Comparing the ‘Fall of Man’ to the Birth Process to Illustrate a Universal Principle of Growth

I mention before that freedom is entirely a gift from the Lord; I will attempt to explain this in depth in this section. To understand human freedom it is essential to grasp equilibrium as the fundamental structure of all life and the universe. The Lord maintains equilibrium between heaven and hell for the sake of human freedom, which as said is the basis of life for the soul. I have discussed equilibrium in another blog article. In this section I will relate Swedenborg’s principles to Robert Kegan’s ideas on developmental Psychology. I will also expand on Swedenborg’s principles by correlating the ideas expressed by Biddle in his book, ‘Integration of Religion and Psychology’.

The genesis of spiritual equilibrium is told in the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man. Swedenborg calls the story of Adam and Eve historical correspondences; it is history and is correspondences. The story of Adam and Eve also works as an allegory describing the development of freedom of will, and the loss of the direct connection with heaven that the people at the time of Adam and Eve had. Adam and Eve represent what Swedenborg refers to as ‘the most ancient church’. In the beginning Adam and Eve (and all the people with them) were in a kind of spiritual womb, having direct communication with God. There was much less separation between humans and Angels and Gods will in the sense that people received direct influx and could communicate with angels. This was an enormously beautiful and fulfilling state.

Swedenborg calls this the most ancient church, and says that human beings actually breathed differently because their minds were closely connected to the spiritual world. He reports that people did not breath and talk externally as we do now but breathed internally in the pattern of the celestial heaven, and communicated through subtle gestures of the face and mouth, and in some part telepathically with angels. The events of the fall are tragic because this state of innocence and closeness to God was lost. In exposing himself to evil man took on the burden of independence and the work that requires. Man became more separate from God, and he took on loneliness and pain. Before the fall they were in a wonderful state, but people wanted to be self-willing, people wanted the ability to ‘become’ what they chose, to act creatively from their own will. With this independence and freedom came selfishness, and evil, and so hereditary evil began to be passed on from generation to generation. In gaining the ability to be self-willing the love of being selfish grew, and the evil that came with it closed the close connection with God and angels. There is an inevitability in these changes that comes with the development of freedom, but it is nonetheless tragic and painful. After this change humans evolved into the external breathing and manner of speaking as we have today. Individuals and humanity accumulated hereditary evil in their bodies from generation to generation, and hell began to become more and more populated as people died until there was an equilibrium between those in heaven and those in hell. After the fall to achieve salvation human beings had to go through a process of regeneration, whereas before they already were in a heavenly state. The spiritual decline and the separation between God and man gradually increased to the point that genuine religion and charity in the heart was nearly gone. The decline led up to the crisis point which is the time of the flood and Noah.

The process of the fall corresponds to the pattern of all human growth, it corresponds to the cycle of endings and beginnings, to the pain and fulfillment inherent in growth. There is a universal correspondence in this pattern with the birth process. In the womb a person is almost one with the mother, safe, secure, provided for, and content. There is in the womb continuous physical growth intil the baby can no longer remain in the womb and the birth process of coming into the world begins. Being born is painful and shocking, yet it begins the necessary process of becoming a person with a full identity. Robert Kegan’s description of the birth and early development of a baby can be seen as microcosm of the fall. His ideas help us to see how the birth process is the essential of life the life process, and that on the larger scale ‘the fall’ is a necessary process in the development of humanity. Kegan is a pioneer of developmental psychology and describes how a baby learns:

“A newborn is unable to distinguish between itself and anything else in the world. As a newborn we live in an undifferentiated world, in which nothing is other than the self, in which everything I sense is taken to be an extension of me, and where anything ceases even to be once it is out of sight, touch, or hearing. The newborn makes no distinction between inner and outer, between stimuli that comes from her own body (for example, hunger) and those that come from outside (light), between your hand passing across her eyes and her own hand passing across her eyes. Somewhere around eight to ten months the child begins to act differently. “They reach out with their little fingers and pull away whatever conceals the object. The object is somehow ‘there’ in the world of the infant in a way it simply was not before” (P. 30, Kegan).

He explains that through a process of differentiation an infant begins moves out of the imbedded state into a new place of self awareness on little baby step at a time. When the infant holds a red ball in its hand it feels pleasure. When the ball goes away she feels displeasure. By repetition she realizes she can reach out and recover the ball, sometimes with success, and sometimes not, each time feeling pleasure or pain. By repeated success, and the desire to avoid pain, she learns some control of her environment, however small, and begins to emerge from the completely undifferentiated state. In this way she learns that there is something outside of herself and this is the beginning of the livelong learning process Kegan calls the ‘movement from object to subject’.

Kegan goes on to describe the evolutionary process of learning:

“The child is gradually moving from being subject to its reflexes, movements and sensations, to having reflexes, movements, and sensations. These become the object, and the child’s psychologic becomes a reflection on its reflexes…It would even be fair to say that the child did its thinking by moving and sensing, that its body was its mind, its prehensile grasp a pre-abstracted forerunner to the grasp of apprehension. Like the evolution from an exoskeletal species to an endoskeletal one, the child is able to interiorize or internalize sensations and movements which before could only go outside. The notion of development as a sequence of internalizations, a favorite conception of psychodynamic thinking, is quite consistent with the Paigation concept of growth… In fact, something cannot be internalized until we emerge from our imbededness in it, for it is our imbededness, our subjectivity, that leads us to project it onto the world in our constitution of reality. When the child is able to have his reflexes rather than be them, he stops thinking he causes the world to go dark when he closes his eyes” (p. 31, Kegan).

This process of emerging from imbededness continues through all the stages of life. It requires the free will effort and internal fight. It is important to realize the imbedded state is not an empty state. In other articles I have written about the very important concept of ‘remains’ which you can read about in this blog. The state of the baby, as everyone can see, is a state of innocence, which is very compelling; stimulates parents to a strong parental love to care for them. Kegan described the psychological process, but there is also a spiritual process. The innocent love that the child feels for parents and playmates, for the enthusiasm of play and life bonds into the soul of the child. God leads and loves this bonding; He is in it and later uses the love bonded in the soul to help us when evil tempts us so that we can hopefully be led away from evil by him. Having innocence in the soul is the only way God can be received. The child’s innocence is not yet true innocence, it is an external innocence until it is married with wisdom at which time it becomes true innocence. As the youth develops a conscious the innocence can become truly bonded into the soul, because the development of a conscious allows us to choose between good and evil. There is so much more to be said about this, but this is enough for now. The article on the integration of psychology and religion gives a lot of perspective on this subject.

This view allows us to understand that there was an inevitable purpose to the fall, and that there is a purpose to the suffering and trials we experience in life. It holds that the fall and life are tragic, but within it there are necessary and affirmative qualities of growth, and becoming.

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