What happened in the Beginning

In answer, Jesus said, Is there not a saying in your law, I said, You are gods? John 10:34

I have said before that the creation story is an archetypical story, not a reality account. I know that I probably lose some readers with that statement as it rattles the chains of fundamentalist bible interpretation.

Are archetypical stories true? If true for you means that they retell something that really happened, then they are most probably not. I say most probably because one could use an actual account that is so telling of the underlying principles to create an archetypical story.

But usually, archetypical stories never happened exactly that way, but happen in principle all the time and over and over again, thus being in a sense even more true than mere factual truth ever can be.

That is why they are called archetypical. Arche means “beginning, principle, origin”. An archetype is a blueprint of a principle, of something truly original. A prototype is a blueprint that gets implemented by copying it, while an archetype in applied in principle: it is shaped and changed, but the underlying principle holds true through all applications. There are no copies, but variations.

Let me give you an example:

When Jesus talks to Nicodemus, he uses the term “without a new birth” (John 3:3). Nicodemus thinks that Jesus is using natural birth as a prototype, as a blueprint that should be copied, and asks how one can possibly get back into their mother’s womb. But we all know, and now even know the technical term, that Jesus uses natural birth as an archetype for this new birth.

With natural birth, we are born into a new realm we know nothing of, yet are equipped to master, but the tools are immature and need a lot of training, revelation, and growth. We first are unaware, but slowly grow accustomed to this new place and find our place in it.

The same with this new birth: we are born into a new realm that we are actually made for, whose tools are innate, but have been thoroughly neglected, and we are first unaware of the things around us. It is the beginning of a journey into awareness, belonging, even shaping.

So Jesus uses natural birth as an archetype. But there is an even deeper archetype that encloses both the natural birth and what we have come to call the born again experience: the birth of creation and mankind.

The creation story, and I limit myself at the moment to the creation of mankind, as I said, is not a scientific recount of creation. What would it be good for? Look around: the notion of a single man being created from dust by God has lately only served to bring separation and ridicule, but does not give any applicable facts or viewpoints that do not hold true if the story were only a parable giving us principle truths.

If it is an archetypical story though, it serves as a blueprint for all kinds of new beginnings, including natural birth and spiritual birth. That is, it potentially serves every human being multiple times in life when they apply the principle of the story to their life situation. The story springs alive and is retold countless times in beautiful variations. It therefore becomes common good and common experience, binding together instead of separating us, as much as it springs from common experience.

What then is the story telling us?

It is a story about birth and birth experience. Man was unaware of himself, his life was, just as it is for animals, an experience of the now and the unity with everything. There were no challenges or problems, not because they did not exist, but because man lived through them unaware, was unable to anticipate them consciously, and only had instinctual memory of them.

But man grew more and more aware of his surrounding, started to name things, recognize patterns and colors, still living in unity.

Just as a baby does not distinguish between itself and other people, as all is one, Adam did not. But then he was given Eve, which is archetypical for realizing that the other is not just an extension of ourselves. Such, Eve was taken from Adam, and he grew aware of her separate existence.

The existential realm of a baby, once it becomes aware that “mom is not me”, is the family, the tribe. There is a lot of unity, people are alike.

The story then continues with a decision placed before them. We all experience this in our lives. At some point, a decision is place before us and we have to react.

It is inevitable that we react, and it is not a one time thing. We are given a choice over and over again. Just for illustration: we do not know how many times Eve had decided not to bite the fruit and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before doing so. Many of our decisions are places before us and stay there for a prolonged time, and we will have the opportunity to decide over and over again.

Some decisions are such that once you made your choice, you cannot go back. We all know that. Sometimes it is only one choice that has this feature, as it is in the story here.

What is key here? God places a decision before them not to have them fall, but to have them grow.

We know that there is no love without free will. I cannot be made to love you, because forced love just is not the definition of love, but rape, on all levels. In order to have free will, I need to be self-aware and even have an ego (portrayed by the snake in the story), that is, desires of my own. I need decisiveness, and the emergence of that decisiveness is retold in the story of the “apple”.

But being self-aware has consequences: I now see the other as different, not truly akin. And in seeing those differences, I develop shame. I become aware of death, challenges, I now experience work bringing hardship and sweat and giving birth being painful consciously. I can memorize hardship and therefore anticipate it in other situations, and I can deduct from the experience of others. That is good for learning, but also makes me aware of the fact that paradise is gone, carefree living does not exist any longer.

This experience is retold in the story: their eyes were opened, they saw that they were naked. The consequences were opened up to them: death, toil, birth pains, development of a persona, and they were expelled from paradise.

This is the exact experience of a child: born unaware into a paradise where I am taken care of and live in unity with my surrounding, until I become aware and then start to take my own decisions. In some of my decisions, I experience rejection, though my parents ideally never want to reject me, but help me grow up and take better decisions on my learning path. I experience the consequences of my decisions as shame, hardship, and pain.

You might have missed one wird in this list: guilt.

Nowhere in the creation story we hear of guilt, only of shame. The point of the decision was not to learn about right or wrong, to make a wrong decision, it was about learning to take decisions. And still, this will inevitably lead to the knowledge of good and evil, the duality of right or wrong. How so?

Having experienced the consequences of a decision, we will look back and wonder, maybe even wish that we had decided otherwise. We will learn from similar decisions that some decisions have a better outcome than others, and we will start to develop rudimentary wisdom to teach others and ourselves about future similar situations.

Thus we will develop categories of good and bad outcome. At times, we will assign the category to the thing that forces us to make the decision and put that thing into the good or evil category.

Many of those outcomes cannot be explained because the world is not deterministic, and even if it were, we do not have the mental or computational capability to explain the consequences of our decisions. We start to explain those using supernatural beings.

Over time, those supernatural beings fuse into one God that defines the categories of good and evil, opens them up to us in his law, and even sends us his Spirit to guide us as we now have learned that the application of the law is not straight forward due to the complexity of life.

Those experiential and sometimes superstitious categories grow into basic commandments and accompanying rules and regulations. Looking at our children, we see that in early days, they only learn the ways of life to avoid bad consequences by enforcement. Their frontal lobes, their experiential memory, and their ability to abstract principles from experience are not developed enough to apply more sophisticated ways of learning.

But we grow, and just as with our kids who will eventually learn, one area of life after the other, to make good decisions, it is with mankind. The new testament is not about rules, regulations, and the law any longer, even though most of the church still sees it that way as they are immature or refuse to grow up and take responsibility. Paul tells the Galatians: who has bewitched you that you fall back into mere obeying of rules.

But that is way more than is told in the creation story. I just applied the principle of archetypical stories to the whole narrative of the bible, not only its beginning. But it is not before you allow the creation story to be archetypical of nature that you can see that this holds for the whole bible and the ways God deals with us.

Does it matter then if the ten plaques have ever happened in history, or the flood? Not really, as they happen all the time, over and over again in our lives. Realizing that, those stories become valuable as they show possible consequences and solutions, but also give comfort as we recognize that they are part of life.

So to come back to the verse at the beginning of this text: I said, you are gods.

This is a clue. Just as babies are little humans in the making–fully human, with all potential, growing into what we call the adult form of human kind–we are also gods or, even better, God in the making. Gods in the sense of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, three unique personalities, and God in the sense of the Trinity: one God. God’s children growing into the perfect unity in diversity with Them, with the bible as an archetypical blueprint showing us how.

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Accompanyist | Pastor in Exile | Iconoclast — I am a Gallup certified CliftonStrengths coach and a Spiral Dynamics practitioner.