Thursday, June 28, 2012

'EAST OF EDEN' And BIBLE STORY.... June 28, 2012

One commentator summarizes , 'Adam, father of two sons,  perceives Aron as ambitious and promising but dismisses Cal as shiftless and directionless. Steinbeck patterns these father-son relationships in the Trask family on an example in the Bible—the relationships that the brothers Cain and Abel have with God, who represents a father figure to both of them. When Cain and Abel both offer sacrifices to God (mirrored in Steinbeck’s novel by Charles’s and Adam’s birthday gifts to Cyrus), God favors Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s. Conspicuously, neither God nor the narrator of the story in the Bible offers any reason or justification for God’s preference. In East of Eden, Adam mentions that, upon reading the story of Cain and Abel, he felt “a little outraged at God” for favoring Abel so arbitrarily. However, as we see, Adam favors Aron over Cal just as arbitrarily as God favors Abel over Cain. Adam does not realize the depth of his favoritism until he is on his deathbed, when he acknowledges the mistake he has made and grants his final blessing to Cal. '
Cain's Offering Rejected

I think Steinbeck is raising the same question that  C.G. Jung helps people to face. That is that there is a dark and very imperfect side of the the Old Testament God Yahweh. Any parent who will not accept the natural gifts that come from his child is very dubious and not to be fully trusted or adored. And such a parent drives a child to experience much suffering as in the case of Cal. In the New Testament, Jesus  as an incarnation of God, has the nature of accepting all the gifts that people bring  sincerely out of their natural lives and capacities and a love that never gives up on them.. But the problem does not disappear with the gospel's Jesus image of God. For the Bible ends with the The Revelation of John where the Christ figure is anything but accepting and loving. In fact there the Christ figure is making angry threats, similar to Job's God who immorally raged at Job like one who seriously questions his own authority and omniscience. The Christ figure in Revelation  angrily threatens  the various churches for not meeting up to the standards of the law and of Gods expectation. This is in sharp contrast to the Jesus of love and empowerment  in the N.T.,  and the God who has broken down the Wall of the Law and 'reconciled the whole world to himself' in Paul's teaching and  'in whom there is no darkness' according to the author of I John. 
Hell Depiction In The Book Of Revelation

This is why Jung emphasizes that the drama of the the relationship and redemption between God and Humanity is still unfolding, and it is not just about the sin of humans(why can't they get it right) but also about the imperfect love that has been clearly displayed in God from the very earliest Genesis stories to the wrathful image of Christ at the end of the Bible. This is why it is so important that the Theology of our day needs to take into account that 'God is still Speaking' and the story is not yet at all over and done.. We should not forget that it was Jesus who promised that the Holy Spirit would continue to guide humanity into more and more truth.  Formal religion, both Catholic and Protestant, represses this promise of Jesus because it places the final religious authority in the hands of the unseen  but active Spirit rather than formal church doctrine as with Catholics or of a  physical book, the Bible with the Protestants. This  is where we still are  religiously and spiritually according to the overall  Bible Story. 'East of Eden' was the 'dark and unknown mysterious place' where  Cain found a wife so the very title of the story leads us to the awareness that the story of God is not fully arrived at  'perfect love and light ' but  the goal of a long path involving  much suffering in Both God and the Human. The characters is this novel and movie are experiencing this suffering in many of the same general ways  we all do. A fresh look at East Of Eden reminds me that  this classic movie of our American culture has the capacity to lead us to reflect on the less than simple Biblical religious stories that have shaped our lives.

Cal In Touch With His Care Of The Feminine In Outer Life

Also, in East of Eden, the 'feminine' principle, is represented in its shadow by  Cal's mother who is a dark and earthy figure and perhaps even a prostitute. ( This might make us recall that rumor has it in the historic church that Mary Magdalene was a former prostitute, and one of the most erotic scenes is where a strange woman bathes Jesus' feet, with perfume or tears, and dries them with her hair. This says something of the meaning of the feminine in Jesus' inner life.) Genesis not only makes God all male and more approving of Adam than Eve, but casts Eve into the role of cooperating with Satan and being the human primary cause of sin in the world. This set up a very strong foundation for the ancient patriarchy in  Hebrew and Christian religions as well as the sexism so prevalent in Western civilization. Adam is cast in a much more favorable light in Genesis than Eve just as the father and older son are in East of Eden.

Cal Discovering His Dark Unknown Mother
Cal is shown trying to uncover the missing part of God, the female, whom his father has managed to denigrate and keep out of sight and out of his life. But Cal nevertheless has a painful need and desire to reunite with the' mother' as well as the 'father.'The Biblical story, as  powerful myth generated by the Collective Unconscious, is always pushing toward completion and reconciliation of the God- Human relationship and showing what a long and painful process it is for both God and Human.
The Questionable Feminine as Eve And Female Serpent- Notre Dame

Steinbeck, genius that he is, is aware of these themes, certainly unconsciously in tune with them if not consciously, and incorporates them into his story. And because his story so well catches the meaning of the living archetypes, the story and movie caught the strong attention of mid 20th century Bible influenced Americans. The Collective Unconscious draws and affects us this way long before we are conscious of it or able to articulate what the archetypal influences are actually are saying to us, whether in reading the Bible or absorbed in a creative and inspired story like East of Eden. It connects with us because the archetypes are already the common human inner foundations of us all. 
Cal's Uncertainty Of His Acceptance By His 'Father.'

 The story simply begins to make us conscious of our own inner reality. This kind of interpretive process indicates how very important it is for us to see that the Bible material is archetypal and mythological rather than primarily historical or literal. The real message of religion is always and must of necessity be the language of symbol, not direct human words or literal history. Both the novel East of Eden and the movie affect us at the symbolic level of communication. The Bible does this also once we allow it to have its natural voice and refuse to impose onto it a literal historical head-strong Western understanding. Once we do that it becomes a matter of the head, going right over and missing the heart. We are drawn to East of Eden by its symbolic message which has the same archetypal author as the equivalent Biblical stories. 

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