Blinded by Fig Leaves

adam-eve-234x300In the Judeo-Christian mythos, the first sin, was an act of disobedience, our direct personal relationship with God was damaged by an act of disobedience, the particular sin being the act of disobedience involving the attainment of forbidden knowledge.

In this context, much of human knowledge is flawed. In the gospel narrative Jesus absolves his tormentors; seen literally as his persecutors and figuratively as the whole human race, by stating “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do”.

Aphorisms about the blind leading the blind seem apt for every period of human history.

Gnostic commentators cynically claim that superior knowledge is the basis for their influence in the world.  Contemporary provocateurs make similar claims, arguing for the imposition of political ideology ‘by force’.

There is a strange conception of knowledge, that it is immutable to human distortion. The word ‘understanding’ illustrates this well. People often take understanding to mean ‘having a wider view of things’.  Understanding, however also refers to the beliefs you ‘stand under’, and the resulting perspectives that flow from that belief.

In the classical world of theology and philosophy, this is often stated as ‘faith’ and ‘reason’, we give reason for what we believe. This is not merely an admonition for good theological, or scholarly conduct, but rather a description of how human ‘knowledge’ operates.  We reason ‘from’ our beliefs, reason informs our beliefs, but belief itself is an act of will that operates somewhat independant of reason, using reason as a springboard to catapult ones beliefs forward

It is true that reason also ‘informs’ the things we believe in, occasionally calling us to question those beliefs. This questioning is a fundamental aspect of human nature, or for the Judeo-Christan, ‘fallen’ nature. We question right and wrong, and seem condemned to uncertainty, and doubt.

It is interesting to note, that in the biblical account of creation, the first act of ‘fallen’ man, was to cover himself/herself. The wearing of the fig leaf becoming the first act of self-doubt. We experience doubt as a consequence of attaining the means to discern right and wrong.

We began our pursuit of knowledge with doubt of ourselves. Doubt of our own nature giving rise to a need to ‘supplement’ that nature with external things. One could, in this context, argue that the first technological device was the fig leaf.

The whole history, allegorical, and literal, of our pursuit of knowledge is nothing more than a series of fig leaves, adopted as a feeble attempt to cover our shame and self-doubt.

Consider the story of Jesus, whose only apparent writing that we have a record of, was on sand. That is a fitting commentary in itself on the character of human knowledge, authority and authenticity.

Welcome to apocryphal times.


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