Beyond the Wail
Home - ==- - Reviews - ==- - Feedback - - == - About - =- -Blog-
 



POETRY

poems of the month

fish

vagabondage

measuring my face

ostracism

old clothes

ostracism

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

confession from belgrade

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament
of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

leda and the swan

gloss on rilke's
ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát
of omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

the love of
pierre de ronsard

imagepoem

 

TRANSLATIONS

 

BETWEEN POETRY AND PROSE

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400
revolutionary maxims

nice men and
suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper

disgusting

art, truth and bafflement

 

SHORT STORIES

godpieces

the three bears

three albanian tales

odorous underwear

a little creation story

 

ESSAYS

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

after a first cataract operation

single track in the snow

never a pygmy

against money

never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

happiness

londons of the mind &
dealing death to the caspian

genocide

a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

a holy dog and a
dog-headed saint

an albanian ikon

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

diogenes
the dog from sinope

shoplifting

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

combatting normality

fools for nothingness:
atheists & saints

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire:
a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

the visit

 

PHOTOGRAPHS

prelude

metamorphotos

 

MUSIC

tombeau de kurt schwitters

three movements of melting ice

 

Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland

houses for the dead

ireland and the phallic continuum

irish cross-pillars

irish sweathouses

the sheela-na-gig conundrum

french megaliths

 

'western values'

 

 


 

combat necrophagy

 

 

 

 

 

 

reverence for life

 

 

 

 

this site only

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Saint-Felix, Lot. Photo by Anthony Weir

 

'Original Sin' -
an exploration of a salutary concept.

(updated July 2013)

photo by Julianna Lees

12th century carvings of Adam and Eve at St-Félix (Lot), and Monreale (Sicily).


I have for many years been wondering about 'Original Sin' - a concept which has, since the 'Enlightenment', tended to be laughed to scorn by most people in the white countries - except devout adherents to the Abrahamic monotheisms. The very phrase 'shapen in iniquity' seems to most people outrageous. But this merely displays our present - if increasingly hesitant - arrogance.

For Homo sapiens sapiens is, very obviously, flawed - or (s)he (in his/her 'human frailty') would not be trashing the world at the rate of dozens of species a week (some of them not even identified), and enslaving his/her own in misery. Human populations would not otherwise be divided into unbearably poor and unspeakably rich. The idea of 'Original Sin', though picturesquely put (and ludicrously described in Genesis), is, I believe, sound. Indeed, I would say, that this truth is now far more self-evident than those vague ones which declared American Independence. The flaw is inherent, inherited, and of course has nothing to do with recent, childish and monotheistic notions of 'sin'.

I assume that the myth of The Fall of Man is some kind of folk memory of an irreversible step, a Rubicon crossed.

Many, if not most, cultures have a similar myth, whether that of Prometheus or the Creator Raven who finds man horribly rapacious, or the myth in which presumptuous mankind constructs a ladder - or a tower - to Heaven and has to be cut down to size; or, in the story ascribed to Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium, sliced down the middle - to make even more rapacious, arrogant and overweening semi-beings: us.

Original Sin was the eating of the 'Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil' - generally and wrongly identified as an apple. So vague is this part of the palimpsest of myth and legend in the First Book of Moses that we can only assume that 'knowledge' came with the mythic ingestion of the fruit or its seeds. So Original Sin as acquisition of knowledge was not tree-worship - but - it is implied, awareness of nakedness, a view of science which we now find rather odd, even though the totalitarian Global Culture is based on the compulsory covering of our genitals for no good reason. Awareness of nakedness occurred some 1.8 million years ago, when Homo ergaster and Homo habilis were evolving into Homo erectus and Early H. sapiens in Africa. At the same time, language developed, and fire was discovered to keep "us" warm in the chilly nights, and, by extension, to cook tough or poisonous vegetables (such as manioc) and the hitherto largely-inedible muscle-meat that we eat today. In those times, the choicest animal parts were marrow, brains, blood, eyes, liver, lungs and intestines - the parts most favoured by carnivores today.

Original Sin, then, cannot have been wisdom. But it might have been the conception of a Creator: 'The idea of God is the primordial sin', wrote A.O. Spare. Or it might have been the assumption of wisdom, in other words, hubris - if not mere self-consciousness (in the demotic sense) which is an unique and catastrophic human disease. Or it might have been the prelude to the disaster which we call Progress and Social Evolution: the little Pandora-word, WHY ?

Aside from the compulsion to wear clothes, it is hard to imagine what was the 'knowledge' which was so disastrous. Fire ? Tools ? Paternity ? A refined palate unique amongst animals ? The concept of time (past and future) ? Our addictive sense of achievement ? (All these 1.8 million years ago.) Our addictiveness itself ? The gradual awareness that we are maladjusted interlopers everywhere ? Our incapacity to comprehend or accept the idea of 'good enough' - an incapacity which we call 'science' ? Or perhaps it was not knowledge itself or a particular piece of knowledge or discovery, but the use (particular or general) of knowledge, of information, which resulted in unwise and hubristic behaviour. Or was it simple, dissident (socially threatening) curiosity - like that of the latest wife in the tale of Bluebeard and his castle of many rooms, one of which must not be opened, and which contained the ever-screaming corpses of all the wives who had disobeyed his unexplained (thus Godlike) instruction ?
The story of Bluebeard is not so different from the story of the Garden of Eden and its Absolute Master.

On the other hand, 'Original Sin' might simply have been the unique human capacity for boredom. Unless, of course, an Islamic God suddenly noticed that Adam or Eve was left-handed!

It was, of course, not an act - not even the capacity for recrimination or complaint - but a process: a continuing and inherent process - what in ancient Rabbinical tradition was called yetzer ha ra: a continuing propensity towards evil. This might be the process of the encroachment of consciousness by the left hemisphere. Certainly, it is a horrible metamorphosis of amour-de-soi (enjoyed by most mammals) into amour-propre : the ghastly anti-quality of humans which creates, Frankenstein-like, such obscene notions as 'Human Dignity' out of the confusion in our mis-evolved brains between the emotional, the sexual, the sensual, and the transcendental.

The idea of inherent flaw is not, in fact, restricted to the Abrahamic monotheisms. The post-Confucian Chinese philosopher Xún Zi wrote in the third century BCE : 'The nature of man is evil; he acts compulsively to gain - for himself and over (in competition with) others.'

And if one considers the myth of the Garden of Eden in the light of the recent history of the earthly paradise of Rwanda, one is less inclined to dismiss it as 'mere myth'.

"It is hard to account for the common human resistance to happiness," wrote Salley Vickers, "unless it is that we would rather be crippled by what we lack than risk the pain that is one potential consequence of placing our secret selves in others' hands."  Is the Secrecy, the Secretiveness of Self the cause of our woes and our determination to continue them ?

Just why do humans not (to use Whitman's word) loaf  about being happy like bonobos, gorillas, orang-utans and even chimpanzees ? Why are we not using our brains to devise new forms of pleasure instead of new forms of oppression ? Why are dolphins and whales not relentlessly-driven and driving beings ? Why is nothing good enough for humans ? Why are we insatiable, unstoppable, out of control ? Once (before we became misnomically sapiens sapiens ?) we were pleasure-animals, now we are overfed, robotic slaves in the rich places, and the miserable, diseased and despised starving elsewhere.

'All the miseries of Man merely prove his superiority,' wrote Pascal, one of the most contemptible of 'Enlightenment' writers. 'They are the miseries of a great lord, of a dispossessed monarch.' This statement merely shows how twisted and perverted mankind can be. How can misery prove superiority ? Through the 'grace' of 'art' ? Of course not! The 'high end' of human cultures accounts for less than 0.1% of human activity. And those people who get to the 'top of the ladder', whether in painting or in banking, do so because they lack the sensibility and vision to enjoy themselves, like bonobos or wolves, on the rungs. Mankind rushed to the top of the evolutionary ladder through its amazing freedom of choice (but not the choice of suicide!) and hence by choosing to suppress its abilities for pleasure. And when some do decide that pleasure might be a good thing, they haven't the faintest idea how to find it - and resort to infantile activities like randomly taking narcotics, hallucinogens and other psychotropes - often several together.

It is amazing how backward Man is emotionally, compared with his ability to solve - and, more importantly, to invent - puzzles. We are the only autistic species, continually at war, continually devising new weapons, continually skirmishing inside our heads, continually managing crises of our own making, and making a crisis of the whole planet which from early in our 'development' has become nothing more to us than our prey. Something is wrong here. 'Original Sin' is a childish, easy sound-bite of an explanation, itself indicating how wilfully inadequate we are: a species continually at war with itself since it first declared Nature to be an Enemy. The only species which cannot evolve further, because the cultures it has constructed are designed to prevent it from inherent adaptation, from learning from its mistakes, is itself a mistake of nature, a dead end of evolution. Evilution is a cleverer term than 'Original Sin'.

'The lower animals' do not recognise omens.

Our attraction towards psychoactive substances suggests not so much that something 'went wrong' in the evolution of our brains, but that something 'went missing', disappeared, or was suppressed (in the corpus callosum) at some point before we started clubbing each other as a matter of policy, having clubbed and eaten all the happy animals we could find - probably including the Neanderthals and even-earlier hominids, who (I guess) were not missing the neuro-transmitter or synapse of happiness - that quality which no constitution yet devised offers a right to, but only to its pursuit, as if with club and axe.

Olduvai Hand-axe

Is there something which suppresses 'pleasure-receptors', the production of neuro-transmitters in the human brain ? Are we cursed with a 'striving (or dissatisfaction) gene' ? At what point in the development of the human brain and psyche can we place this irreversible flaw which is now so virulently mushrooming into the Sixth Extinction of the planet ? Which forces those who are neither in ground down misery nor in grinding-down affluence to work ever harder for ever-more-faceless taskmasters, though we have invented all sorts of spin-off marvels (as well as music and the other arts) with which we all could have a lovely and leisurely time.

It was in the Gulag of the USSR that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, formerly an atheist, recognised Original Sin - and, when he was free so to do, joined the (extremely intolerant and Mammon-adoring) Russian Orthodox Church. His predecessor, Fyodor Dostoyevski, was, more than any writer of his time, almost obsessed by the curse of Original Sin, which, in him, took the very obvious form of compulsive gambling. We are the only addictive species - addicted to anything and everything from adrenaline and testosterone to desire, greed, vengeance, sugar, routine, institutions...to language and explanations...to gambling...to glue.


Before tackling the main question, let us consider the original source of the concept, Book of Genesis (chapters 2 and 3), where the idea is powerfully and picturesquely expressed. [skip this]

The Christian and Islamic 'Right' (who are so often - but not always - wrong) link Original Sin with sex and sexuality, dissembling and furtiveness. The story features a single fruit, mis-glossed as 'Apple' (when apples were no bigger than marbles, so the fruit was almost certainly the highly-symbolic tomato-sized wild Pomegranate, such as was associated with Hades and Persephone) which hung from the 'Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil'. Then there was a Serpent, from time immemorial an earth-spirit, as indeed 12th century monks and sculptors knew - for it is part of the symbolic representation of Terra with her cornucopia and companion animals, and, occasionally, a tree. It also occurs on Romanesque Chrisms or Chi-Rho emblems as an S on the stem of the Rho.

(More philosophically, the serpent might be the asp of aspiration...)

The world-tree is a well-known concept. Sometimes there perches on it a peacock, symbol of watchfulness and/or immortality (its flesh was thought not to corrupt). In Genesis it has the fruit - which has the seeds of desire, though these are not mentioned.

Original Sin cannot be mere, generalised desire, since many animals desire many things, mostly sensual and, at times of rut and œstrus, sexual. "I was afraid because I was naked" is a very puzzling phrase. Shyness about nakedness is cultural, not natural, and certainly when cultural is not universal. Might Adam have discovered 'foreskin cheese' - an enduring reason for circumcision which comes later ? Young boys fence with their willies; might Adam have been afraid to fence with God ?

But might Original Sin be a much broader phenomenon, deriving from what we call intelligence: our amazing freedom of choice, and specifically our unique ability amongst land-mammals to choose to commit suicide ? If so, this Ultimate and almost universal Taboo is not mentioned in the Garden of Eden palimpsest of stories. Perhaps even the mention of it was taboo.

Eve might have offered the 'apple' to Adam as a present - a love-gift. She was not inveigling him to disobedience of the God-Führer, General-Secretary Comrade Yahweh. But, after they had both eaten, they bizarrely became aware that they, alone of God's Creation, were obscenely naked. Eve then set about sewing fig-leaves to make little skirts or caches-sexe.

Where did her needle and thread come from ? Why fig-leaves and not plane-leaves or date-fronds ? Is the textile connection between Eve, the early Christians (Paul the tentmaker and his business-network of weavers, dyers and sewers), the Cathars and the Hugenots entirely coincidental ? Is this in fact the remnant of the oldest of all myths: about the shame of being human, the only mammal without fur ? (apart from the Hairless Mole-Rat of desertified East Africa)

[skip the rest]

Though strict control of sexual behaviour is a chief feature of nomadic societies, as the Israelites were until they successfully invaded Canaan, it is ridiculous to imagine that mere nudity or actual sexual reproduction could be criminal, unless God wanted just two people to play with. If Original Sin was sexual, then why should it afflict humans rather than other animals ? How else are they to reproduce. If it was bizarre sexual practices (as the Fundamentalists like to imagine), then why did Genesis (let alone Deuteronomy and Leviticus) not mention them ? It is pretty unlikely to be 'sodomy', usually interpreted as anal penetration, for there must have been many far less sordid and more rewarding pleasures in the Garden of Eden. This is not actually mentioned in the Old Testament. Leviticus 18:22 merely states: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." This would seem not to include cosy fraternal or cuddly innocence, and perhaps not mutual masturbation, either. For more Biblical references see here.

According to the Bible, the sin of the Sodomites and the Gomorrality of the Gomorrans was not sexual but social: the serious sin of inhospitability to the Angel (Messenger) who arrived to test them.

The prudish and humourless Philo of Athens was the first to commit the non-original sin of linking of one of the Cities of the Plain with the practice of anal sex, which he evidently found abhorrent. He anathematised anal penetration outright, rather than admit its efficacy as a suitable - if sometimes messy - form of contraception: pleasure for men, less pleasure for women - who do not have prostates to be massaged pleasurably. Still, the avoidance of childbirth, puerperal fever and other complications render pleasurable the absence of pain and risk of death.

The World Health Organisation should, of course, be promoting sodomy as the cheapest form of birth control. For it is not so much coal-fired power-stations and the internal combustion engine which is killing the world, as the sheer exponential growth of a terrible species, Nature's hubris. Our brains have a problem with exponentials, we simply cannot grasp the implications. This is an essential flaw in our overreaching minds.

A non-heterosexual, I personally have problems with the whole anal penetration 'business'. Those gay men who want to fuck anal sphincters are simply either men who want to fuck women but lack the social or emotional skills, or men who feel impelled to dominate other men in this way. They are as stupid as any people who think that sex is just penetration and ejaculation.

But might the deliberate practice of anal sex not be an aspect of Flawed Humanity, except as a contraceptive device ? - in other words, when someone put ANAL into Bacchanal, and thus introduced anal gang-bangs (blood, shit and torn rectums) - surely not something to be celebrated...


However, I have digressed! My original question is where we might put the evolutionary (or, to be truthful, the counter-evolutionary) point of 'Original Sin', or expulsion from 'Paradise'. Paradise might be the self-acceptance of the 'higher' animals (whose sense of continuous self-hood, if it exists, is not ours), and the spectrum of self-esteem (so often at the lower end) is the Judgement of God. Is the notion of gods and God - the ludicrous concept of immutability and Truth - itself 'Original Sin' ? Was the snake-tempter in the Garden an avatar of Stalin-Jehovah ? Was the tree of Knowledge the tree of Justification, the tree of Perception of Causality - the tree of Reason itself ? Reason leads us to ask the wrong whys: not 'why am I not happy ?' but 'why am I here ?' - and 'what shape is the universe ?'

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 œstrus 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.

Before 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.
For people to be able to eat parts of animals other than the eyes, the brains, the blood and the contents of the digestive tract, fire had to be invented. This required not just the knowledge and the skill, but a certain amount of organisation in order to 'hold the flame'. The highly-carnivorous Neanderthals also had this ability - and became extinct. So Original Sin was not the capture, killing (with tools) and eating (in cooked form) of fresh meat. Nor was it cannibalism, which, enantiodromically, became a universal taboo, along with suicide.

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.

Sculptures by Hugh Rance

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.

So perhaps

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.

 

further stimulating reading:

THE PREHISTORY OF SEX
Four million years of Human Sexual Culture
by
TIMOTHY TAYLOR



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 'evolutionary' conspiracy of language, produced a tragœdic 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.

And so the planet of experiment, of opportunity and diversity became the monotonous
Planet of Pain...

Civilization
How to destroy a narrative: a Muslim hacked to death by a Buddhist in Burma.


The multimedia artist Chris Kuksi brings us back to the idea that Human Reproduction (rather than 'sex') perpetuates the species, and thus is the 'secondary' - but ideally reversible - Original Sin.


 


top of page

 

More on Original Sin, on a more academic and superficial level >

see also : http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/g/great_myth_original_sin.html


Egyptian Cattle

Agriculture is business, saith the Lord.



 

COBRA

Eye to eye
Serpent and I
Utterly harmless
Loving each other
Both of us mystic
Born out of myth
Encircling
Sexual
Insinuating
Each of us pulled
Invisibly
And ineluctably
Until we die
Eye to eye

ON HAPPINESS

 

AN ALTERNATIVE CREATION STORY


On the first day, God created the dog and said,
"Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past.
For this, I will give you a life span of twenty years."

The dog said, "That's a long time to be barking.
How about only ten years and I'll give you back the other ten?"

And God saw it was good.

On the second day, God created the monkey and said,
"Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh. For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span."

The monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years?
That's a pretty long time to humiliate myself. Can I give you back ten like the dog did?"

And God, again saw it was good.

On the third day, God created the cow and said,
"You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun,
have calves which will be snatched away from you
so that you give milk to support the farmer's family.
For this, I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said, "That's a horrible life you want me to live for sixty years.
How about ten, and I'll give back the other fifty?"

And God agreed it was good.

On the fourth day, God created humans and said,
"Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your life. For this, I'll give you twenty years."

But the human said, "Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty,
the fifty the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back,
and the ten the dog gave back; that makes seventy, okay?"
(Early Man was had not yet invented mathematics.)

"Very well," said God, "Since that's what you want..."

So that is why for our first ten years, we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves.
For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family.
For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren.
And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

The human condition has now been explained to you -
without even mentioning overpopulation.

There is no need to thank me for this valuable information.
I'm doing it as a public service.
If you are looking for me I will be on the front porch.

 

ON HAPPINESS

 

TAKE THIS APPLE
(FOOD FOR THOUGHT)

There is surely no religion
whose priests and elders refused themselves
privileged sexual, often secret
access to the shameful joys
so easily available from pre-pubescent
girls and boys.

 


top of page

 

 

 
towards unachievement >