Genesis Through the Lens of Shame Part I

When I read the first few chapters of Genesis dealing with the creation, I always think about consciousness. What is the difference between something with consciousness and something without it? “Let there be light.” (Gen 1:3). This phrase (perhaps) describes the moment when consciousness is turned on. The moment prior there was a void. (Gen 1:2). The moment after there was something. This something was a blank slate, unexperienced and blameless and God existed along side it. Then God started making his creation more and more complicated, separating the light from the dark, the land from the water and then filling it with living things. This, in a sense describes the evolution of consciousness. It suddenly appears out of a void. It starts out pure awareness and gradually takes in information, becoming more and more complex.

Then God creates Adam and Eve (in the second creation story) and places them in an idyllic world called Eden. He tells them they can eat from any tree in Eden except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Before they eat the fruit God tells them not to eat it because they would die. God later tells himself they cannot eat it because then they will become like him. Before they eat the fruit the text specifically says they were both “naked” and “without shame.” (Gen 2:25).

Once they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge their “eyes were opened,” (Gen 3:7) they became embarrassed (ashamed) and hid themselves from God. When one walks down the path of shame he actually hides himself from himself in that he subordinates his true desires to what he perceives are the desires of others. In the context of this story I see God as the true self that Adam and Eve are hiding themselves from. When God confronts them they attempt to avoid blame by blaming each other. Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the Serpent. This is all shame oriented behavior; feeling not good enough, feeling embarrassed about self-appearance, avoiding blame, blaming other people.

In my own experience shame is passed from one person to another. Parents humiliate their children then their children humiliate their peers and ultimately their own kids. This feeling of being humiliated brings forth all these other shame oriented feelings and the desire to make other people feel the same way. But it is always an endless chain. As such, children cannot blame their parents for acting out this cycle because they are just re-acting the cycle their parents modeled for them. What Genesis is doing is explaining the origin of this process.

It seems to me (reading this story through the lens of shame) that the book of Genesis is depicting the origin of this endless chain of shame. First of all, shame is a corruption from the original blank slate of consciousness. The idea that the self is bad and wrong entered consciousness as one of the many pieces of information it took in. When that happened it took over to the point where man was irrevocably altered and had to be removed from paradise. In a sense man removed himself from paradise by becoming ashamed. But also shame came from the Serpent who is perhaps shame incarnate.

 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Genesis Through the Lens of Shame Part I

  1. I like what you said at the end: In a sense man removed himself from paradise by becoming ashamed. “But also shame came from the Serpent who is perhaps shame incarnate.” I never thought about Satan like that, but it does make sense. He was the one who rejected God and was cast out of heaven due to pride. But thinking through it, he probably experiences shame for what he had done because now he has been cursed by God. Thanks for the insightful article.

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