August 7, 2007

The time has come today... Part two.

"Get thee behind me, Satan!"

So, we now have a tale of two brothers, Cain and Abel, which we are looking at from the perspective of archetypes. Our first question is of course, what archetype does each of the “brothers” represent? In order to understand the characters of the story it is important to understand what setting the characters are framed within. What is the background of the two brothers? In order to arrive at an understanding of the story lets begin by stripping away the extraneous interpretive elements and get down to the very basics of this tale.

First, let’s do away with the theological interpretations. After all, religious interpretations are always themselves open to interpretation and we are only interested in the basic building blocks of this story. Let us set aside whatever spiritual meanings the story may have about any potential relationship with a proposed deity and see what we have remaining. Now, what’s the background within which the characters are operating? What is happening around the two brothers that might explain what they are doing?

At the time of this story there is a conflict in the land. Whatever circumstances that constituted the idyllic surroundings viewed as the Garden of Eden had fallen and men were beginning to dwell in a variety of sociological experiments in an environment that was new and alien to them. Judging from the details of the story concerning the garden the family way of life for Adam and Eve was a nomadic venture spent moving across the land tending their flocks of sheep. Other groups of individuals were experimenting with a different way of life in the forming of permanent settlements around fertile parcels of soil and establishing farming communities. The best known of these settlements was Nod, located to the east of Eden. (Look it up in Genesis, chapter 4:16)

So, now we begin to see the background against which the actions of the characters are taking place. Two groups of people are attempting to compete for available resources using two different methodologies. One is a nomadic approach where once the sheep have fed, and the land is no longer producing the nutrients required to feed the flock the shepherds would move on to the next available food source. The other group of people is forming permanent settlements around parcels of soil upon which plants are grown, harvested and used to support the communities surrounding them.

Which of the methodologies is proving the most successful? Based upon the story involving Adam and his progeny the evidence would seem to support that of the city builders. Abel may be the featured good son in the tale but it is worth noting that it is through the progeny of Cain that metallurgy, music, arts and crafts are developed. (Look at Genesis, chapter 16-22) Now, another son was born to Adam and Eve named Seth but his achievements are not listed in the accounting of the family so we can only assume he continued in the nomadic tradition of his sheep herding family.

If the story of Cain and Abel is indeed about two rival groups of people vying for control over the available resources of the land in which they dwelt the story mechanics begin to make sense. Abel represents a way of life that was once the primary method for survival. Tribes of people roamed the land tending to the animals that provided the basic necessities of survival; skins for clothing, meat for protein rich food and bones for rudimentary tool making. Cain represents a group of people who began leaving the nomadic life for the security of walled communities and enclosed farm lands that were made safe from roaming flocks of hungry animals.

The city builders were a serious threat to the nomads and their way of life and were seriously disliked by them. Look at the monsters they are turned into in this story; the city builders, I.E. Cain, and their agricultural offerings are not only found repulsive in the eyes of God but they are the killers of the kind and gentle nomads, Abel, and are cursed and sent to live as outcasts in the land. This is a story intended as a warning. A way of life was under attack. The entire economic and sociological system of the nomad was falling into obscurity because of the success of the city builders. The nomad could not compete with the forgers of metal or the farmers and their abundant food production. Is there evidence to support this theory of the Cain and Abel story to be found in the framework of the bible?

I believe there is when we look at the origin story of the Israelites. Twelve tribes of nomads were faring so poorly as the new agricultural economic paradigm developed across the landscape that their only hope for survival was to unite and forsake their nomadic ways and lay claim to a piece of landscape before it was all gone and they were left with nothing. That’s right; in order to survive the agricultural tide sweeping the land the twelve tribes of nomads united as one group and imitated the very scourge they hated so much. The real story of the bible is about the evolution of mankind during its evolutionary big bang moment of intellectual growth and development. It is the story of the moment in which we began to take dominion of the world in which we live. It is the story of the end of ecological balance.

Now, why was the sacrifice of Cain viewed as evil? Fruits of the earth can not be the answer because according to the logic of the bible they were created on the third day (Genesis chapter1:11-13) and must have been an important part of God’s master plan because they were behind only the creation of night and day and the separation of the water from the soil. Yes, veggies and whole grains were one of the biggies in God’s plan when he was terraforming the planet. So what was wrong with Cain’s sacrifice?

Could it have been something in his methodology? Could it have possibly been something in his attitude? What was the fatal flaw in Cain’s approach to survival that God found unfavorable? Could we possibly figure it out by listening to something Cain said?

I believe Geneses, chapter 4: 9 clearly spells out the flaw of the city builder; And the Lord said unto Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And Cain said, “I know not; Am I my brother’s keeper?” You see, when the primary survival technique in the world had been the way of the nomad it required a sense of community in which all members participated together in order to insure mutual survival of the whole tribe. The way of the new city builder fractured the sense of nomadic community and concerned itself only with the members contained within its protective city walls. The city builders broke the world view into insiders and outsiders. They created the concept of individual ownership of land. They created the Republican world view of, “I got mine now you go and get yours.” They created the system of profit at another’s expense.

The story of Cain and Abel is a story of resentment and hostility by a defeated group of sheep herders. It is a bitter tale about the beginning of the end of the nomadic way of life and the dawn of the agricultural way of life that has led to the current state in which mankind stands today; the technological dominance of the planet and the potential end of mankind’s existence as a species. Once the balance was broken and mankind began his assault upon the planet we have raced towards this eventual precipice.

It is an established fact that at one time a great canopy of water surrounded the Earth. I have always wondered what exact climatic change caused it to collapse and flood the world in what is one of the most documented events ever to occur in the course of human history. If the story of Cain and Abel does indeed contain a kernel of truth and does indeed relate the story of the birth of industrialized society what is the deeper warning contained in its tale? Is it a warning about the ability of mankind to affect the ecological environment in which we dwell? If the sequence of the book of Genesis are viewed without framing them in the mysteries of deity worship an interesting pattern unfolds.

1. The global community of man is disregarded as groups of selfish individuals’ band together to form profit minded collectives.

2. As these collectives expand their influence they evolve metallurgical technologies that produce heat and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

3. The atmosphere begins to grow warmer and the climate begins to change in response.

4. Finally, a major ecological change occurs erasing a great deal of mankind from the face of the planet and balance is once again restored to the planet and it heals from the damage done to it by the human species.

5. The surviving members of our species exit whatever vehicle of survival they loaded themselves into as disaster laid waste to their civilization and the process begins again.

Now, that’s just a pet theory of mine but keep this in mind...

Someone in the good book relates a promise to the future from God that he will not destroy the world with water ever again. When the second planetary cleansing occurs it is his divine mercy that it will be done with fire. Now, if you look at the global temperature things are getting pretty warm. There is also a scripture that says god will come like a thief in the night. Yes, I know a lot of people are looking for signs of his coming in the political arenas’ and in the interactions of men upon the face of the planet, but I think we are distracted from seeing the real warning from where it is really coming from. One piece of scripture has always made me wonder about what it really means and it goes something like this; even if all men forget my name the very rocks and stones shall cry it out.

I think we should be listening to the rocks and the stones of the planet. They are the basic fabric of the planet and I believe the Earth is trying to warn us before it is too late.

It has only been a few thousand years since the events recorded in the old testament. It has not taken us very long to affect the ecology of the planet in substantially negative ways. Look at the damage we’ve done to our environment. Do you think the first technological society knew what they were doing to the environment before the water canopy fell down upon their heads?

Now, go and get the movie An Inconvenient Truth and think about it. We may be ignoring the very prophet we need to be paying the most attention too.

Hey, it has happened plenty of times before.

Goodnight and for God's sake start saving the planet...


Blogger yinyang said...

Did you just basically blame the agricultural revolution for global warming?

Regardless, it was an interesting take on Cain and Abel.

August 07, 2007 5:26 AM  
Blogger Dirk_Star said...

yinyang - Why yes, yes I did...

I'll be posting a few follow up thoughts tomorrow.

August 07, 2007 8:14 AM  
Blogger Pythia3 said...


Brilliant interpretation.

I must say, I really enjoyed reading this - it made me think.

You are a blogger after my own contemplative heart and debate-loving mind.

Thanks :)

I'll be back to check in on this - I hope others read it and comment.

August 07, 2007 10:21 AM  
Blogger The Artist formerly Known as Purpleworms (!) said...

So, .. The farmer and the cowman (I mean sheep man) should be friends?

I like the metaphor - certainly community is one of the few things that seems to offer any hope of conscience and reining in all this selfishness, however in our own modern permutation, it seems to me that it is the small farmer (such as are left) and people attached to their local areas that offer hope against the mobile and massively selfish corporations that see the world as a place for their utilisation (which they label stewardship) and which I call exploitation.

August 07, 2007 10:26 AM  
Blogger Paul F. said...

Interesting read...I'm really busy with work right now, but I'm gonna come back to this one....and I'll have a comment, I'm sure.

August 07, 2007 10:43 AM  
Blogger Wizened Wizard said...

A rather lengthy lead-in, Dirkster, but your punchline is clear and simple and right - except that I would say, "For the sake of your children start saving the planet."

August 07, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger Pepper said...

I have been giving this a lot of thought today. Interesting interpretation. Now to steer off course just a tab.... maybe it is because I have been reading to many war novels but think about the situation in Iraq. Who are we fighting? Nomadic, tribal..... hmmm. I am not for the war but I am not against the men and women there. Just something that mom and I discussed off and on today.

August 07, 2007 10:38 PM  
Blogger Paul F. said...

Well, I definitely like your analogy on the story of Cain and Able because you are seeing it as a parable. That makes sense because the Bible is full of parables. It always has been an area of contention in my mind hearing that story and knowing full well that there was a lot more people around than just Cain and Able. But what really happened there, as you pointed out, may well have been an ushering in of a new age of man...."civilized man".

August 08, 2007 10:07 PM  
Blogger DNR said...

WOW!!! In no other post have I disagreed, thought, agreed and disagreed again so many times. What little Bible studying I have done, no one has ever brought Genesis verses together with Revelation verses. Ultimately, I disagree with you. I am literal in my interpretation of the Old Testament. I have not read the story of Cane and Able in years so I will not begin to comment or argue a point. But something in me doesn’t think it is a nomadic vs. agricultural life style issue. I do like your ‘spin’ (that’s not a bad thing) on the story and the way you bring it all back together to teach ecological conservation. I am conservative and Republican (registered although I don’t vote by party) and I STRONGLY believe ecological conservation is paramount. Resource on this planet are finite, not infinite. Even solar power is not infinite but its limit is beyond human comprehension.

Gore as a prophet - hummm. A prophet is never seen as a prophet in his own land. Maybe this fits him. When the movie first came out I read something about the power consumed by him and his house. It was a stark opposite to any thoughts on conservation. I’ll find it again if you are interested and haven’t seen it.

You know, the main reason I read you is you give me things to think about. I may not agree with you but you have a unique way of looking at things that impresses me. And I enjoy stretching my mind.

August 09, 2007 2:02 PM  
Blogger Arcturus said...

This interpretation is just too vast, sweeping, and all-encompassing for me to get my mind around.

I thought that Cain was the outcast doomed to wander the Earth, so how does he end up living in cities and end up representing civilization and its advancement? Does this mean the "agrarian" life that Cain somehow embodied in his agricultural offer really was a sign of "civilization" whereas the nomadic life of sheep raising was the actual pastoral - agrarian life? You seem to have completely flipped the two...

Be that as it may, I have to ask you though about the following sentence: "It is an established fact that at one time a great canopy of water surrounded the Earth.

Please explain that to me. Do you mean that literally, as in a scientific fact? Not to be argumentative, but there is no such established fact. The Earth has had its oceans since the beginning roughly 4 billion years ago. Who has established the existence of a "canopy" of water?

The "vapor canopy" is a theory has been around for a while but it really came to prominence in the 1961 book by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb called The Genesis Flood..

You may want to read this useful Wikipedia article on The Flood geology and this one on the vapor canopy.

These are not scientifically credible ideas.

August 09, 2007 3:49 PM  
Blogger Dirk_Star said...

arcturus - Good points, however Wikipedia is hardly the best source for information...

There are conflicting opinions and I simply enjoyed throwing one out for arguments sake.

The articles I read attack creationists and as I've read in other places the creationists are not the only proponents of the canopy theory.

Wikipedia is not a one hundred percent objective or accurate information resource...

August 09, 2007 7:52 PM  
Blogger Arcturus said...

Actually, Wikipedia tends to be rather accurate precisely because anyone can update it, and so false information is very quickly change.

A study in Nature -- one of the top peer-reviewed scientific journals of our time -- in 2005 found Wikipedia entries to be about as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica.

The story is here.

The bigger issue here, though, is the idea that there is a "debate" in the sense of a scientific exchange of views between Creationists and the earth scientists.

There is not.

So in that sense, when you say "theory," you have to be clear what is a scientifically testable theory and what is an article of faith that someone has, or just some curious ideas woven into a nice narrative. This doesn't mean the idea is necessarily wrong. It just means it can't be tested using the regular tools of science. Creationism and vapor canopies fall in that category.

August 10, 2007 4:55 PM  
Blogger just me said...

Well, it is an interesting theory.

August 11, 2007 10:18 AM  
Blogger Dirk_Star said...

arcturus - Well, that is certainly one theory. We'll add yours to the stew and see what it adds to the overall flavor of the dish.

science has been proven wrong more than once before...

August 11, 2007 12:11 PM  
Blogger Arcturus said...

No, "science" has not been "proven" wrong before. Rather, IDEAS -- as in scientific hypotheses and even bizarre notions of reality (such as astrology) - have been proven wrong using the tools of science. Sometimes certain ideas -- such as Newtonian physics -- are shown to be subsets of larger realities -- in the case of Newtonian physics, subsets of general and special relativity, which in turn could be subsets of still larger realities.

Think of science as an approach to the physical world involving observations, hypothesizing, and testing -- which can be replicated over and over -- to see if the idea (hypothesis) should be rejected or accepted ("failed to be rejected" in the parlance of probability theory).

Now you can argue that the entire substructure underlying the scientific method, approach, to life is flawed.

But that begs the question of ever using "science" to test anything scientifically.

You can't disprove "science" an approach using the scientific method. That's nonsensical.

Again, the key point here isn't to denigrate anyone's religious or other beliefs but rather to point out what science can be used for and what it can't be used for. One cannot use it to seek support to "prove" religious beliefs and articles of faith, and then make it all the more problematic by saying science itself has been proven "wrong" as an approach to understanding the physical universe.

By the way, Dirk Star, may I recommend the Sept. 2007 Discover magazine column "Jaron's World": "The tangled dance of science, violence, hope, and strange beliefs."

The online column is here, except his Sept. column hasn't been posted yet. (Also, that link might make your Internet Explorer crash -- if did mine -- so you might want to use Firefox or some other browser instead.)

August 11, 2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger Dirk_Star said...

arcturus - I fully understand the scientific method and how it works. You seem to feel that the scientific community is in fallible and pure in its examination of the world.

I think that is a bit naive...

Clearly we live in a time where science is as colored by politics and greed as any other school of thought.

Scientific reasoning is currently distorted by cash incentives. Scientists are at odds with each other over the most fundamental of issues.

I don't trust science with the same devotion as you. If the scientific method was working as well as you indicate it does there would be not debate about anything only agreement...

The scientific community seems just at odds with itself as any other group of individuals. Somehow the scientific method does not seem to work any better than any other when it comes to bringing people together in common agreement about anything.

August 11, 2007 10:36 PM  
Blogger Arcturus said...

The column I was talking about is now up. It's here and worth a read.

Re. this debate, I just don't think that one can invoke the "science" -- which here we use to mean the scientific method, not a particular theory -- as "proof" of ideas one happens to like, esp. when pulling together a big, post modernistic hodgepodge of views that have as their underlying theme a kind of feel-good, New Agey holistic unification of All Good Things, and then simultaneously argue against science as just one more negative force because scientists are venal people don't know what they're talking about and it's all just based on their own opinions, anyway.

August 14, 2007 3:54 PM  

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