Last Things [Eschatology] and First Things
Dostoyevsky explores the Paradise before the Fall in ‘The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.’
Like the ancient Shamanic and Christian Celts, Dostoyevsky believed that evil is not inherent to the world qua world. Thus there was a time when humanity was innocent, and there was neither human sin in the world, nor the powerful presence of the real evil which infiltrates and augments human sin. [This is why evil always is, for Dostoyevsky, ‘psychological and metaphysical’, never just the one or the other, but always both operating in tandem.]
The First Time, the Golden Age, the Earthly Paradise, was a state in which humanity was connected to God, nature, one another, and took delight and found meaning in that ever reconfiguring connection. God was ‘melted into’ that connecting, so a lot of the time, there was no need for a ‘God’ because the living God was in the life of things, tacitly known by them.. In our being and doing. In our meetings with everything. Manifest in us, manifest in them, such that all things held up an image of God one to another. For us, the bird shows God. For the bird, we show God. On-going epiphanies of God abound! People were happy! They knew in their experience the pervasiveness of God because God was alive in their life, present in their ‘just living.’ But when the ‘evening’ came, God became a more focal, conscious Other, and they knew God I–Thou, and they walked with God ‘in the cool of the evening’, and spoke with God. But when the day came, God again melted into things. Humans knew God unconsciously. It was more akin to being immersed in water, rather than on dry land.
In the Beginning, there was no need for education, morality, science. People experienced the inherent goodness of everything, because God’s goodness in-dwelt it, breathed through its breathing, flowed through its flowing, danced through its dancing. Humans, and indeed all other creatures and things, shared this goodness naturally, without compulsion. They ‘knew’ the meaning of life from being alive.
“For with you is the fountain of life: in your light shall we see light.” [Psalms, 36, 9]
“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all humanity.” [Job, 12, 10]
“For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live to him.” [Luke, 20, 38]
Speaking with the Areopagites in Athens, St Paul pointed to the memorial they had left to ‘the Unknown God’= “He is not far from each of us. For in him we live and move and have our existence, as even ..your own poets have said. ‘For we too are his children, our lineage is from him’.” [Acts, 17, 27-28]
The Jews called this Paradisiacal state of living, being, acting, ‘the Natural Covenant.’ God is mediated through nature, and through everything ‘natural.’
Thus, the creation, when first created, when fresh as dew, is ‘inherently’ Good and Beautiful, Marvellous and Magical, Joyful and Contented, just as it is.. No improvement needed.. No striving necessary.. Primal Consciousness picks up, is aware of, registers, ‘remembers’, this Primal Good Start to everything. The Aboriginals of Australia look back to this state of affairs as the Dream Time.
It continues today= “The Source and End of all life is somehow – mysteriously and silently – working in and through us, above and beneath us, for the wellbeing of all creation, including our small part in it.” [John Chryssavgis, review of EF Davis, ‘Scripture, Culture, Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible’, 2009]
Innocence reminds us that the Beginning is Sacred, and the Beginning has not been exterminated by evil, but remains there, urging us on..
Only when Innocence is lost must people be reminded of what once was their life simply by virtue of being the creation of the Creator= “..that you may love Yahweh your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For Yahweh is your life.” [Deuteronomy, 30, 2] Or= “You do not honour the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.” [Daniel, 5, 23]
The Paradise of the Beginning is not Holiness. Holiness only comes after the Fall, after the existential arena of choice and test is taken on, and gone through, to the other side..
The End Time — where Holiness either dislodges evil, and overcomes its overcoming of the world — or fails, and allows evil to wipe out ‘The Sacred Origins’ — must not just be about ‘the End’ but must include ‘the Beginning’ returned from its loss long ago.. In some manner, both the Holy City of the End, and the Sacred Garden of the Beginning, must contribute to what happens in the Apocalypse, the Ending of this world.
The co-inherence, the conjoint co-operative work, of Sacred Paradise and Holy City, of innate Innocence and hard won Holiness, of nature and human creativity, will in some way figure in the Apocalypse End Time.
Thus, there is an invisible thread connecting Indigenous Spirituality and the Jewish and Christian Temple. This commonality is the task of remembering the Sacred Origins, the Beginning when we experienced directly “the splendour in the grass.” But this remembering of God’s First Gift, God’s First Thought, depends crucially on keeping all humans together as one people. If Sobornost is failed, then the Creator–creation communing of the First Time is forfeit. Human holding together is the complement, the necessary adjunct, of the Miracle of Creation still shining bright, though we can no longer see it– yet we get brief visionary flashes, we feel it, we still intuit it.. We know it is there, it is not our flimsy dream, our imaginary construction. It is not a split-off part of consciousness projected ‘out there.’
The First Dawn keeps breaking through.