Adam and Eve and the Four Ways of Knowing
“Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,
And each from the other would be parted.
The one in sturdy lust for love
With clutching organs clinging to the world,
The other strongly rises from the gloom
To lofty fields of ancient heritage”. — Goethe, Faust.
Having put my foot in it yesterday by invoking Goethe’s poem about the “two souls”, I should probably complete the thought begun there by speaking to the issue of the “other” soul that resides within our breast besides the one that, with clutching organs, obsessively clings to this world of Time and Death and Fear, which is to say, samsaric or sensate existence. But to even begin to discuss the meaning of Goethe’s “two souls” requires we address yet another confusion of the contemporary mind, which is the confusion of “origin” with “beginning”.
The disciple, John, wrote in his Revelation that the universe just wasn’t big enough to hold all the books that could be written about the life and teachings of the man named “Jesus of Nazareth”. I have the sense that he was very right in saying that, for regardless of how much I might write about these matters I always have the feeling that too much has been left unsaid that could or should be said, and so on ad infinitum. The Scriptures and the Gospels are just a tiny fraction of that, and yet they are sufficient, if you have the proverbial “ears to hear” or can “read between the lines”, to obtain even a fleeting glimpse of that infinity and eternity that lays hid in the finite and mortal — or “natural” — order of things. It was that glimpse of the infinite and the eternal that persuaded so many to leave behind them the “pagan” or “heathen” world of fatality and cyclicity, for samsaric existence is also ouroboric existence, or eternal recurrence of same. And this was expressed in the chief symbol of the pagan world, the ouroboros, or ouroboric serpent or dragon. That’s the meaning, for example, of Jakob Boehme’s very profound illustration of the spirit, in the form of a dove, transcending the ouroboric or samsaric condition. In fact, it’s a fine illustration of Goethe’s meaning of the “two souls”.
We’ve actually forgotten what the meaning of “paganism” or “heathenism” actually was. But the words have preserved their original meaning despite our forgetfulness. The “pagus” and the “heath” refer to the “countryside” — that is to say, to “natural man”, who is bound to the ouroboros because he is fully identified with, and feels himself or herself completely immersed in, physical or “natural” existence. Thus fate rules all and human beings are little more than puppets, pawns, or slaves of gods or spirits who must constantly be propitiated with prayers and sacrifices, even the sacrifice of one ‘s “first born” as in the widespread cult of Moloch, who is, in the Gilgamesh legend, the “Bull of Heaven” and in the Old Testament is “the golden calf”. And before the “fish” of Christianity (the Piscean Age), the Bull of Heaven and the bull-headed god (Taurus) ruled over human hearts and minds. In the pagan order of things, “what goes around comes around”, as we say and the law of vengeance and revenge and feud and of an “eye for an eye” — the lex talionis — is just the “natural” expression of cyclic time and fatalistic existence.
One shouldn’t be too quick to will to become a “born again pagan” or to wish a return to the state of Nature, just because it is so finite, being the realm of Time, Death, and Fear. Many myths and legends attest to the terrible ennui and horror of that kind of existence, such as the legend of Silenus and Midas that so impressed Nietzsche. That’s what belongs to the “natural order of things”, the order Oswald Spengler, for example, attempted to resurrect with his cyclic theory of civilisational “seasons” in Decline of the West, which contributed so much also to the mythology of Nazism and fascism.
When Abraham stayed the knife rather than sacrifice his first-born, Isaac, this was the beginning of the end of the pagan world, for which reason “Father Abraham” is considered the root of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. Likewise, to understand something of what the Gospel of Jesus meant to those who heard it in those times one also has to understand the peculiar cult of Mithras, which flourished at the same time and was competitive with Christianity. The cult of Mithras was associated with the Bull, while Christianity was associated with the fish. Mithras died and was reborn cyclically, while Jesus was died and reborn once and for all, and with the crucifixion, as a once-and-for-all event, the cross displaced the ouroboros and became a symbol of the gateway leading from the finite world of Time and Death and Fear into the eternal and infinite. That was the “good news” as it was received at the time, but which we have lost the ears for.
The whole point of the life and teaching of Jesus was to reveal the infinite hid within the finite and the eternal hid within the hour which the pagan world could not see. In other words, Jesus drew a very sharp distinction between “origin” and “beginning”. The pagan world was obsessed with marking beginnings and endings. Jesus attempted to show, however, that “origin” had nothing to do with beginnings and endings in time, but was the Here and Now — “the kingdom of heaven is within you” or “the body is the temple of the living god” were precisely stated that way to deny the ultimate truth of the pagan “natural order of things” — the confusion that beginnings and origin are the same thing is really what is meant by paganism.
Most of what we call “religion” today is a shambles precisely because it has forgotten that origin and beginning are not the same thing, and has become as much Goethe’s “clutching organs clinging to the world” in consequence.
So, let’s return to that other soul that aspires to “lofty fields of ancient heritage”, and that’s the “soul” that knows origin only as in the present, not as the past. This is the same “soul” that is called “the Guru” by Sri Krishna Prem, or “The Aristocrat” by Meister Eckart, and is called “inner ego” by Seth or is the Nietzschean or Jungian “Self”. This other “soul” is implied in the famous Zen koan: “Show me your face before you were born”, the realisation of which is Nietzsche’s formula for self-overcoming, too: “Become what you are!” And this also bears on that ultimate conclusion of Buddhism that “nirvana and samsara are the same” — that is to say what we call “origin” (or the eternal and the infinite) is hidden within the world of Time, Death, and Fear, and it is our perception of things that is in error.
Now, this round-about way of coming to the topic of this post about Adam and Eve and the Four Modes of Knowing was necessary in order to disentangle the meaning of “origin” from “beginning”, for this confusion parallels all those other value confusions we have explored here in The Chrysalis: the confusion of the whole with the totality; or of the integral with the assimilatory; of destiny confused with fate; of unity confused with uniformity, and so on. One might as well confuse gold and lead (which is actually “fool’s gold” I suppose), and all these value confusions, taken together, pertain to Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism — “all higher values devalue themselves”.
It belongs, likewise, to “paganism” in the deficient sense that the story of Adam and Eve, or that of the Prodigal Son, is assumed to be actual history or even untrue historically. Like the Book of Genesis, these have nothing to do with time whatsoever — the are metaphors, similes, symbolic forms that nonetheless have a certain spiritual reality or mythic truth which could only be expressed in the way they were. The name “Adam” means dust or earth; the name “Eve” means life. They are symbolic names for that kind of energy that Jung called “animus” and “anima” energy, which we recast in terms of masculine and feminine energies. They are originally combined as the original “Androgyne” or Platonic hermaphrodite, which means, as a polarity. The “fall” was the lapse from polarity into duality, and in Plato this is the splitting up of the Primeval Hermaphrodite into two separate beings. The “original sin” is dualism, in other words and the fall into the “knowledge of good and evil” as being duality. This isn’t an event in the remote past in some historical or geographical place, it is what happens every day. Likewise, it is vain to look for some historical record of the journeys of the Prodigal Son and ponder what “faraway land” he ventured into as if it were an actual and historical event and geographical location. The Prodigal Son is the ego-consciousness that has lapsed into dualism where there is, in truth, only polarity. And this happens also every day. The tendency to see these issues like the Garden of Eden or the Prodigal Son as either historical or dismiss them as being false because they are unhistorical, both belong to what we call “paganism”, because both confuse parables of origin with actual historical events or “beginnings”.
And it didn’t take long, in fact, from the initial revelation of the presence of origin in the Here and Now for the religions to backslide into paganism by once again confusing “origin” with “beginning”.
That’s the issue of Blake’s protest against “Natural Religion”, and even “natural reason”. “If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic Character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, and stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.” These are the four modes of knowing accessible to us, and they correspond to the four rivers that fertilise the Garden of Eden.
And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14 KJV)
Those who believe these to be actual physical rivers, even though they may have correspondences with actual geographical places, are out of their minds. The four rivers are Blake’s four Zoas, and correspond to the four ways of knowing (or functions of consciousness) which he calls “Poetic”, “Prophetic”, “Philosophical” and “Experimental”.
So, feel free to take a dip in every one of them.
What Blake is saying, of course, is that without cleansing the doors of perception in order to see the infinite that is hid in the finite and the eternal that is hid in time or the hour, is Error, and is to backslide into repeating the “same dull round over again”, which is the real meaning of paganism or the deficient aspect of what we mean by “natural”. That is solely the result of having once again confused “origin” with a particular “beginning in time”.
In effect, therefore, what Seth calls “the You of you”, and which Goethe describes as his lofty soul of ancient heritage exists before the beginnings of the world. And that “ancient heritage” which is the “You of you” is what the Zen Buddhist master tries to draw out when he tempts his student with the koan: “show me your face before you were born”.
Before the world was and is, you are. You are firmly in the bosom of the unoriginated or unconditioned, as Buddhism puts it. Rumi calls this origin “emptiness”, or “non-Being” and “non-Existence”. So let your “four rivers” flow free to water your garden. That’s what “integral consciousness” is.