Random Pieces: Cognitive Shift & Reality

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Still ruminating on my mythology bent, trying to figure out a way to to present the information in some kind of coherent fashion. But it always seems as if more new pieces fall into place for me before I can impose any kind of structure on the pieces I’ve already got… so I’m just going to start throwing these out there and see where they lead.

Cognitive Shift From Oneness To Dualism

I’ve written before — though forgive me, I can’t find where now, perhaps it was lost when my site went down a while back — that the symbolic “tree of life” and “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden represent what might today be understand as “oneness” and “dualism.” Genesis 2:9, 15-17:

The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil equates with death, while the tree of life equates with “eternal life,” as shown in Genesis 3:22:

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

In contemporary parlance, phrases like “live forever” and “eternal life” might be understood as sustainability: nothing can live forever if it is not sustainable. And sustainability requires a recognition of oneness: everything humans do affects everything else, because we are part of the Earth’s biosphere. Humans are one with the natural world.

It seems obvious to me that the tree of knowledge of good and evil most definitely represents dualism, and the prohibition against eating of its fruit is a prohibition against stepping into that dualism as a mode of cognition. Once that happens, self and other come into being, and the self-preservation drive morphs into other-annihilation drive. But of course other-annihilation is exactly the same as self-annihilation because we are, in fact, one. The only possible logical outcome of dualism is literal, physical death.

When the earliest people first adopted dualism as their preferred cognitive mode, they profoundly changed their reality. From their perspective, the nature of the universe shifted from benevolent and loving to malevolent and punishing. The environment itself became an “other” from which one needed protection. The entire history of Western civilization — from the earliest Mesopotamian villages to global capitalist empire — has been the result of the effort to annihilate Evil Other in an effort to preserve Good Self. The “Fall of Man” is precisely the same thing as the impetus to empire and, by extension, to self-annihilation.

But here’s the rub: the original dualists — “Adam and Eve” for brevity’s sake — deliberately chose to turn their backs on the exceedingly obvious oneness of the universe, and instead chose to view the world as broken shards. They could have, at any given moment, decided that their new perspective was bullshit and their new reality unacceptable. They certainly would not have been the first Paleolithic people to go back to the forest. But they chose instead to forge ahead with their dualist cognition, unleashing every imaginable evil on human-kind and every other -kind on the planet. They actually are guilty, and their punishment was the hellish reality they lived every day.

Adam and Eve gave rise to a culture of death, and that is the nature of the “original sin” into which we ourselves are born. We soak in our culture and it becomes as much a part of us as we are of it, and few question it; and we, too, are guilty of the dualism sin, and are every bit as destined for the same logical outcome, to the degree that we refuse to acknowledge the exceedingly obvious oneness of the universe.  Dualism — good and evil, self and other — only exists subjectively, and only if one chooses that worldview. It isn’t real. We are all one.

Creating Our Own Realities

Which leads me to a weird place. If Genesis is an account of people who created a new reality for the whole world by deliberately choosing a particular way of knowing… then it is literally possible to create new realities by shifting one’s individual thoughts.

On its surface this strikes me as completely new-age and silly. Brings back visions of that stupid ass movie The Secret. But here is our very own mythological canon describing this very process in a way that makes perfect sense.

And moreover, this choose-your-reality process is not constrained to Genesis only. Much of what the Old Testament prophets had to say is some variation of you’re choosing the wrong reality and there will be consequences; Jesus spoke of it almost continuously; and most interestingly, that book of apocalyptic doom extraordinaire, Revelation, describes a post-apocalyptic scenario in which our currently reality is consciously shit-canned in favor of something entirely new:

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge…

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown…

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire….

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The symbolism here is so rich I could write entire book on these two chapters of Revelation alone. But briefly, take note of what’s going on here: “those who had been given authority to judge” are poring through the written records, which of course pertains only to civilization. If someone contributed to the furtherance of dualism-death, his memory and work are permanently banished from memory; if someone contributed to “life” — i.e., oneness, sustainability — his memory and work are preserved.

Ultimately, this process results in “the old order of things has passed away” — in other words, a completely new reality, consciously and deliberately self-chosen by anyone who gets on board with the program.

Wrap-Up

Now lest anyone think I’ve decided that apocalypse is cancelled and humanity is going to miraculously wake up to its own thanatotic bent, never fear. I am more convinced than ever that we are in for what Revelation calls “the end times,” and I think it is going to be worse than most people, even doomers, can readily understand, including myself. But I do also think that on the other side of collapse and climate shift, a remnant of humans will survive and they will find an opportunity to create complex societies based not on a drive toward self-immolation, but rather toward creativity and joy.

For those of us in the West, our own mythology lays out the most perfect blueprint for making that happen. We can clearly see the entire vector of our collective unconscious, from beginning to end; and it provides the insight we need to overcome our unconscious drives.

I find it all terribly interesting.

 

 

2 Responses

  1. […] wrote recently about Revelation 20 and how it represents a cultural self-judging process in which everything non-sustainable is thrown […]

  2. […] if being born in “original sin” means being born into civilization, then being “born again” — “born of the Spirit” in the above quote — […]

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