What if the Serpent is God?

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Post by mihelich » Sun Jan 26, 2003 12:00 am

First of all, thanks, Martin, for the suggestion to post a new topic in the thousand conversations forum. I'm still new to the foundation and its forums, but I think I'm beginning to catch on.

My interest in the Garden of Eden story, and the institutionally authorized concept of original sin, didn't develop overnight or even recently. I don't think I've been able to embrace the institutional teaching of God since my dad died at the age of 41 in 1950 when I was five years old. Even then I think I realized, unconsciously, that my dad's death had everything to do with the "monstrous nature of life" and nothing to do with God. At the same time, I never rejected Christianity. On the contrary I set out to make sense out of it.

In the process I discovered the existence of two Christianities -- the Yahwistic version built on St. Augustine's concept of original sin and the Serpent version that knows no such foundation. Original sin Christianity, in all its "costumes," generated its "affect power" well into the 20th century, but the crack in that armor, that appeared in the 12th century, grew and finally resulted in the crumbling of the "Grand Design" Augustine's orthodox Christiantiy supported. But the Garden of Eden story remains.

'Running Clear' and 'Around the Horn,' to which I referred in my original postings in response to Barry Stephen's question about the "new Joe," are built on that story's Serpent foundation -- free from original sin -- and they seek to illuminate a fresh "Grand Design" that can be supported, rather than refuted, by the wondrous scientific discoveries of our time. As I think Carl Jung would say, we are heirs to our Western mythological tradition, and in that tradition I don't think God is dead. Instead, I think God, the "psychic being" that can live in us all -- provided we meet the sacrificial demands -- has yet to be discovered. Maybe to hasten us on that road to discovery I ask, as Ron Petrich does in 'Running Clear' : "What if the Serpent is God?" Thanks for listening.

Emil Mihelich

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Post by ALOberhoulser » Mon Jan 27, 2003 3:46 am

http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... &start=105

You will see where we left off...

AL
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Post by Clemsy » Tue Jan 28, 2003 7:33 am

Al,

You're a better man than I if you can keep track of all our past discussions! I forgot we even went there!

Clemsy... too young for so many senior moments.
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Post by Windhorse » Wed Jan 29, 2003 11:20 am

Greetings. For those of you interested in this thread, I strongly encourage you to explore Jung's 'Symbols of Transformation.' He deals extensively with this imagery.
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Post by mihelich » Thu Jan 30, 2003 3:06 pm

Windhorse,

Thanks for your reply. Jung felt that "the Christian symbol carried (s) within itself the seeds for further development." In his mind it wasn't Chrsitianity, but rather our "conception" of it that had become obsolete. And we can't expect to live the "afternoon of life" according to the "program of life's morning." I'm convinced that the "program" for the "afternoon of life" begins with the serpent of Eden that has been given a "bum rap" over the years. If the Serpent is God, then Eve, followed somewhat reluctantly by Adam, did the right thing in that mythological garden and thus avoided sin. Why can't we revisit St. Augustine's "City of God" and build a fresh argument for Christianity on that premise? Why can't we revisit that epochal work and breathe fresh life into the "Christian symbol?"

Emil Mihelich
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Post by Lizpete » Fri Jan 31, 2003 6:53 pm

Hello,

I'm not sure this comment belongs here as I have not read the same material as you've mentioned above, but here I go:

I was always interested in the thought that God put the tree and the serpent in the Garden. Why would he do that unless he wanted humans to have free will and the ability to love and not love him? He had the adoration of the angels and the rest of the cosmos. It was not only the gift of knowledge, but the ability to leave I think.

Sincerely,
Liz
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Post by Windhorse » Sat Feb 01, 2003 10:40 pm

Emil,

Quickly...

I agree that our conception of Christianity is obsolete. I remember once reading that the Western world's dominate perspective is evolutionism. Paul's presentation of his Gospel was crafted to the view of his audience: For the Jews he did not focus on creation, while with the Greeks he began with creation and the creator due to their worldview. Perhaps we are comparable to the Greeks.

Have you explored neo-Paganism? Snake imagary is of consequence and explored within Wicca and Vodoun (an interesting belief system). It appears that much of the Old Testament deals with the transition of mythic forms; A transition from the image of the snake, and other olden symbolic representations, to the voice, and instruction of YHWH. From prehistoric times onward, the snake was symbolic of a guardian or protector of secrets and gifts, and if I recall, even a 'Tree of Life' (outside of the Christian context). What we can see in the OT is the restructuring of mythic understanding and representation.

It is completely fair for Christians to be interested in re-framing their religion. Honestly, it has been years since I opened Augustine's 'City of God.' Give me a couple of days to find it and refamiliarize myself.

Gotta get back to work...

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Windhorse on 2002-10-24 18:47 ]</font>
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Post by Guest » Mon Feb 03, 2003 2:26 am

Lizpete and Windhorse,

First of all, I think I could write forever in response to your thoughts about the serpent being God, but I've almost done that already with the two books I mentioned earlier, 'Running Clear' and 'Around the Horn,'as well as with my non-fiction work, "Eden and the Individual: Christianity for the 21st Century" that, for now, only is available as an ebook at http://www.ebooksonthe.net. In addition,I have five other novels, five other volumes of "creative mythology" all related to each other, that remain unpublished.

I don't like to mention any of the above work, but it's taken the last 18 years of my life to produce it and, somehow, to promote its existence. None of the works I have mentioned debate whether or not the serpent is God. Instead, I have built all of them on that premise, having become convinced of that fact after a good 45 years of quiet and private, but constant, debate. Sometimes, I wish I would have kept my discoveries to myself, but I found that I couldn't. I had to go public with my conclusions, and my convictions were only strengthened when I found an ally in Joseph Campbell when I first discovered him, probably around 1981.

Anyway, in the serpent reading of our creation myth, it is "God" who is swelled with pride and not, as the institutionally authorized Yahwistic reading holds, Adam and Eve. Eve's obedience to the "serpent power" that lives in us all, and is made incarnate in Christ as the expression of our creative, psychological potential, represents the ultimate expression of humility which forms "the bedrock on which a solid structure is built." This creative force of humility, also the foundation for "Amor," is manifested, repeatedly, in the "hero with a thousand faces" and represents the essence of us all. There was no original sin because there was no historical Garden in the first place. Eden was and is a mythological garden that is not for a time but for all time.

There is far more to Christianity than what its original sin version allows. St. Augustine's conclusions have become obsolete, but his sacrifice and commitment to belief never can become obsolete. If we take that same Augustinian sacrifice and commitment and apply it to the serpent premise, we can come up with a fresh "Grand Design" that is reinforced, rather than refuted, by experience and the wondrous scientific discoveries of our age.

I'm not well-informed about neo-paganism mainly because I really haven't felt the need to explore it. Pre-Christian, pagan thought, revealed in the Anglo-Saxon epic 'Beowulf,' for example, knew nothing of orignal sin as being the ultimate cause for the effect -- the "monstrous nature of life" -- that our eyes can see. In that regard "Serpent Christianity," being inspired by that same effect, is pagan itself, and its heroes -- manifested most clearly in Huckleberry Finn from the 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' -- exhibit the same pagan "reliance on Nature" which holds no "salvatory value" for the Yahwistic Christian. William Wordsworth spoke for Serpent Christianity, whether he knew it or not, when he admonished his 19th century readers to put down their books and "let Nature be your teacher." Among other things, Nature, as well as contemporary science, teaches us that death is natural, with its existence not being due to any sin having been committed in any Garden anywhere. St. Augustine, I think, reasoned from a premise he considered obvious. In the process, he provided Yahwistic Christianity with its spine that accommodated no one. He was certain and his resultant argument was clear.

If we reason from the serpent premise, that experience and scientific discovery have made obvious to us, we can arrive at an understanding of Serpent Christianity similar to its Yahwistic predecessor in certainty and argumentative clarity. Serpent Christianity can "run clear," and it can supply our life-supporting mythology with the spine and unaccommodating nature that it needs to meet the requirements of the 21st century and beyond. Christianity itself isn't dead, but its Augustinian Epoch is. And as Joseph Campbell reminds us: "only birth can defeat death."

I've said enough and maybe even too much. But such as it is, I have a "boon" to offer. And, as prudent as it would be to do so, I can't keep it to myself. Thanks.

Emil
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Post by mihelich » Tue Feb 04, 2003 6:13 am

I didn't mean to remain anonymous in my last reply. I didn't notice that I had to type in my user name and password to be identified.

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Post by Lizpete » Wed Feb 05, 2003 10:00 am

Hmmm, 'there is no garden of eden' I guess I would argue against it, as at least there is the myth. I've thought the garden of Eden represents childhood, a time before we have the ability/tools to truly understand the people around us- when humans lack awareness. The garden of Eden did not imply that humans were blissfully happy, as Adam an Eve were unclothed, but that they lacked awarness. Just my thoughts.

Sincerely,
Liz
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Post by mihelich » Thu Feb 06, 2003 1:46 pm

There was "no historical Garden of Eden." Therefore, there was no original sin, either. So, does this mean that St. Augustine lied? No. He reasoned from a premise that he was convinced was true, and his logical argument carried the weight of truth, as well as validity, as long as his major premise carried that same weight. But when both natural experience with life -- followed by reason -- and the discoveries of rational science refute the truth of Augustine's major premise, and thus that of the argument he built on it, the mythological structure of Western life crumbles.

The Garden of Eden story, then, either is a lie or it's true in some other way. If it's a lie, then Christianity itself is a lie, and there is nothing to it beyond it's Augustinian, original sin reading. And it's certainly destructive to retreat into a lie -- no matter how accommodating and attractive we make it.

But the Garden of Eden story is mythologically and psychologically true which, among other things, then redirects Christianity's "affect power" away from the "heavens" to the "streets" where it's always belonged. We're supposed to follow in the footsteps of our mythological parents. We're supposed to eat the apple and avoid sin. We're supposed to "answer the call" in the mythological, psychological realm of human existence -- not in the social, economic realm -- and embark on the adventurous life in service to Love -- in service to Amor. This adventurous path -- the left-hand path, the Way of the Cross -- comes complete with sacrificial demands that give this path its spine. It's the path of "bliss," and its demands are made clear in the person of the Hero -- including that of Christ -- regardless of "face." For the Christian West and its "creative mythology," this Hero is born with the romances of 'Parzival' and 'Tristan,' and specifically for its American audience it is born, and presented most clearly, in the 'Adventures of Hucklebery Finn' where Huck's conflict of obedience mirrors, exactly, that exprienced by Adam and Eve in their, and our, mythological Garden. This path of "bliss," of "individuation," does not come without pain, but the pain should not be accompanied by the alienation Huck Finn experiences and by that reflected in the crucifix, where the Savior is crucified --alienated -- on his cross of Love. If we can read our Christian Mythology from its Serpent Premise, we can discover the individual path of the Hero and then recognize our responsibility to embark on it to do all we can to return the sacrifice of the cross and redeem the Wasteland, laid waste by an absence of Love -- an absence of Amor in all its sacrificial majesty.

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Post by Lizpete » Fri Apr 11, 2003 5:33 am

Hmmmm, juxtaposing bliss and sin... Forgive me, as I mean no slight by this, but your interpretation seems very Evelyn Waugh to me-to be holy one must suffer. It seems a vengeful old testament god/parent interpretation.

I would suggest that the garden of eden is perhaps false bliss, as children we do not know what we do not know.

Does human bliss require suffering? Is personal bliss not self righting, does it not make you a better person, more giving and tolerant, to find it?

Sincerely,
Liz
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Post by mihelich » Tue Apr 22, 2003 7:20 pm

No matter one's interpretation, the Garden of Eden story remains the foundation of the Christian Mythology. Maybe institutional Christianity, preached from pulpits -- Protestant and Catholic -- throughout the Christian world, has backed off the strict, historical interpretation of the Eden story that is built on St. Augustine's concept of original sin, but it still assigns the role of God to "God" in that story. But we have entered a new era, one that has undeniably witnessed the waning of the power and influence of institutional authority. The "streets" provide ample evidence of this fact.

Whether we like it or not, the Age of the Institution has given way to the Age of the Individual, and the transformation hasn't come without chaos and turbulence as evidenced in the "streets" once again. This transformation, given institutional Christianity's imposed, original sin interpretation of the Eden story and the mythology built upon it, was inevitable, and the Age of the Institution shouldn't be disparaged. It should be understood and appreciated instead. If the Age of the Institution is marked by coercion and imposition -- with the end justifying the means -- the Age of the Individual is marked by the emergence of something more natural --the Serpent interpretation of the story that always will provide the foundation for the life-supporting Christian Mythology. Literature, of the type that Joseph Campbell would call "creative mythology," provides the "authority" that the Serpent reading needs because it is inspired by natural experience with life. Supported by this experiential authority, the Serpent reading beathes fresh life into the Christian Mythology, allowing it to offer any seekers and potential believers something more than history complete with lessons.

If death is natural -- as it most certainly is -- and not the effect that results from original sin in Augustine's understandably historical garden, we have to read the Eden story, and the mythology that follows, from that premise. Reasoning from it then, if the serpent isn't God, there is no truth to the concept, and -- as Sartre concluded --"everything indeed is permitted if God does not exist." We shouldn't abandon our mythology, nor should we reduce it to pabulum to make it more "understandable" and "palatable." We should embrace it instead, and in obedience to the demands of our era, we should remain more curious than convinced. We should ask: "What if the serpent is God?" The "birth" of a New Serpent Testament can defeat the "death" of the Old Yahwistic Testament that, finally, should be laid to rest as representing one of "the shells of forms produced and left behind by lives once lived."

As always, whoever may read this "catechism,"
thanks for listening.

Emil Mihelich
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Post by ALOberhoulser » Sun May 04, 2003 9:06 am

Emil,
I have been following this thread with interest. I don't have as much time as I would like to reply right now, but I wanted to put down some thoughts.

What about the Jews in all of this? The OT is the foundation of their religion. I understand that the focus of your interpretation is geared toward St. Augustine, but what about the Jewish interpretation of the story of the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man?

I ask this mainly because I view Judaism as the "parent" faith to Christianity and Islam (which I think of as "sister" faiths). Your fresh interpretation of the metaphor of the garden would seem to have implications reaching further than just the Augustinian philosophy.

Perhaps this is beyond the focus of your book, if your intended audience is the disillusioned Christian. That would be understandable. Clemsy and I came to a very similar conclusion in the Language and Metaphor thread that I linked to above, but my premise was based more on a philosophy of mind.

I look forward to hearing more from you. It is a noble endeavor to argue against the Augustinian perspective of the fall of man and original sin. I think it is safe to say that you are in good company in these forums.

Regards,
AL
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Post by Lizpete » Thu May 15, 2003 10:53 pm

Emil,

I thought before and now I am sure, I am interrupting a thread where I shouldn't be. Please accept my apologies.

I cannot resist one thing before I go. (Please indulge me for a second.) As I reject the angry patriarch interpretation of the Christian religion, whether it be 'the church' or other institution, I'd go back to genesis: "In the begining there was the word and the word was God." Words are purely a human construction. It becomes a matter of personal faith.

Again, I regret that I interrupted and look forward to reading the rest of the thread.

Sincerely,
Lizpete



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