If The Fall was not a fall, what was it? Before we can begin to answer that question, we have to bring ourselves to understand something of what it was like to be God in the beginning. This challenge is going to demand of us some stretching, for we are forced to undertake it within the limitations of the eggshell we still inhabit. Here we will find them to be particularly frustrating, for we will be attempting to define and vicariously experience something (God) which must surely inhabit or at least encompass territory far exceeding our own confines, while we have at our disposal nothing better than the tools, like language, which were specifically designed and developed to address the only world we think we know, inside the shell. This whole effort may turn out to be a bit like accepting an invitation to spend the afternoon in a revolving door: lots of dizzying movement, but precious little forward progress. Fortunately, we have our imagination; for those who have not yet done so, now is the time to unleash it.
The major obstacle we encounter here is that, to experience even a little of what it was like to be God in the beginning, we have to define what God is, or at least describe Him in a way that renders Him manageable to the scope of our current awareness. In effect, what we have to do is bring God down to our size, all the while acknowledging that it may be an order too tall to fill.
We have already said that whatever may be God’s other characteristics, we are agreed that God is Perfect. Too, I expect we can agree that to be God is to be Infinite. The Creator of the Universe and of everything in the Universe obviously has to have access to every nook and cranny. There cannot be any place to which He is denied admission. Otherwise, how could He have created the place? Not to mention, how else could He be creating whatever is happening there right now? Thus, God is Infinite, or without limits of any kind in any direction.
Now, we cannot know exactly what that means, but we can assert for certain that it definitely means not to be limited by any of the boundaries or handicaps we perceive as our own. So, if we assign even some of those to God, which we must do if we are to be able to discuss Him, then clearly we will no longer be discussing God but something other, something less than Infinite, something we have invented. Conversely, if we do not so limit God, we will not be able to proceed any further, for we cannot discuss what does not fall within the purview of the only device we have for discussing, language, but which shares or reflects our own perceived limitations. Indeed, just to get his far, we have already shaped God to our specifications: We have given Him gender, an existence in time and space, and human emotions. He might as well be you or me! Happily, we may take comfort in the knowledge that we are not the first to grapple with this dilemma. In fact, it was God Himself who first tripped over its horns; and I am about to suggest that His wonderfully unique resolution of it was what we now call The Fall.
What was it like in the beginning to be God? Before there was anything, there was God and God was all there was. Whatever there was was God, and there was nothing that was that was not God. Thus, we say, God was infinite. Also, God was not an aggregate. That is, God was not composed of separate parts, like one of these and two of those, which when added or mixed together equaled or composed God. One might say of a house, for example, that is composed or made up of a foundation, a front door and a back door, a bedroom and a kitchen, and so on; all of these elements taken together are or add up to a house. God is not — and in the beginning was not — composed of parts in the way that a house is composed of parts.
Similarly, in the beginning, every aspect or characteristic of God (whatever they may have been) was wholly God, and the whole of God resided in every aspect or characteristic. Clearly, that is a condition intrinsic to being infinite. What is infinite must extend infinitely in every direction into everything it encounters. As it has no boundaries or limits, there can be nowhere where it is not. And every aspect of the infinite thing, being also infinite (the infinity of the whole, being itself infinite, must also extend infinitely into the whole’s every aspect), has no boundaries and is therefore also in everything everywhere. (I recognize that this is slippery stuff; but your mind can grasp it. The trick is not to try, but to relax.) So, an aspect of God could not say or even know of itself that it was in fact only an aspect, for the whole extended into every aspect. Here again, in the beginning God differed from a house in this way: If I were to hand you a window or a roof or any other part of a house, you would recognize it without difficulty as being only a piece of the whole. But if I were to hand you an aspect of God, you could not distinguish it from the whole. Similarly, if I were to have a living room in one hand and a completed house in the other, you could instantly differentiate the one from the other, even while observing the relationship between the two. But if I were to have an aspect of God in one hand and the whole of God in the other, they would, for all the world, appear and be identical, and you could not tell them apart. Even I who, in this illustration, am holding them in my hands, could not tell which was which. Further, even God would not know which was which.
Even God would not know which was which. Hold on to that thought. If God resided whole in everything that there was, and if there was nothing that was that was not God, then God would not have been able to differentiate between Himself and anything else. There was no anything else. There was nothing to which God could point and say, “I am God and you are not,” thereby indicating for His own edification at least, which was which. That is, I perceive that I am me in part (some say, wholly and only) by perceiving that I am not you. Thus, “Me Tarzan, you Jane” informs both parties. My perception of your existence separate from mine creates mine, or at the very least affirms it. After a lifetime of practicing that form of identification by proxy, it has become, we might say, second nature to us.
Similarly, in the beginning, if God were to choose to see Himself or to look at Himself, how would He have done so? Clearly, He could not simply create a mirror, and then peer into it as you and I might do. When we do so, the process is simple enough: We see our reflection in the glass, and we have no difficulty discerning the difference between the reflection of ourselves and the reflection of whatever else may be there, such as a standing lamp beside us or a sofa behind. Also, we are not confused at having to distinguish between these reflections and the glass itself. Finally, we are never in any doubt about which us is truly us, the one standing before the mirror or the one in the glass.
But for God Who was everything, seeing oneself is not so easily accomplished. How could God stand before a mirror when He was also the mirror? How can a mirror see its own reflection in itself? Even if God could somehow manage the contortion necessary to stand in front of Himself, the effort would have availed Him nothing. So long as He was unable to distinguish between Himself as the viewer looking into the glass and Himself as the reflection looking out, or between Himself as either or both of those and Himself as the glass itself, not to mention Himself as the processes of reflecting and looking, and Himself as the space and time in which those processes took place, He would remain right where He started, wholly everything everywhere and thus hopelessly unable to see Himself! In effect, then, in the beginning God would not have been able to see Himself because He did not have a separate and distinct self to see.
Consider this phenomenon this way. Every painter knows that when expressing a thing on a canvas it is no more important to capture the thing itself in oil colors than it is to develop the background or surround in such a way that the thing is evident to the viewer as a thing, as the point of focus. Consider, for example, an artist setting out to paint a picture of a single tree amongst a group of trees. If that intention is not clearly indicated somehow on the canvas, by the use of shading, perspective, or some other technique, the result will appear to the viewer as simply a group of trees. We will have no way of knowing that the artist wants us to distinguish the one tree from the others. Even if the artist should indicate his intention by entitling the work “Tree”, we still would not know which tree was intended to be the subject and which others the background.
Let’s try transferring this puzzle into a more familiar neighborhood. Suppose you wish to give your parents a nice photograph of your family in front of your home. You call out onto the lawn your spouse, the children, the pets, and whatever, and after much joggling and giggling, a satisfactory pose is achieved. You are just about to snap the photo when one of your smart aleck kids reminds you that you, too, are a member of the family, and that therefore a photograph that does not include you in it cannot honestly be said to be a photograph “of the family”. Acknowledging the logic of that observation, you rearrange everyone on the lawn to establish a place for yourself in the group pose, set the camera’s automatic shutter release, and rush around to join the others in a big smile. Just then, this same youngster pipes up that, if this really supposed to be a photograph of the family, then your parents themselves ought to be in it also, not to mention all the other relatives, on both sides. Also, he reminds you, aren’t you always preaching about everyone’s being a member of the family of man? What about all of them? Besides, everyone knows that a home is not just a building, but includes all the things, tangible and intangible, which belong to it. Somehow, if this is really to be a photograph of the family in front of the home, all of that must be recorded on the film. Including, of course, the camera itself!
Now, you and I can silence that irritating but clever young voice by reminding it of the source of its weekly allowance, but when faced with what amounted to this very same problem, which in His case grew quickly to cosmic proportions, God had to devise a solution of equal magnitude.
This, then, was the problem God had in the beginning: He had to create an aspect of Himself, or develop a part of Himself, or separate out from the whole a piece or element of Himself (no word or phrase can fully serve us here) which by design would not know what it was (that is, that it was God or Everything) or why it had been created, developed, or separated out. This is a little like dipping a sieve into the ocean and then deceiving the water apparently contained by the sieve into believing that it is separate from, or not part of, the ocean. Of course, you and I do this kind of thing all the time. Consider the house we live in. We think of the space enclosed by these walls as being somehow different from the space outside, when in fact the walls and windows are very much like the sides and holes in a sieve: an artificial, even false, barrier. How about our skin? Like a paper bag, it only seems to separate the space within from the space without.
Now, this element or thing so devised by God to have forgotten that it was God would be programmed (again, by God Who created it and don’t forget, Who always is it, albeit now “secretly” or covertly) to want to know itself, to seek self-awareness, and then to move beyond that to rediscover its true identity (that is, as God). So, having deceived the water in the sieve into believing it is separate from and different than the ocean, we now convince it to uncover the deception. This desire or drive to know its true self would be inescapable and compelling, like a salmon’s irrepressible instinct to return to the place of its birth. So — and please let yourself see this for here lies the awesome majesty of the scheme! — when the thing or element ultimately does accomplish its program or function (as eventually it must do, for how can it fail, being God), it will know, firstly, what it is to know oneself, what it is to be self-conscious, and secondly, that it is God and that it always was God, even from the beginning. Right then, in that holiest of instants, God (having, of course, been the thing all along) will know what He set out to know but what had eluded Him in the beginning: Himself. What He had been unable to do, He will have accomplished. Admittedly, it may all have been achieved by a divine sleight of hand, but it will be real. Besides, who are we to complain? Who, indeed.
There is, of course, a terrible element of risk to this conspiracy. In order for the ploy to work, the separated out element must forget its true source, must not know its true nature as God; the water in the sieve must believe that it is not the ocean, at least at first. Otherwise, it will not undertake the challenge of finding out what it is, and God will not succeed in knowing what it is to know What It Is. But the deception must not be so effective as to become permanent. Once the separated out element has achieved a sense of self-consciousness as a separated out element (”I am Tarzan, and you are not”), it must not remain there, for then only part of God’s Plan will have been achieved. That is, self-consciousness will have been created and experienced by the part, but it will not yet have been transferred to the Whole. And what if, once the plot is set into motion, the separated out element becomes so distracted by, even enamored of, its apparently separate self (so enjoys being Tarzan in a forest of Janes) that it forgets to press on toward consciousness of its True Self. Yes, what then.
Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt
those who find it.
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