species which cannot endure boredom) is not in our reproductive propensity, then it must have formed very early in our history, together with the great increase in brain-power. It may be connected with the knowledge of paternity: for, once men knew that their genital pleasure often produced children, there was no stopping their arrogance. They saw themselves as sowers, and women as earth, dirt, and 'mere' bearers of children.
Men bond by doing silly, secret or illict things things together. This suggests that humans were originally matriarchal, very much like elephants. But matriarchy was generally overthrown early (though not, for example, in Arabia until the arrival of the Prophet M'hamed), for reasons which are obscure and not necessarily connected with the discovery of paternity. And homosexuality is widespread amongst humans, but not in patriarchal-hierarchical social animals such as wolves, whose male bondings are mere and often shifting alliances of the mateless. This suggests that a collective unconscious throws up men (and women) who somehow feel that the patriarchal hierarchies which humans have saddled themselves with are unnatural and unsustainable except through mechanisms of continual war, and moral laws designed to produce social war and docile underclasses. Only the Greeks seem to have squared the circle of patriarchy and homosexuality - even if it was at the expense of women. Outside Nubia, only the Greeks celebrated nudity for deeply aesthetic reasons.
Obviously, the flaw must have developed long before humans created towns, for the existence of towns already presupposes a giving-up of freedom to roam in order for women to wear their joints and bones out grinding grain for an inadequate diet, while men bent double in the vineyards to grow grapes to make wine to help them (but probably not 'their' women) to forget their urban misery. In Sumeria, the surplus of not-very-nourishing food created a huge surplus and probably rickety population, the consequent emergence of classes and the permanent institution of organised warfare in the name of expansion, expansion, expansion.
Feminists (scoffing at the Virgin Mary's unique distinction of being free from Original Sin) might place the Great Lapse rather late on in our development, and argue, therefore, that:
Original Sin came about when men turned their daughters into currency and women into arthritic and undernourished drudges: living property - and when men for reasons of property instituted the insane doctrine of monogamy, and for reasons of discomfort with constructed patriarchy outlawed male homosexuality.
Or did it come, before that, with ownership of land ? Or with the laborious preparation of otherwise inedible seeds to make up for the lack of vegetables and fruit which our dentition and are guts are designed to consume ?
Or before that, with the first idea ? For ideas separate us not just from the rest of reality, but from ourselves.
Or with the evolution of the human larynx with vocal chords which made language possible ?
Or with language itself ? But it probably developed contemporaneously with tool-making, fire, cooking, and mass-deception - some 2 million years ago.
Neanderthals also had language and fire, though we do not know whether or not they cooked. At any rate, we are the only cooking species now on the planet, and we developed cooking specifically to render meat - which in its raw state we cannot digest, and in its whole state we cannot tear apart with our rather vegetarian teeth - edible, if not entirely digestible. For it tends to stick in pockets of our colons and fester.
With fire we were able to destroy both forest and grassland. Did Neanderthals use fire in this way, too ? With fire we eventually smelted ore - to create deserts out of agriculture. And to create famines through dependency on crops which, in any case, did not provide sufficient vitamins or chemical elements to keep us healthy and alert. We are the only endemically sick species!
Neanderthals might have been like an 'advanced' form of Bonobo chimpanzee - which would account for their disappearance. Bonobos take life easy. They are vegetarian forest-dwellers who lie about enjoying themselves, and each others' genitals, to the full. They are the Great Unstriving Species - still surviving, despite the ubiquity and nastiness of Homo sapiens sapiens, the Only Striving Species.
Bonobos fit rather well into 'the balance of Nature', a human concept which humans are hell-bent on destroying. Although highly intelligent and resourceful, they do not cultivate, nor even transplant. They enjoy themselves (albeit in a tropical environment). They don't strive. They are.
We strive - and are not, because we are always lacking, and we don't know what we lack.
Our striving drivenness depends for reinforcement on the invention of super-human beings: impersonal forces which humans, solipsistically, made personal.
Original Sin might therefore have come with the concept of the first, meteorological, gods who were claimed to control the weather and seasons, upon which the success of labour-intensive crops depended ? So perhaps:
Original Sin occurred when 'Nature' turned from matrix to enemy.
Certainly since the invention of the Semitic god shared by three 'important' religions, well after 4004 BCE, mankind has got steadily more malignant. We have also turned ourselves into the only mammalian species which cannot clean its genitals with its tongue. This is just one of the degeneracies caused by culture.
agriculture came an early kind of horticulture: the transplanting
of young trees and vegetables to convenient spots near the small
encampments of from 12 to 30 or so people which form the optimum
size for groups of gatherers, scavengers and hunter-gatherers.
Encampment sites are often returned to.
But human sacrifice was practised in Europe in historical times and at one time was normal.
Once the cooking of meat and the roasting of roots and nuts was possible, the less placid and more overweening of our species must have seen that other members of the group could be 'organised' into the relative drudgery of nomadic animal husbandry (represented in Genesis by Abel), and the absolute slavery of Cain's family and 'servants' in growing crops such as rice, taro and manioc, fruit and nuts - though it was thousands of years before apples and other fruit became the size they are today. Labour camps started early in our 'development'.
(And a third of human populations cannot digest cow's milk.)
This was probably the moment when human problems became problems of scale and proportion.
Sedentary village organisation and cohesion was easily achieved by rules and doctrine, scare stories, the invention of vengeful gods and murderous enemies. This was, surely, when our obsession with morality (i.e. destructive obedience) began. So perhaps:
Original Sin was simply morality itself, the concept of right and wrong, which overlays the awareness that we take more than we give. and becomes moralism, the doctrines of duty and labour, and the religion of paid employment which has now engulfed 99% of the planet's overpopulation.
Morality implies free-will, and the 'wrongest' forms of free-will are generally held to be suicide and murder, with murder (but not by soldiers) now considered to be worse. Our non-moralistic attitude to animals implies that we think they do not have free-will, which is a nonsense. Most human cultures are, to varying degrees, restrictions on free-will. How much free-will does an impoverished woman have in Sa'udi Arabia, or a Mexican migrant worker in the United States ? Much less than that of a dog. Insofar as humans are The Stupid Animals their free-will is theoretical.
Morality, more than a set of rational rules for the behaviour of gathering and hunting bands, must have begun to be imposed as soon as Homo sapiens started living in permanent settlements. For the means of support was now agriculture, which involved labour, boredom, failure and restrictions on behaviour to prevent protest and absconding. Boredom in caged primates often leads to compulsive, repetitive masturbation, a distressing condition which might well have been the first result of settlement to be morally censured. Thus the solution to one problem produces other and deeper problems.
Once our polymorphously-perverse, Bonobo-esque sexuality was restricted (by force), it stopped being fun, and started to be a serious psychological problem. Agriculture can feed badly more people than hunter-gathering can feed well. More people in a restricted environment expand spatially, so that the restricted environment enlarges as the population increases. Thus is totalitarianism created.
And our natural expressions are hijacked or perverted. Art becomes propaganda, and general fellow-feeling is reduced to murderous tribalism and the hideous family-doctrine of 'Blood is thicker than water'.
Was the dramatically behaviour-altering shift from nomadism to settlement the point when, becoming the only animal to take more from the earth than we put back in, we became irredeemable parasites, and, being the only species to mistake form for content, and the only interfering species, became, perhaps simultaneously, the only unhappy, the only aggrieved, the only complaining species ? Was the killing of Abel by the crop-growing Cain the archetype of Original Sin, and not the other, more confused, myth of expulsion from the Garden ? What was the Garden, anyway ? Was it the whole world ? Or a fertile valley from which God (or Man) had expelled all the animals ? Or just a big field ? For a garden is a place of anti-nature.
Original sin was competitive greed -
or drivenness, which amounts to the same thing, and which St Augustine referred to as 'the flesh'.
Human beings have the intelligence to organise themselves in such a way that they limit their population to the resources available. But we have rarely done so. Instead, we have multiplied, and the Mendelian paradigm of Universal Misery has, in turn, ruled us. As the most intelligent tropical species, we could have enjoyed paradise for ever in Africa, with plenty of time to do the only harmless thing we have yet devised: make music.
But we didn't. We bred and bred, expanding greatly but rarely finding liberty of mind or body. And so the Seven Daughters of Eve traipsed off into cold, inhospitable Eurasia, then Europe, there to breed cold, inhospitable, egoistic, malnourished and unpleasantly-pale children. So again it comes back to sex, not as a shameful act, but as an act which, restricted to heterosexual union, turned us from happy, promiscuous and polymorphously-perverse bonobo-like animals into aggressive and striving human beings, who now are congenitally hyperactive and cannot be happy unless they are doing or undoing something.
Our sedentary societies can only be destroyed by aggressive barbarians - until such time as they simply collapse due to global famines brough about by the climatic changes we have wrought upon the planet.
Recently, something very like a Second Sin has arisen: individualism, the corrupting process of mere ego - solipsism, the sin of narcissism which is enveloping the planet with its demands for world-exhausting comfort, and gets ever greater as the ages roll. Solipsism is an extreme form of consciousness of self, but consciousness of self cannot be our original flaw, since it is present in many higher mammals. Nor was it ambition, for this is the quality which allows packs and herds to acquire the leadership necessary to make them function. But perhaps it was when humans, in settlements and solipsistic, acquired their unique Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which accorded having and doing all the attention that other species devote to being, that
Original Sin was simply the concept of land-property, which pre-dated and entailed the heterosexual family with its bloodlines, obligations, honour and 'honour-killings'. Property also led to the principle of deferred pleasure (or in reality deferred gain) which ultimately became the notion of Heaven, earned by moil and toil 'here on Earth'. Property makes sense out of life - to those who have it. But it is, of course, nonsensical. It is, as Proudhon declared, theft - both from those who don't have it, and from 'Nature'. And, being nonsense, it can only be justified by superstition and religion - ultimately by Universal Sky-Gods of intolerance, hatred and vengeance, such as we are too familiar with in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In human societies full of violence, impoverishment and generale evil, the most desperate dreamed of an Invisible All-seeing Goodness - which, of course, as always, was co-opted by the powerful and integrated with exploitative, retributive and often xenophobic religion. A Big God is the inevitable idea of those pathetic people - winners as well as losers - who demand a purpose to life - and consequently have no sense of the ridiculous.
It is more than interesting that hunter-gatherer groups, such as the' Pygmies' described by Colin Turnbull, not only are free of ADD but live highly co-operative and humorous lives which are not based on family groups and (by definition) do not involve property. Significantly also, they find the whole concept of gods and religion, work and reward, ridiculous. For a Pygmy, life itself is a deity, encompassing the forest, the climate, the earth and the air: Gaia. We, at the end of our 'development' (which I see as continual degeneration), are at the opposite pole: nothing is sacred except success - a thoroughly unpleasant concept measurable only in units of ignorance, cruelty, avarice, jealousy, envy, hypocrisy and soullessness - just a few of those qualities which escaped from Pandora's Box.
Consider the modern Olympus: Success has easily supplanted Zeus as well as Jehovah (or rather the Book which claims to be Jehovah's myriad and muddled celestial instructions. That's easy to see. But there are new gods, far sillier and more destructive than any in the charming Indian pantheon: Monogamy with his innumerable magazine-reading handmaidens of Romantic Love. Democracy - which is merely elections of the soulless to serve Success. And The Sanctity of Human Life, which is wed (monogamously) to War, an elected Ares armed with mortar-bombs and WMD. Not forgetting, of course The Family, the primary unit of oppression and of the suppression of reason.
But to return to Original Sin, there is yet another possiblility: the Knowledge could be the knowledge that we die - and are therefore less important than our brains want to imagine. We are the only species to know of our deaths - and so we invented the Unique and Everlasting Human Soul!. We also wish to postpone our deaths, and Christianity claims to "conquer" it. Settled societies fear death far more than nomadic societies - some more than others: the Romans and Egyptians were particularly worried about their demise - and death has come to be intimately connected with the passing-on of property. So
Original Sin was the knowledge and/or fear of death, and the 'hard-wiring' of superstition into our brains. Doctrinal superstition is the abrogation of reason, a denial of our most interesting attribute. But what was the flaw which allowed us to embrace superstition ? the flaw which allows only a minute proportion of human beings to achieve a balance between the fatal triad of instinct, reason and emotion ? The flaw which not only allows us to be anxious, but turns us into a species which is motivated by anxiety ? Not only motivated by anxiety but addicted to it! This is the difference between us and some occasionally-hunting gatherers; between us and vegetarian bonobos, who have lived on the planet longer than we have by loafing about and playing contentedly with each others' genitals from the cradle to the grave. (Human babies have been observed to masturbate in the womb - a wonderful 'proof' of Original Sin to Fundamentalists.)
The knowledge of death must have come about with the development of language, some 2 million years ago. But fear did not necessarily accompany that knowledge. On the contrary, it is easy and pleasant to imagine reincarnation as - say - a cloud or a tree. Sedentary society could 'usefully' exploit death by positing some kind of hell which would await dissidents, transgressives and 'evil-doers'. In the world today Roman Catholics and Orthodox, even lapsed and atheistic ones, seem to be more afraid of death than any other religious group. These are the 'faiths' which most emphasise the possibility of eternal torment.
Morality had to be invented to establish and maintain the work-ethic essential for sedentary, agricultural societies. As these societies became less and less co-operative, sexual life was largely shut down and then shoved into a dark corner of a hut. Homosexual and bisexual behaviour had to be discouraged. Monogamy and polygyny became 'normal' because of the problems created by inheritance of property (including wives and slaves) managed by men. Polyandrous societies are extremely rare amongst humans.
Another important difference between gathering-hunting societies is that a kind of natural contraception is practised by allowing babies to stay at the breast until they voluntarily leave. Lactation continues for up to three years. In sedentary societies, children are weaned off the breast far too early - because women are required for drudgery. They are fed gruel and/or herbivore-milk, lacking in the natural antibodies and necessary primate ingredients of human milk.
Thus more children are produced, often sickly and mostly psychologically disturbed because they have suffered from what should be called Infant Abuse by Weaning or Bottle. Infant mortality, however, does not keep pace with population increase, so the tribal land must extend ever larger, thus creating conflict.
Monogamy is a means of reducing the birth-rate, an inefficient one which takes a terrible toll in terms of rules of sexual behaviour - a toll which causes more distress and vindictiveness amongst the poor than amongst the rich and the rulers who can get around it in various ways, some reinforced by religious dogma cooked up specially for them. To bolster enforced monogamy amongst the lesser orders, the myth of monogamous, romantic love proves useful, especially when included in the fabric of religion. Women can thus be to men as the Bride of Christ (the Church) is to the Redeemer: a mere tool, an adjunct.
Early weaning, leading to general unhappiness if not psychosis, plus ridiculous strictures on sexual activity, plus the deliberate conflation of sensuality with sexuality, all tend to produce populations of desperate people without individuality. Hunting/gathering bands are fluid - one or several individuals can leave one and join another - something that is very difficult in villages. In villages people started to become part of a social machine, and individuality/personality was gradually lost. Humans now are just grist to the urban mill, we are merely components in a complicated hierarchy of 'importance'.
So it might be that Original Sin, paradoxically, was the various sexual prohibitions which produce psychotic or irrational behaviours in a large proportion of human populations. Not least, or least-damaging amongst these behaviours is patriarchy itself. So Original Sin was not sexual behaviour, but anti-sexual, anti-erotic rules of behaviour devised by people who required a labour force. Enforced heterosexual, patriarchal monogamy (or polygyny), based on a gender-based division of labour, could not tolerate widespread 'natural' sex for pleasure because it was not productive. Joyous masturbation and homosexual behaviour are still largely regarded as dysfunctional, hence reprehensible and 'sinful'. The irony is that in a hideously-overpopulated world, the rational thing would be to encourage masturbation (the most long-lastingly satisfactory form of sex) and other non-reproductive and pleasurable activities to decrease population...but this is to ignore the capitalist obsession with tumour-like 'growth'.
Sexual restriction also leads to the sadly-restricted universal assumption amongst men that orgasm is achieved only by ejaculation, something that bonobos disproved millions of years ago. The imperative to ejaculate, needless to say, has caused (literally-) untold misery since civilisation began.
The arrival of property, land-boundaries and entitlements was the point when we started compulsively to change Nature for ever by no longer regarding it as a nurturer. (One only has to think of the wholesale and continuing destruction of the rain-forests to identify how we feel about Nature, formerly our mother, now something to be raped and burned. Man the motherfucking species! ) That moment could be defined as the beginning of culture - not in the anthropological sense, but, rather (though not entirely tautologically) in the cultural sense. The beginning of the insistence on obedience to rules simply because they are rules.
Culture not only makes us ever more aggressive as a species, but it also neotenises. Education systems are systems of socialisation, obedience and neoteny, and the only adults in our axolotlised species are those beyond culture, mostly the dead, but also a very few people who have resisted cultural infantilisation. Culture also produces (indeed, sometimes seems largely to consist of) the uniquely human attribute of vainglory, that lovely French word Orgueil, or that other French concept La Gloire.
In sedentary cultures the question Why ? has to be kept away from the rules and doctrines that underpin it. Ironically, it is asked less and less in our smug global civilisation of How ? But in its negative form, probably that single questioning thought in the restricted context of technology was our diving-board into the abyss of war, epidemics, mayhem, species-extinction, hierarchy, plutocracy and genocide:
WHY NOT ? was the sound of Man Falling.
Behind every question lies language. So Original Sin is the underlying pre-requisite of all the suggestions above: language itself. It is language that has cut us off from non-linguistic consciousness, from other animals and other possibilities of communication. Thought is linear, two-dimensional (though multi-directional), and depends on words, on language.
We are goldfish in the bowl of narrative -
and delight in metaphor. Whether our vainglory began before thought (and the perception of causality) was jelled, then codified and coded into language, or when fire and the axe were first used for tree-felling, is difficult to say. Our divorce from reality was process rather than act. What we know is that the reduction of the forests and their fauna, hugely aided by the conspiracy of language, produced a tragdic chain of events, led to deforestation, the wiping out of many species, malnutrition in our own, migration, the rise of cities and the ever-continuing alienation of Man from his matrix.
so the planet of experiment, of opportunity and diversity became
Agriculture is business, saith the Lord.
Eye to eye
AN ALTERNATIVE CREATION STORY
dog said, "That's a long time to be barking.
And God saw it was good.
the second day, God created the monkey and said,
And God, again saw it was good.
the third day, God created the cow and said,
cow said, "That's a horrible life you want me to live for sixty years.
And God agreed it was good.
the fourth day, God created humans and said,
the human said, "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my
"Very well," said God, "Since that's what you want..."
that is why for our first ten years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.
human condition has now been explained to you -
is no need to thank me for this valuable information.
is surely no religion