The Beginning of the Beginning -Part 4b



Digression on Conventional
Misunderstandings


In the intellectual climate of our time, the experienced tensions of consciousness, their expression through symbols, and their differentiating exploration are exposed to certain misunderstandings. At this point it will be prudent to mention some of them; by warding them off it will be possible to clarify the structure of the present quest still further:

(1) One source of misunderstandings is the various psychologies of projection. The symbolism of Genesis 1 must not be misconstrued as an "anthropomorphism," or the projection of a human into a divine consciousness; nor would the opposite misconstruction as a "theomorphism," or a projection of divine into human consciousness, be admissible. On principle, the poles of an experienced tension must not be deformed into entities existing apart from the tension experienced; the tension itself is the structure tobe explored; it must not be fragmentized for the purpose of using one of the poles as the basis for clever psychologizing. That is not to say that projections do not really occur; on the contrary, they occur quite frequently, but as secondary phenomena, be it the humanization of gods or the divinization of men.

One such phenomenon is the Feuerbach-Marx divinization of man for the purpose of explaining divine reality as a human projection that, if returned to man, will produce full humanity. Such charges, however, cannot be laid against a pneumatically differentiated search of the Beginning like Genesis 1, for every man is really conscious of participating in a process that does not begin with the participants but with the mysterious It that encompasses them all.

(2) The present analysis should not be misunderstood as a contribution to the great historiographic enterprises of comparative religion and comparative mythology. The historiographic results are presupposed and gratefully accepted, but in the present context they are submitted to philosophic analysis. It would not be helpful, but rather would divert attention from the characteristics of Genesis 1, if I were to indulge in an extensive account of "influences," such as the Egyptian and Babylonian antecedents of the mythical symbols employed. The knowledge of these antecedents certainly is of the first importance for understanding the historical situation of the authors, of the cultural environment in which they moved, and of the language they had to speak in their own mythospecu-lative enterprise. This knowledge, however, is now submitted to categorization in terms of the philosophers' language.

Moreover, the "philosophers' language" appears to have a habit of multiplying languages as soon as it touches the historical materials. We had to speak of a language of the "myth," of "mythospeculations" within a general mythic language; and now we must speak of Genesis 1 as a "pneumatically differentiated mythospeculation," if we want to understand the differentiated use to which the language of the myth was put in Genesis, creating by this use a new language for new insights.

This manifold of languages must be accepted as a structure in the history of the quest for truth. The languages are all recognizable and intelligible as languages because, in their various modes of experiential compactness and differentiation, they all symbolize the same structures of consciousness that, in a more differentiated mode, are symbolized in the philosophers' quest for truth. Their plurality, in the parallels and the sequences of the manifold, reveals language as an integral part of the complex consciousness-reality-language, pervaded by the paradox of intentionality and luminosity, in its historical unfolding of the truth of reality. The language symbols unfold as part of the unfolding truth of reality. This philosophers' understanding of language must not be confused with the linguists' conception of language as a system of signs. But that should be obvious enough not to require further elaboration.

(3) And finally, the analysis should not be misunderstood as a doctrinal exegesis in the sense of later, ecclesiastic theologies.

At present we are not interested in the question whether the doctrine of a creatio ex nihilo is the most suitable interpretation of Genesis 1 or not; nor in the millennial question of why a creation that its Creator found "good" should require salvational interventions to redeem it from its evil.

Rather, we are interested in the experience of the It that was symbolized by the authors of Genesis; and they experienced the Beginning as an evocation, by the force of the pneumatic word, of form in reality from a formless, unstructured waste. This formless waste, then, must be guarded against the conventional misunderstandings of a modernist mind that is accustomed to think of It-reality in terms of thing-reality.

For this formless waste is neither nothing nor not-nothing:

(a) It is not nothing, for if it were nothing, no creative evocation of something would be necessary; the formed reality would be there already,

(b) And yet, it is nothing, if by something is meant any structure experienced as real in postcreational reality; the formless waste is not a "matter" on which the pneumatic Creator works, if by "matter" is understood anything that we call matter in everyday life or in physics.

The symbolism of this peculiar precreational stuff or material, which is not a structured, postcreational matter, will perhaps come closer to our understanding when we remember that our "matter" derives from the Latin materia, which in turn derives from mater, the originally generating maternal reality. The formless waste (tohu) of Genesis has preserved, probably through its relation to the Babylonian tiamat, the mythic meaning of feminine productivity in the act of generation. But then again, this piece of historical information must not be used to misconstrue the story of Genesis as a "sublimated" version of creation through a sex act, perhaps by imposing some psychoanalytic interpretation. A reductionist construction of this type would destroy both the differentiating achievement of Genesis and the meaning of the myth. For the authors of Genesis, having differentiated the formative force in the It as the evocative power of the spirit and its word, had to differentiate a formless waste over the depth as the correlative recipient of the formative command, if they wanted to understand the It as the Beginning of their experienced struggle for spiritual order in man, society, and history.

By differentiating the pneumatic struggle as the Beginning of the mysterious epiphany of all structure in reality, however, they revealed the presence of its consciousness in the compact language of earlier mythospeculations on the Beginning, such as the various cosmogonies, anthropogonies, and theogonies.

If these fundamental issues are obscured by conventional misunderstandings, we lose the understanding of Genesis as one of the great documents in the historical process of advance from compact to differentiated consciousness and the corresponding advance from compact to differentiated languages. If we lose this understanding, we furthermore lose the larger historical horizon of the differentiating advances, as for instance the equivalences between the symbolization of the Beginning in Genesis and its symbolization as the imposition of form on a formless chora in Plato's Timaeus. And if we lose the larger historical horizon of the advances, finally, we lose the possibility of recognizing in the pneumatic differentiation of Genesis the compact presence of the noetic structure of consciousness, the presence of the complex consciousness-reality-language.

The contemporary climate of opinion has created a social field of considerable power; anybody who dares to think within the range of its pressure has to reckon with its various antagonisms to thought. The antagonisms are not thought through, or they would not exist; they derive their social force from having become habitual to the degree of an automatism.

Assuming that the reader, in his effort to understand the present analysis, is laboring under the same pressures as I am in conducting it and writing it out, I have articulated in the preceding pages some of the inarticulate pressures on the quest for truth in our time. I hope the brief sketch is sufficient, not only to ward off the specific misunderstandings mentioned, but to bring the general issue to attention, so that further interruptions of the analysis for this purpose will become unnecessary. I shall now resume the analysis at the point it had reached before this digression on conventional misunderstandings.

In Search of Order , CW Vol 18
Ch 1, The Beginning of the Beginning,
§4. The The Beginning of Genesis 1,
pp 35-37.

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