Books have a strange way of being complementary to each other. The book i’m reading after ‘Born to Run’ is ‘The Cosmic Revelation’. Its author, Bede Griffiths, was a Catholic monk who lived more than 25 years in India and dedicated himself to understanding the Hindu revelation and combining that with Christianity to seek the Truth – sounds like an interesting guy and a very interesting project.
At first appearances, it doesn’t seem complementary to ‘Born to Run’, and i certainly didn’t expect it to be when i packed it; but let me explain:
I am fascinated by The Fall because it seems to me that if i could figure out what we lost and how we lost it, then i should have a better understanding of God.
I believe that the Book of Genesis in the Bible is largely allegorical but also that it seems to reflect considerable knowledge, or understanding, of how the world was actually formed. It also seems possible that it reflects some sort of community memory, stretching back thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of years. If a story was passed down, generation to generation, it seems likely, even allowing for embellishments and the dropping of unfashionable parts, that a kernel of truth at the centre of the story could survive.
Which brings us back to ‘Born To Run’. McDougall tells us that much of the early research into humans as runners was carried out by David Carrier, Dr Dennis Bramble and, later, in the early 1990’s, Dr Dan Lieberman. After initial research, Dr Lieberman could, “pinpoint the exact moment when the caveman menu changed: it had to be two million years ago when apelike Australopithecus – with his tiny brain giant jaw and billy-goat diet of tough, fibrous plants – evolved into Homo erectus, our slim, long-legged ancestor with the big head and small, tearing teeth perfectly suited for raw flesh and soft fruits. Only one thing could have sparked such a dramatic makeover: a diet no primate had ever eaten before, featuring a reliable supply of meat, with its high concentration of calories, fat and protein”
Could this also have been the moment that we abandoned the Garden of Paradise?
The source of such rich food, Lieberman concluded was game and the only way that Homo erectus could obtain a steady dependable supply of meat, tens of thousands of years before bow and arrows, or even spear-heads were invented was to run their prey into the ground – other that cannibalism of course!
But that is not the question concerning us here. When David Carrier first postulated his theory about humans being the evolutionary pinnacle of a running mammal, Dr Bramble didn’t agree because once humans came up off their knuckles and started to stride around up-right, they lost both their raw speed and their upper-body power. David Carrier responded to these concerns with the question, “Why would we give up strength and speed at the same time? That left us unable to run, unable to fight, unable to climb and hide in the tree canopy. We’d have been wiped out unless we got something pretty amazing in exchange. Right?” “So why would we evolve into a weaker creature, instead of a stronger one?” David persisted. “This was long before we could make weapons, so what was the genetic advantage?”
That’s the issue with The Fall as well; the way its told by Judaism and Christianity it amounts to regressive evolution, or certainly evolution down a cul de sac that was only going to end in the existence of a lesser being – mankind with a previous address at The Garden of Paradise.
The answer to the first question turned out to be running ability – that’s what Homo erectus and the other early Homo species got in exchange for all the genetic abilities and advantages they gave up.
So here’s the question, did early man give up God as well as strength and speed in return for the ability to run farther, easier, than any of his competitors?
Was this his Faustian pact?
Where does God come into this, you may ask? Well to answer that we must delve into ‘The Cosmic Revelation’. The book consists of a series of lectures Bede Griffiths gave to introduce Hinduism and its concepts and was published as a book in 1983. We will examine his explanation of Hinduism in greater depth in a later blog, but for now let us look at how Griffiths describes Paradise, “Paradise is that state where man is in harmony both with nature and with God. The Christian Church has always looked back to an original state of harmony. Many was called to be in harmony with nature, with himself and with God. That surely is what we today, perhaps more than ever, realize we have lost. The terrible conflict with nature which we experience today, the whole problem in ecology, is the fruit of the loss of that original harmony. Likewise, we experience the lack of mans harmony with man in wars and violence, crime, and all human conflict. Finally we have the severed communion between man and God, which is the source of the whole of this conflict. That is the traditional Christian background: the original harmony of man with nature, of man with himself and of man and nature with God. Original Sin is the loss of this primordial harmony, and the Bible looks forward to a new creation when once more this harmony will be restored.”
Original Sin is, of course, linked with the banishment from the Garden of Paradise. Humans ate the forbidden fruit; the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, and became God-like themselves in their understanding. Is it a coincidence that eating from the Tree of Knowledge caused humans to be banished from Paradise just as relinquishing their former strengths allowed them to dramatically improve their diet and rapidly develop their brains and their brain-power?
Do the events described in The Fall mark the Biblical record of the development of man’s extraordinary brain-power and the realization that this changed, changed utterly, man’s relationship with God and with nature?
The abandonment of God and the loss of Paradise would not have been a deliberate decision, such as is portrayed in the Bible, but was probably an, unfortunate perhaps, side-effect of evolutionary progress. As early humans developed, as their brains grew and their thinking ability blossomed, they lost their harmony with nature, with God and with himself. One could say humans had stepped outside the Cosmic Order.
Where will this lead us?
Keep searching my friends.