Every now and then I think I can get it all down in a quick, clear and understandable form. I’m caught in a time loop. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work this time either. But the title is true, that’s the topic.
I’ve sent the question out to the Oracle a few times now, and even classicists and ancient language experts can’t seem to comment, so in a healthy bit of self-affirmation I’m going to stop asking and tell you, this is how it is: the biblical English “knowledge of good and evil” phrase does not indicate awareness of our evil, it is not an expression of Christian Original Sin, or any other name for it. It is, rather, like most human knowledge.
You could say the knowledge of wood and fire, knowledge of land and crops. It means how to make one from the other.
It’s in the first few pages, well within the introduction for most books, often the part where the authors are telling you what the book is about, what you’re going to learn, and I’m not saying human life began with the bible, I’m just saying religion serves our biology, and our sacred texts either reflect our default core beliefs or perhaps they write them into our hearts, I’m saying the bible basically codifies default human life, so to talk about its tenets is to talk about basic human tenets. Wait – the bible is full of world domination stuff, discrete, nasty instructions I do not think are good and correct or are even our core beliefs– I mean its unconscious tenets are our human unconscious tenets. In this book, one could read it, you will learn the alchemic trick of starting with good and creating evil, turning that raw material into something someone can use.
And then, I guess, I don’t know – awaaaayee we go!
Into endless stories of what happens when a people refuses to follow the authority of God and doubly endless lists of how things must be and exactly what sorts of hurts to hand out for each transgression, and of course, not all just straight up exposition like that, but in story after story after story, you know – with feeling. As well as in interminable exposition, of course!
So, already a recap, because this is day two of this one:
A book, “knowledge,” ostensibly, about, in theory, “good and evil” – first, is this not the very First Sin you read from every Sunday, then? Do we not eat the forbidden fruit and cast ourselves out freshly every time we pick it up? OK, pointing out contradictions in the bible, there’s a worthy thing for a nearly sixty year old man to do! Ahem. Moving on.
. . . no sorry, what an annoying trick, second time now, I’m sorry, not moving on. This is how I think, I don’t figure it out ahead and then come write it down, the written page is my brain’s working space, I could never keep track of this train of thought and develop it all up in my head, I need to see it to remember it and to just plain see my own thoughts, know what I’m putting together. If you don’t write, you should try it. I often follow some thought that I thought was as good as any other and I end up backspacing over several paragraphs, and accidentally learn or unlearn something, either about the world or about myself. I’ve come to believe that a thought isn’t real until we say it out loud or write it down, most of our thought is free-floating crap that wouldn’t survive the audit of writing it down and reading it back to ourselves, and we know it, and we don’t commit to most of it – but it’s really powerful to write it, say it, put it into the world where you can see it. Then we can tell the wheat from the chaff.
So, not moving on, let’s run with that for bit, that first teenage atheist complaint – I’m not one, really, I don’t mind some high concept God stuff – knowledge of good and evil got us punted out of paradise and created the twelve hour work day, so you should come to church every Sunday and gain some more of this knowledge of good and evil – we got a full time staff to explain it to you . . . none of this makes any sense if we thought the knowledge of good and evil was against God’s rules and caused the Fall and all of our existential trouble forever, does it? Like, remotely?
Brother, how many times have you read the book of knowledge of good and evil?
How it makes sense is my crazy, outlandish theory here. It’s a how to manual.
Knowledge of ore and steel, knowledge of good and evil.
We don’t think we’ve been cast out and lost paradise, do we? Is it part of that meme that when we had our Fall, the rest of nasty old nature all changed character too? It used to be safe in nature? You want your paradise back, drop everything and walk out on the Mara Plain, enjoy. Do we assume that the humans closer to it thought that? Only in our current delusion!
Clearly, we like our knowledge and are glad to be indoors, safely cast out of such a paradise as is full of lions and tigers and bears and invisible death from mosquitos. So, despite the absolutely everything else, we think knowledge about only this stuff, good and evil, is bad? So we keep hearing and learning about it every Sunday long after all other school has ended for most people?
Or . . . despite the opening premise, really, this is a book, and you should read it for the knowledge therein. You may have the knowledge of many things, perhaps you are a master of one or more of them, the aforementioned knowledge of land and crops, of flint and fire, ore and metal – sound and music. The true story is that the knowledge of good and evil delivered Adam and Eve from this “paradise,” – and now you can have this knowledge too, dear purchaser of the Book. Read on!
Then, as I say, rules and punishments, obedience to a celestial being, or failing that, His Earthly representative. And that’s how you do it. Rules and punishments are the tools of the trade of the resource extraction industry of creating evil from a baby born to paradise. Straight up illicit abuse is even better of course, more isolating and such, but normalized, ubiquitous abuse is good too.
This is us, this is what I’m saying.
In biological terms, cruel, warlike humanity is not the default, natural state of this branch of the primate tree, this is not a past from which we strive to escape and are making any long term progress, this is still a choice we make every day and at least until very recently and we only hope it’s changing, our wars are still getting bigger. These are still choices we make every day or at least, in this conversation, every Sunday – knowledge of good and evil has separated us from God and made our life one of labour and strife – and now for today’s lesson, good and evil! Please open your Book to page two.
This is our goal, not our curse put upon us by the celestial being or nature. This isn’t easy, the “labour” part is no joke. We work hard to be like this, to be this, not so much the pious lover of God who fears nothing, yea, even in the Valley of Death because he trusts in God, but more the meanest SOB in the whole damned valley, that’s the truth of the matter. The competition requires that all trades be at their best, from farming to smithing, to the evil-making industries of child abuse and “moral systems” of punitive abuse generally.
Hmmm. This was to be more of an all-in-one blog.
The evil-making industry must work best in secret, I suppose, evil thrives in darkness, so it gets a makeover, a relabelling – and leaves us with this massive contradiction, knowledge of good and evil ruined our lives, so we clearly need more and more of it. You need to learn wrong from right, so I’m going to demonstrate, on you, how a full grown adult beats a small child. None of this makes any sense if good is good and bad is bad – again, the knowledge of good and evil is supposed to have been our mistake, the very thing caused our Fall, got us all this trouble – but without exception, every parent knows that children must be taught “wrong from right.”
We are far more committed to this war against God than this nominal atheist ever dreamed, ha! I kid, the point was our actions do not match our story. Ah, there it is.
We don’t teach our children wrong from right with the beating or any version of it. We make our children wrong from babies that had been right.
The knowledge of good and evil, if it means simply awareness of the two things, or less, awareness of our nakedness, is not the great sin they tell us it is, clearly, and in certain contexts, no-one argues this. We get used to religion sounding meaningless, no slag. I still find “taking the Lord’s name in vain” similarly indecipherable! (I’ve heard more than one reasonable take on it, but those few words aren’t much use, is my point.) Rather this knowledge is not simple awareness of the two words, but again, the relationship, one from the other, perhaps the translation could have been the technology of good and evil. One from the other.
And in this truer story, this knowledge is not only not a bad thing, but the point of the Book, a very good thing, in fact such a good thing that it must be forced upon every last human being in existence. Everyone must have the knowledge of good and evil, all must learn wrong from right. Everyone must have the scars to show they subscribe to someone’s “system of morals.”
Minus the sarcasm, this is the logic that makes sense of this biblical meme, not the one usually offered, this plot at least works.
Do you care if it works? If life has any logic to it?
Warning: it won’t make you “good,” not the popular kind of good. It’s a new kind of good some of us are looking for, a rational one, a good that makes some damned sense.
October 9th., 2019