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EdenGenesis 1 – 3

Lorin Friesen, January 2016

As Immanuel Kant pointed out several centuries ago, everything that we perceive or think is filtered by our minds. This is often viewed as a limitation that prevents us from grasping the true nature of reality. Using the language of Kant, noumena, or how things actually exist, are unknowable to the human mind. Instead, all that we can know is phenomena, or how things appear to us. That is the conclusion that one naturally reaches when using the technical thinking of philosophy, which demands total certainty. In contrast, I suggest that it is possible to know a lot about reality with considerable certainty. That is because the external environment provides the mind with feedback. If my view of reality is inaccurate, then my interaction with the real world lead to painful results. Similarly, the more I learn about the true nature of reality and the more I put this knowledge into practice, the more pleasant and effortless will be my interaction with reality. My initial training was in engineering, and this describes the basic goal of engineering, which is to understand the world better in order to interact with the world better.

Turning now to the internal world of thought, Kant’s statement actually makes it easier to understand the mind. If everything we think or perceive is filtered by our minds, then this means that everything that an author says about the mind is either 1) a description of how the mind works, or 2) a reflection of how the author’s mind is working. I have found this principle to be very effective for refining and extending the theory of mental symmetry. Mental symmetry began as a system of cognitive styles, rooted in the seven spiritual gifts in Romans 12. The basic premise of mental symmetry is that the mind contains seven interacting cognitive modules (Mercy thought, Perceiver thought, Server thought, etc.) that interact in the manner shown by the diagram of mental symmetry. When I analyze a book that describes human thought, I first translate the concepts of the author into the language of cognitive modules. For instance, if the author talks about truth, then he is referring to Perceiver thought. Similarly, a paradigm refers to a general theory in Teacher thought, while culture describes mental networks within Mercy thought (MMNs) that a group of people have in common. Once the concepts have been translated, then the analysis can begin. Are the author’s concepts consistent with the theory of mental symmetry? If so, then is the author describing new details that need to be added to the theory of mental symmetry? If not, then can the discrepancy be described as a systematic bias that is a result of programming the mind in a certain manner? Every book and author that I have examined so far could be analyzed using this method.

In order to make this analysis more rigorous, I have tried to all three principles: 1) Explain entire books and complete theories and not just some of a book and aspects of a theory. 2) Examine the details to see if they fit as well. 3) Come up with explanations that are simple and consistent.

I must confess that in the case of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, I cannot claim to explain everything that they have written or even claim to have read all that they have written. However, I do find that as I continue to analyze various books and theories, I am able to comprehend more of philosophy, and I increasingly find that it is possible to come up with answers for questions which the technical thinking of philosophy uses complicated language to say that it cannot solve, such as Kant’s observation that everything that the mind knows is filtered by the structure of the mind.

I describe this methodology because this essay will be using the same methodology to analyze biblical symbology. I will not be taking off my normal hat of cognitive analysis and putting on some sort of religious head covering. Instead, this essay will look at Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 4 – 22 using the same kind of analysis that has been applied to other books and authors. This needs to be stated explicitly because these two passages of the Bible are typically regarded as special passages that cannot be analyzed using normal rational analysis.

Saying this in more detail, the first step is to translate the symbology into cognitive language. This will usually be done by asking what part of the mind analyzes each symbol. For instance, three symbols that show up repeatedly in these passages are water, earth, and air. Water is a liquid while earth is solid. A liquid turns into a solid when there are ‘solid connections’ between the atoms or molecules of a liquid. Similarly, Mercy thought deals with raw, disconnected experiences while Perceiver thought looks for solid facts that can connect one experience with another. Thus, water is a cognitively natural metaphor for Mercy experiences while earth is a cognitively natural metaphor for Perceiver facts. The size of water or earth is also significant. For instance, the seas would refer to the Mercy experiences and MMNs of many cultures, while a lake would refer to a more limited realm of Mercy experiences and MMNs. Similarly, a rock describes a Perceiver fact or truth, while earth would refer to a landscape of Perceiver facts across which one can travel using Server sequences. Air is invisible and it is not solid, but one can feel air when it moves. Similarly, Teacher thought interprets the invisible words of speech, which travel through air. Going further, Teacher theories pervade the realm of Mercy experiences and Perceiver objects in a general manner, they describe how things behave, and Teacher theories lead to emotions that can be felt. Similarly, air pervades the physical realm of liquids and solids in a general manner, one senses air when it moves, and the movement of air can be felt quite strongly.

If a metaphor is cognitively natural, then one should also find it used in normal speech, and that is what one finds with water, earth, and air. One speaks of ‘being over one’s head’ in a situation, or ‘looking for solid ground’. And one talks of ‘castles in the air’ when referring to Teacher theories that are unrelated to the earth of solid facts. Most of the metaphors used in Genesis and Revelation can be translated into cognitive language fairly easily.

Once the metaphors have been translated, then it is possible to analyze the content. Does the text make sense when the symbols are translated into cognitive language? Is this cognitive translation consistent with the theory of mental symmetry? In order to add rigor to this analysis, certain guidelines need to be followed. If possible, a passage should be interpreted as a single cognitive sequence, in which each step follows naturally from the previous step and lays the foundation for the next step. In addition, symbols need to be used in a consistent manner. If some symbol is used as a metaphor in one passage of the Bible, then it should have the same meaning wherever it is used symbolically in the Bible. Finally, one must try to analyze all of the phrases in every verse, in order to show that the analysis works at a detailed level and is not just a surface comparison. While this essay will not look at every phrase of every verse, the analysis will be reasonably complete. Generally speaking, what will not be analyzed is the numbers. When Revelation talks about ‘144,000 chosen people’, this will not be interpreted as exactly 144,000 converts. I do not know exactly what this number means or what the precious stone of ‘bdellium’ (Gen. 2:12) represents. However, I do know that technical thought has a natural tendency to focus upon numbers and specific terms while ignoring general principles. The goal of this essay is to analyze these scriptural passages using general cognitive principles. If these general principles make sense, then this creates a context for using technical thought later to decipher specific terms such as ‘144,000’ or ‘bdellium’.

Finally, I should point out that this cognitive analysis carries with it a huge assumption. I know that the Bible was written between two and four thousand years ago by many authors over many centuries. I also know that none of these authors had a general understanding of how the mind works. Therefore, when one performs a cognitive analysis of the Bible, then one is implicitly assuming that the entire Bible has a single superhuman author, that this author has a deep understanding of how the mind works, and that this author is using this understanding of the mind to carry out a long term plan of cognitive and societal development. In other words, I am assuming an alternative to the theory of evolution. Evolution implies that physical life is being genetically guided by a supernatural being known as Nature whose knowledge, lifespan, and power extends beyond the limitations of any specific human individual. Similarly, I am assuming that spiritual and mental life is being internally and externally guided by a supernatural being known as God whose knowledge, lifespan, and power extends beyond the limitations of any specific human individual. I know that evolutionists would vigorously deny that Nature is being treated as God. However, I suggest that it is disingenuous to insist verbally that Nature is not God while simultaneously ascribing to Nature the attributes of God. Using the simple duck test, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

This essay will take a cognitive look at the biblical story of creation, the garden of Eden, and link to a related essay that looks at most of the book of Revelation. We will examine these stories from the viewpoint of programming the mind and see if this makes sense.

Interpreting a biblical story cognitively does not mean that the story did not happen. Instead, it makes it possible to analyze the content without having to determine first whether the story describes history or myth. My general hypothesis is that Christian doctrine makes sense if one interprets it as a path that one follows to reach mental wholeness. This idea is developed in the book Natural Cognitive Theology.

We will begin this essay by looking at the story of the garden of Eden. Cognitively speaking, the garden of Eden describes an environment designed to encourage cognitive development in the innocent mind. Adam and Eve are typically seen theologically as ‘perfect beings’. However, I suggest that one needs to distinguish between innocence and perfection. Innocence describes the childish mind that has not yet acted in ways that damage the mind. It is the perfection of ignorance, somewhat like the person wearing a clean white shirt who is about to play in the mud. The shirt may be white but one can state with confidence that it will not stay white. Perfection, in contrast, is like the ability to walk through the mud without getting dirty or feeling driven to wallow in the mud. My premise is that Adam and Eve were innocent but not perfect.

(All of the scriptural references in this essay are taken from the NASB, because it is usually closest to the original Greek text.)

Innate Fears

The snake plays a central role in this story. Studies “offer support for the view that humans have a natural tendency to selectively associate snakes with fear.” This is especially true when a person sees a snake move. According to this paper, the other innate universal fears are fear of heights, water, spiders, and strangers. Looking at these innate fears briefly, a fear of spiders and strangers can be explained in terms of mental networks. In simple terms, a mental network is a collection of emotional memories that generates unpleasant emotions when faced with unfamiliar information. For instance, one can see this response in culture shock. Thus, a fear of strangers is simply a form of culture shock. Similarly, a fear of spiders can be explained as a sort of culture shock related to the mental network that represents the physical body. The shape of a spider is sufficiently alien to generate a feeling of bodily culture shock. As a Perceiver person who is consciously aware of shape, I find the shape of a spider repulsive because it is too different than the shape of a human.

A phobia of heights and water can be explained as an interaction between Exhorter urges and Perceiver facts. Exhorter thought is attracted to strong emotions while Perceiver facts limit and guide Exhorter urges. This is illustrated by the typical Exhorter person who likes to exaggerate, because this makes a story more exciting, and the typical Perceiver person who hates to exaggerate, because this contradicts the facts. I am a Perceiver person and I struggle with a fear of heights. When I am standing too close to the edge then subconscious Exhorter thought within my mind generates an urge to jump. It is not that I want to jump, but rather that the possibility of going over the edge exists, and Exhorter thought within my mind finds that possibility exciting and is attracted to it. In simple terms, the empty air means that there are no Perceiver facts to limit Exhorter exaggeration. I also find the idea of swimming in deep water disconcerting because again there is an unknown, un-solid expanse beneath my feet that attracts the attention of Exhorter thought.

I suggest that a fear of snakes can be explained in terms of Teacher overgeneralization, and this interpretation will provide us with the cognitive framework for interpreting the story of the snake in the garden of Eden. Teacher thought comes up with general theories. A general theory is a simple explanation that describes many specific situations. A general theory feels good, and this Teacher emotion will attract the attention of Exhorter thought. In the same way that Perceiver facts prevent Exhorter thought from focusing upon exciting experiences in Mercy thought, so Perceiver facts also limit Teacher thought from generalizing. For instance, Teacher thought likes to make sweeping statements such as “You always serve broccoli when guests come over”, while Perceiver thought will point out that “We did not have broccoli last week when the Smiths came to visit.” Teacher thought also works with sequences. For instance, speech is a sequence of words and sentences, each of which is composed of a sequence of sounds. Teacher thought uses words and sentences to come up with general theories. Similarly, lines and curves are visual sequences, and writing uses sequences of visual curves (that we call letters of the alphabet) to represent words and sentences.

The easiest way to come up with a general theory is by eliminating Perceiver facts. This is known as overgeneralization. The simplest overgeneralized verbal theory is the theory that “All is one”, because it ignores all the facts and simply states that everything fits together. Similarly, the simplest overgeneralized visual theory is a wiggly line, because it ignores all the visual details and simply summarizes a shape as the sequence of a single visual line. In other words, I suggest that a snake is the visual equivalent of the mystical theory of oneness, because in both cases an absence of Perceiver facts makes it possible for Teacher thought to use overgeneralization to come up with the simplest possible theory. This provides a cognitive explanation for the innate fear of snakes, because the shape and movement of a snake leads to general Teacher emotions without Perceiver facts, making it possible for Exhorter thought to focus upon the strong emotions without being limited by Perceiver thought, similar to the situation with a fear of heights or a fear of deep water.

Connecting a snake with mysticism may seem like a non-rigorous way of thinking. However, this type of cross-modal connection is consistent with how the brain functions. Primary sensory areas, mainly in the back of the brain, receive specific information from specific senses, such as sight and sound. The rest of the brain mixes this sensory information and looks for underlying similarities. This mixing continues as information progresses from the back of the brain to the front of the brain, and by the time information reaches the frontal lobes, what matters is no longer the specific senses but rather the underlying features and structures. The frontopolar cortex, at the very front of the brain, takes this type of thinking to an extreme by looking for analogies between different systems and worldviews. Saying this more clearly, when one is studying the physical world, then one must think in a way that is consistent with how the world functions, and the natural world does not mix mysticism with snakes. However, we are not studying the world but rather the mind, and the brain does look for underlying relationships between things that on the surface appear to be quite different. This does not mean that one picks analogies at random. Instead, one can add rigor by focusing upon analogies that are cognitively natural. An analogy is cognitively natural if the same cognitive modules are being used in a similar manner. For instance, overgeneralization occurs when Teacher thought comes up with general theories in the absence of Perceiver facts. This combination of mental processing can occur with words, leading to mysticism, and it can also occur with visual input, leading to the concept of a snake. This type of cognitive similarity can be seen in mysticism itself, which uses many different methods to combine Teacher overgeneralization with an absence of Perceiver facts, such as the Zen koan, sitting in quiet meditation, staring at a flickering candle, repeating a mantra such as ‘om’, hesychasm, or constructing a mandela.

The Garden of Eden as a Learning Environment

Thus, our starting point for analyzing the garden of Eden will be the hypothesis that a snake represents mysticism with its overgeneralized theory of oneness. We have seen that there is a cognitive connection between these two. I will now attempt to show that cognitive characteristics of mysticism can be seen in the details of the story of the Garden of Eden. (For those who wish to look further at mysticism, I have written an essay on Orthodox Christianity, the branch of Christianity that emphasizes mysticism. And chapter 6 in Natural Cognitive Theology examines the cognitive mechanisms behind various forms of mysticism.)

Genesis 2 sets the scene. “Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil... Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die. Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man’” (Gen. 2:9,15-22).

Mental symmetry suggests that there are three aspects to thought: 1) Mental networks are composed of collections of emotional memories that function as units, and the mind uses mental networks to represent living beings. 2) Technical thought uses rigorous thinking to improve some specific plan or theory. The mental foundation for concrete technical thought (Cp) is cause-and-effect, while abstract technical thought (Ci) becomes possible when words acquire precise meanings. 3) Both mental networks and the specializations of technical thought exist within a grid of mental content known as normal thought. These three forms of thought do not naturally function in an integrated manner. Instead, the emotional pressure of mental networks tends to overwhelm normal thought, while the technical expertise of technical thought naturally looks down upon the less rigorous analogies of normal thought, while trying to avoid dealing with the emotions of mental networks.

In contrast, what one finds described in Genesis 2 is an environment that is designed to help these three forms of thought to interact. A garden is composed of living plants and trees, which would be represented internally as mental networks. However, a garden is also characterized by a form of cause-and-effect known as sowing and reaping. One plants seeds and then harvests crops, and there is a repeatable connection between planting and harvesting. Adam is given the job of cultivating the garden. Thus, one sees the cause-and-effect of concrete technical thought combined with the mental networks that represent life. Perceiver thought handles object recognition by looking for repeated connections between Mercy experiences. Cause-and-effect emerges when these Perceiver connections occur over time. For instance, dropping an object is repeatedly followed by this object landing on the ground, but hitting the ground occurs after the object is released. A fruit tree makes this obvious because a tree is a solid immovable object that contains fruit which develops repeatedly over time. Saying this another way, cause-and-effect involves the concrete world of objects and experiences, which are interpreted by Perceiver thought and Mercy thought. But cause-and-effect occurs over time, which means that Perceiver facts must be combined with Server sequences, because Server thought deals with time. Contributor thought, as a combination of Perceiver and Server, binds together specific Perceiver facts with specific Server sequences, leading to a sense of cause-and-effect, which forms the basis for concrete technical thought.

In addition, a garden is composed of a collection of trees and plants, which means that many elements of sowing and reaping are interacting within the general grid of the garden. This means that the garden of Eden is an external picture of integrated concrete thought, with the cause-and-effect thinking of technical thought being used to improve many mental networks within a general structure held together by normal thought. We conclude that whether the garden of Eden actually existed or not, cultivating such a garden describes an ideal environment for encouraging the development of integrated concrete thought.

Abstract technical thought emerges when words are given precise meanings. (Here Contributor thought connects Server sequences of words with Perceiver meanings. Abstract technical thought is distinct from concrete technical thought because words are distinct from actions.) One sees this illustrated by Adam’s task of naming the various animals. Notice again that technical thought is being applied to mental networks, because Adam is told to name all the animals and birds, which would be represented internally as mental networks. And just as a garden is composed of many plants and trees, so Adam is told to name many animals, which would require using normal thought to work out the similarities and differences between these various birds and animals. Science emerges when abstract technical thought is used to analyze concrete cause-and-effect. The focus for science is not upon Perceiver objects but rather upon Server sequences—how things behave. One sees this change in focus with Adam being told to cultivate trees while being asked to name birds and animals. Unlike trees, birds and animals do not stay in one place. Instead, one must look for patterns in how they behave.

Finally, notice that Adam is not using abstract thought just for the sake of gaining a general understanding. Instead, he is also pursuing the personal goal of finding a helper. Using the language of mental symmetry, he is improving both the Teacher mental network (TMN) of general understanding as well as the Mercy mental network (MMN) of personal identity. A similar emotional combination has guided my cognitive research. On the one hand, my goal has been to gain a general understanding of how the mind functions. On the other hand, I have simultaneously been following the personal goal of achieving mental wholeness. I have found this combination to be extremely effective for doing research on the mind, and I have also come to the conclusion that if one attempts to understand the mind without simultaneously pursuing mental wholeness, then one will end up with a twisted understanding of how the mind functions. I have seen this principle illustrated repeatedly by psychologists, philosophers, and theologians.

Male and Female Thought

The story then says that a suitable helper was eventually found for Adam by creating Eve. This has been debated endlessly from various viewpoints, but I would like to look at it from a cognitive perspective. Evidence from psychology and personality suggest that female thought emphasizes Mercy experiences, Teacher words, emotional processing and mental networks, while male thought focuses upon Perceiver facts, Server skills, and technical thought. (Gender and sexuality are examined from a cognitive perspective in another essay.) What is being described in the story of the Garden of Eden corresponds to what I call the three stages of learning (described on p.277 of God, Theology & Cognitive Modules). The first stage is that of the beginner, who expresses himself emotionally and intuitively but lacks skills and knowledge. The second stage is that of the technician, who gains knowledge and practices skills but performs in a mechanical manner. One sees this especially in the musical student who plays all of the notes correctly but does not make music. The third stage is that of the expert, who combines the technique of the technician with the intuition of the beginner, resulting in expertise that is both emotionally pleasing and of a high quality. Using the language of gender, the beginner uses pure female thought, the technician uses pure male thought, while the expert is guided by an internal ‘marriage’ of male and female thought. It is often said that becoming an expert requires 10,000 hours of practice. The point is that practicing develops a grid of knowledge and skill which then becomes a mental highway system for the intuitive, emotional processing of the expert. Applying this principle to the story of Adam, one can see that Adam would gain technical proficiency by cultivating the garden and naming the animals, and that this knowledge would eventually become sufficiently integrated to make it possible for female thought to live within this grid of expertise, just as the expert in a field can allow his mind to be driven intuitively by emotions, knowing that his grid of competence will guide emotions. (We saw the absence of such interaction earlier on when looking at fear of deep water and fear of heights.) Thus, whether Eve actually came from the side of Adam or not, this is an accurate metaphor of how female expertise emerges cognitively from male thought. Applying this to Paul’s concept of wives submitting to husbands, the female mind submits to the male mind not because the male mind is superior, but rather because male content makes it possible for the female mind to function at a level of expertise that goes beyond what the male mind can achieve. (This general principle would be modified by cognitive style. A female Mercy person, for instance, is more feminine than a female Perceiver person.) In other words, female thought, with its sensitivity, intuition, elegance, and global processing, is a superior form of mental processing—when built upon a mental foundation of male knowledge and skills.

Verse 24 says “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” This statement makes cognitive sense because the emotional bond that children have with their parents is based in core mental networks acquired in childhood, whereas the bond between male and female is based in the structure of the mind. Using computer language, hardware is more basic than software; the hardware-based relationship between male and female thought is more fundamental than the software-based relationship between parents and children.

Original Sin

It is interesting to note that Adam’s educational process starts with concrete thought and then goes to abstract thought. Adam first develops concrete thought by cultivating a garden and then develops abstract thought by naming animals. This order is not possible today because living in a physical body programs the mind with childish Mercy mental networks that motivate a person to think and behave in a fragmented, self-destructive manner. Thus, what is required today is re-education: 0) The childish mind acquires inadequate MMNs from the physical body, parents, and other authority figures. 1) Absolute truth is revealed to the child or student through textbooks and holy books. 2) This rote learning is turned into a general Teacher understanding through critical thinking. 3) The TMN of a general understanding makes it possible to rebuild the MMNs of childish identity.

Adam, in contrast, does not seem to require cognitive reprogramming. Instead, we are given the impression that concrete thought develops adequately and that abstract thought then builds upon this adequate foundation. Part of this can be explained through Adam’s environment. Obviously, an isolated individual would not have to deal with MMNs of authority and culture. In addition, Adam is acquiring common sense through interaction with the natural world. One can see this to some extent in the individual who grows up on a farm or in the country, because such individuals are characterized by a level of common sense that is not usually seen in the typical city dweller. However, even the farm kid is troubled by childish MMNs, suggesting that the interface between mind and body may have been wired slightly differently in Adam’s brain. This raises the topic of ‘original sin’, and examining this story cognitively can give us some clue as to its nature.

The Christian doctrine of original sin teaches that Adam was originally sinless and that ‘sin entered the world’ through the temptation with the snake in the garden of Eden. The cognitive analysis we have just done allows us to make some possible conclusions regarding the nature of original sin. First, there is no indication that the structure of the mind is flawed, because Adam with his ‘sinless mind’ is being taught using cognitive principles that apply equally well to the human mind today. Similarly, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing inherently flawed with the structure of the mind, if it is used in a whole manner in which all seven cognitive modules function and interact cooperatively. However, I have also come to the conclusion that there is a basic flaw in the core mental networks that the mind acquires growing up in a physical body. The behavior of these childish mental MMNs is described in more detail in chapter 3 of Natural Cognitive Theology. Consistent with this, one notes that Adam is being taught in a manner that would not work today. For Adam, it appears that developing concrete thought leads naturally to mental networks that are consistent with rational abstract thought. That is not the case today. Thus, whatever original sin is, it appears to involve embodiment—the way that the physical body initially programs the mind, and it is cognitively accurate to state that a person is ‘born in sin’.

Skipping ahead in the story, there are two verses which suggest that after the encounter with the snake, concrete thought no longer develops naturally in a way that is compatible with mental wholeness, but mental wholeness now requires a form of personal rebirth in which existing mental networks of personal identity are torn apart and re-formed. First, in verse 7, Adam and Eve sew fig leaves to cover their nakedness, but these are replaced in verse 21 by garments of skin made by God. As far as I can tell, clothing is a physical picture of culture. Clothing is a fabric that covers, protects, and adorns the physical body. Similarly, the fabric of culture covers, protects, and adorns the mental networks of personal identity. We have seen that Adam develops concrete thought by cultivating plants and that this provides an adequate starting point for developing abstract thought. However, when Adam and Eve try to cover personal identity with plants, then this is no longer regarded as adequate. Instead, what is required is a covering for identity that involves the animals of abstract thought, requires the death of animals, and is provided by God. Saying this cognitively, abstract thought now has to be seeded through revelation from a Teacher source, and rebirth has to be a fundamental aspect of this revealed message, as described a few paragraphs back.

Second, this lesson is reinforced by the story of Cain and Abel in the next chapter: “Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” (Gen. 4:2-5). Notice that Cain’s offering of concrete plants is not acceptable to God, while Abel’s offering of abstract animals (which had to be killed in order to offer the fat) is acceptable. This provides supporting evidence for the interpretation of original sin described earlier.

I am not suggesting that plants are always associated with concrete thought and animals with abstract thought. However, if a person has just gone through a school curriculum that uses plants to develop concrete thought and animals to develop abstract thought, then one can safely conclude that such an individual—and his children—will connect plants with concrete thought and animals with abstract thought. (Symbolically speaking, we will see that both plants and animals grow and live on the ‘earth’ of rational thought, while birds fly through the air, which is naturally associated with abstract thought.) We will return to the topic of original sin at the end of this essay.

The Two Trees

Now let us turn our attention to the two trees in the garden. One is is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the other is the tree of life. We looked earlier at the interaction between the Teacher goal of gaining a general understanding and the Mercy goal of pursuing mental wholeness. One can illustrate this interaction by looking at the example of driving a car. One option is to respect the limitations of the vehicle, such as letting off on the accelerator if the engine sounds too loud, or driving slower around curves if the tires start to squeal. The result is that Mercy emotions will motivate a person to drive in a way that is consistent with how the car works. Saying this more precisely, the car is mentally represented by a MMN with ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’. But these Mercy ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ are actually an indirect expression of how the car works, which is based in general laws of physics. Thus, acting in a way that respects the ‘desires’ of the car leads to the development of Server skills that are consistent with the universal laws of nature. Notice that this method will only work if the object or person whose desires are being respected functions in a manner that is consistent with universal law. For instance, many parents now treat their children as if they are little adults with valid desires that need to be respected. However, while children do need to be loved and cared for, they also need to be trained because childish MMNs are not consistent with universal laws of how things work. (As was mentioned before, this concept is developed further in chapter 3 of Natural Cognitive Theology.)

I suggest that this approach corresponds to the tree of life, because it is driven by a desire to preserve and enhance mental networks (which the mind uses to represent life). Obviously, this approach will only lead to mental wholeness if mental networks are healthy (which appears to have been the case with Adam). Looking at this more generally, I suggest that love can be defined as interacting in a manner that respects and enhances mental networks. People often talk about interacting in a loving manner, but when the mind is guided by childish mental networks, then love naturally turns into tribalism and favoritism. True love only becomes possible when MMNs of culture and personal identity are placed within the TMN of a general understanding of how things work. Using political language, multiculturalism becomes possible when all cultures submit to the rule of law. Using religious language, it is only possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself if one first loves God with all of one’s being. This explains why one finds the tree of life reappearing at the end of the book of Revelation because the MMNs of personal identity and culture are now residing within a holy city that is illumined by the TMN of an understanding of God.

Returning to the analogy of the car, one can also choose to drive the vehicle in a manner that does not respect the ‘feelings’ of the car but is guided instead by my emotions of where I want to go. This will lead me fairly quickly to a knowledge of both good and evil, because I am not respecting how things work, which will cause the car to break down or lead to an accident. The precise nature of this limitation can be seen in God’s instructions to Adam. He is supposed to cultivate all of the trees and name all of the animals. Thus, there is no restriction upon either abstract or concrete thought. However, he is not supposed to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, suggesting that the limitation applies to the MMNs of personal identity.

Restating this more generally, one should use Teacher thought to try to understand everything, but one should not use Mercy thought to try to experience everything. That is because Teacher thought wants a general understanding while a person needs to avoid Mercy experiences that harm personal identity. Choosing to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil can be motivated either by a Mercy desire to experience ‘forbidden fruit’ or by the Teacher feeling that one must experience something in order to understand it. Experience is an important aspect of understanding. But it is sufficient to experience something that is like what one is attempting to understand. This principle is described in Hebrews 4: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15). As the ‘Son of God’, Jesus lives within universal Teacher thought. But Jesus as a man was ‘without sin’ because he avoided making choices that lead to bad consequences in Mercy thought. Despite this personal restriction, he is able to empathize with others because ‘he was tempted in all things as we are’.

For instance, during the initial stages of my research I was continually faced with a choice. On the one hand, I could see by observing others which pathways lead to mental fragmentation. On the other hand, my theory predicted that acting in a way that respects how the mind works might lead to lasting personal life. I distinctly remember consciously choosing again and again to follow a path that might lead to mental life and wholeness rather than pursue paths that would lead for certain to mental death and fragmentation. The limitation did not involve thinking, because I was using concrete thought to observe all forms of personal cause-and-effect in the lives of others, and I was using using abstract thought to understand actions that led to both good and evil. However, I was not ‘giving my soul’ to careers, idols, infatuations, and hedonism the way that others around me were doing. In other words, I was choosing to eat from the tree of life rather than eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The end result is that I now have a general understanding of how the mind works while others do not. That is because choosing to act in concrete thought in a way that is consistent with how the mind works laid a mental foundation for gaining an understanding in abstract thought of how the mind works. This was an iterative process because each choice led to further understanding, which in turn revealed a further choice.

The Snake and Mysticism

We now come to the part of the part of the story that describes the encounter between the snake and the woman: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Indeed, has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Gen. 3:1-5). This might refer to some sort of supernatural being appearing as a snake, a snake temporarily acquiring the ability to speak, or merely the allegory of a snake. Whatever the case, I suggest that the cognitive analysis is the same.

We have examined Adam’s learning environment. (We will also see when looking at the beginning of Genesis 2 that the mind of Adam and Eve may have naturally emphasized general Teacher thought. Gen. 3:8 implies that there was continual dialogue with God.) What happens if the ‘snake’ of mysticism shows up on the scene? Cognitively speaking, it will naturally show up when a person starts to use abstract thought. Overgeneralization occurs quite early in the process of cognitive development. For instance, a child will first overgeneralize rules of grammar by saying I ‘goed’ to the store, before learning that one should actually say ‘I went to the store’. Similarly, it is common for a person to have some sort of mystical experience early in life and then use rational thought to attempt to analyze what happened. And historically speaking, Buddhism with its overgeneralized theory that ‘all is one’ was an early form of higher religion that began with Siddhartha in the fourth century BC.

Before we continue, I should mention that while Christian mysticism, Buddhism, Zen, Hinduism and other forms of mystical belief belong to different religions, they all contain the same core element of mysticism, and it appears that all forms of mysticism can be analyzed by a set of simple cognitive principles. William James said something similar in his 1929 book entitled The Varieties of Religious Experience: “This overcoming of all the usual barriers between individual and the absolute is the great mystic achievement. In mystic states we become one with the absolute and we become aware of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition hardly altered by differences of clime or creed. In Hinduism, in Neo-platonism, in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterances an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think.”

Mysticism combines the three elements of a Teacher-based concept of God, Teacher overgeneralization, and a denial of Perceiver facts. Teacher thought comes up with a theory of universality through overgeneralization by asserting in some verbal or nonverbal way that ‘everything fits together’. God is then associated with this Teacher concept of universality and oneness, and any Perceiver facts that might stand in the way of Teacher overgeneralization are then dismissed either by making them sufficiently vague or by asserting that they are merely illusion.

These three elements are all present in the first sentence spoken by the snake. The snake begins by saying ‘has God said’, implicitly associating a mental concept of God with words in Teacher thought. The snake then overgeneralizes the command regarding eating from the forbidden tree to apply to all of the trees. Finally, the snake mentally connects God with a denial of Perceiver facts regarding physical objects: ‘God has said’, ‘don’t’ and ‘trees of the garden’. At a logical level, the statement of the snake does not sound ‘more crafty than any beast’. But at an emotional level, the snake has managed to trigger simultaneously the mental networks that are required to practice mysticism. And by making such an obviously false statement, the snake manages to elicit an emotional response from the woman. Finally, notice that the snake directs his attack at the woman who naturally thinks in terms of mental networks rather than logical reasoning.

The woman responds by correcting the words of the snake, but notice that her response is given in terms of a taboo: do not eat the fruit and do not touch the tree. This is the sort of thinking that characterizes idolatry, which protects special items from contamination by placing physical and mental walls between these special items and normal experiences. (This type of holiness is described in more detail here.)

A taboo is also ineffective at restricting Exhorter desires, which is illustrated by the command ‘Do not think of pink elephants!’, because all this will manage to do is focus attention more strongly upon the forbidden thought. We saw something similar when looking at fear of heights and fear of deep water. A taboo leaves the forbidden item unknown, making Teacher overgeneralization possible, which attracts the attention of Exhorter thought, while the emotional effort involved in suppressing a forbidden desire makes the desire more exciting to Exhorter thought.

Finally, there is also the matter of expressing mental networks freely. Belenky suggests that female cognitive development can be divided into five stages. The first stage is silence, which means that mental networks of identity are being suppressed and do not express themselves. In the second stage of received knowledge, mental networks of identity are submitted to mental networks that represent authority figures, whereas in the third stage of subjective knowledge, mental networks of identity break free in order to express themselves freely. Eve, as the wife of Adam who arrived on the scene after Adam, was probably functioning at the second level of received knowledge, submitting mental networks of personal identity to the mental networks that represented husband and God. The snake appears to be encouraging Eve to enter the third stage of self-assertion. Wikipedia describes this third stage: “Subjective knowledge is characterized by the recognition of the self as an authority. Subjective knowers rely on their own subjective thoughts, feelings and experiences for knowledge and truth - the ‘infallible gut’... Along with the nascent discovery of the inner voice, subjective knowers showed a general distrust of analysis and logical reasoning (Love and Guthrie 1999) and did not see value in considering the weight of evidence in evaluating knowledge. Instead, they considered knowledge and truth to be inherently personal and subjective, to be experienced rather than intellectualized.” In other words, the snake is saying to Eve that “God is trying to restrict you and control you. You cannot trust him. Break free of this domination and be your own person.” (Note that this logic would still apply even if Eve’s mind naturally emphasized the TMN of a concept of God.)

Four Falsehoods of Mysticism

The snake then asserts four basic falsehoods of the mystical encounter: 1) Your eyes will be opened. 2) You will be like God. 3) You will not die. 4) Your mystical encounter describes a real God. (‘God knows that’ implies that the snake knows the thinking of the real God.) In general terms, we have already seen that a mystical encounter is based in Teacher overgeneralization. Teacher thought feels good when a simple explanation ties things together, and Teacher thought feels very good when a universal explanation ties everything together. The mystical experience interprets this spurious Teacher emotion as an encounter with universality and then identifies in Mercy thought with this experience. This is followed by the belief that this emotional short-circuit reflects the character of a real God.

Looking at these four points in more detail, many authors describe the mystical experience as eye-opening. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on the third eye, “The third eye refers to the gate that leads to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness. In New Age spirituality, the third eye often symbolizes a state of enlightenment or the evocation of mental images having deeply personal spiritual or psychological significance.” But if one looks further, the Hinduwebsite describes this ‘grasp of truth’ as a closing of eyes rather than the opening of eyes, and with an absence of knowledge rather than the presence of knowledge: “We should pay particular attention to our perceptions and go beyond the appearance of things to know the truth. We can arrive at truth by understanding the various states of our consciousness. For example, when we are awake everything looks real. We can touch and feel things consciously. But in our dream state the world becomes different. Here we are vaguely aware of what is going on, but from an experiential point of view, do not know clearly whether what we experience in a dream is true or not. When we are in deep sleep and our senses are in a state of complete rest, the world almost disappears from the field of our experience. Here we do not experience any duality or plurality. We even lose the sense of self or the ego sense... This is the paradox, the real truth, to understand which we have to go deeper into ourselves to discover our true nature and the meaning of self-absorption.” In other words, one learns mystical truth best when one is unaware of facts and truth. But how can ignorance be the same as truth? Saying this theoretically, if mysticism is based in overgeneralization and if overgeneralization requires the absence of truth, then mysticism, by definition, cannot claim to have any relationship with truth. Going further, claiming that the answer is a paradox is itself a way of protecting overgeneralization by denying the existence of truth. If one says that the answer to a question is that ‘there is no answer’, then one has not answered the question, and it is dishonest to pretend that one has answered the question.

Moving to the second point, the goal of the mystical experience is to achieve some form of ‘union with God’. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on theosis, “Deification (theosis) is a transformative process whose goal is likeness to or union with God...The primacy of theosis in Orthodox theology is directly related to the fact that Orthodox theology (as historically conceived by its principal exponents) is based to a greater extent than Western Catholic Latin theology on the direct spiritual insights of the saints or mystics of the church rather than the apparently more rational thought tradition of the West. Eastern Orthodox consider that ‘no one who does not follow the path of union with God can be a theologian’. Theology in Eastern Orthodoxy is not treated as an academic pursuit. Instead it is based on revelation (see gnosiology), meaning that Orthodox theology and its theologians are validated by ascetic pursuits rather than academic degrees (i.e. scholasticism).” Notice that theology is being defined as mysticism acquired through direct experience rather than through rational thought. But how can one encounter a being who supposedly encompasses everything by turning one’s back on rational knowledge? That is like saying that one can get to know a house best by locking oneself in one room, and that anyone who actually examines the house cannot claim to know the house.

Expressing this more distinctly, the Hinduwebsite says that “Spiritually speaking, bhakti is one of the most sublime human expressions not easily attained. True bhakti arises in a person who is filled with the purity of sattva, who is free from worldly desires and whose sole aim is liberation. A loyal devotee of God does not seek anything, other than the attention of God or oneness with Him. He may even act or appear as if he is out of mind. In spiritual terms bhakti means intense spiritual love and devotion to God. In true devotion, a person reaches the heights of out of body and out of mind experiences, suffers frequent mood changes, loses consciousness or falls into rapturous trance. True devotion often manifests itself as a kind of divine madness and total indifference to worldly matters.” If God is a universal being, and if universality ties everything together, then it does not make sense to encounter universality by becoming mentally oblivious to everything. Using a simple analogy, if Fred is absolute ruler over a vast domain, then show me his vast domain. If one can only encounter Fred by going into a small room and turning down the lights, then Fred is more likely an unemployed single man living in his parent’s basement than the absolute ruler of some huge country.

This desire to ‘be like God’ also figures prominently in the biblical story that is traditionally viewed as a description of the fall of Lucifer: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” (Isaiah 14:12-14).

Moving on to the third point, mysticism says that personal suffering is a result of living in physical reality. Quoting from the Hinduwebsite, “In Hinduism suffering or dukha, means the physical, mental and emotional instability and afflictions (klesas) that arise from the dualities and modifications of the mind and body. These modifications manifest variously in human life as pain and suffering, attraction and aversion, union and separation, desires, passions, emotions, aging, sickness, death, rebirth, etc. According to Hinduism, suffering is an inescapable and integral part of life. The purpose of religious practice and various schools of Hinduism is to resolve human suffering that arises from samsara, which in a specific sense means the cycle of births and deaths and in a general sense, transient life. As long as man is caught in the phenomenal world of transient objects and appearances and becomes attached to them he has no escape from suffering.” Summarizing, ‘the purpose of religious practice and various schools of Hinduism is to resolve human suffering’. But ‘suffering is an inescapable and integral part of life’. The only way to escape suffering is to leave ‘the phenomenal world of transient objects and appearances’.

If one does manage to escape the physical world of objects and appearances, then one eventually reaches Nirvana. The Hinduwebsite explains that “Nirvana means going out or putting out or extinguishing a lamp or fire... Nirvana also means extinction, the absolute and final extinction or annihilation of all desires, individuality and attachment... it refers to the state of nonexistence, non-becoming and non-being this resulting from the annihilation of beingness and individuality at the end of a long and arduous spiritual effort... Nirvana signals the end of becoming and beingness and return to the pristine and eternal state of pure existence, characterized by non-becoming and non-beingness.” Stated bluntly, mysticism does not promise personal salvation but rather personal annihilation. The individual who stays in reality is damned to suffering, while the one who escapes reality is annihilated in Nirvana. When the ‘solution’ to suffering is personal annihilation, then saying that ‘you shall not die’ is a cruel joke.

Finally, this mental short-circuit is equated with the real God. The mystic does not just say “I had an ecstatic experience in which I felt that I was united with the cosmos.” Instead he believes that he had a real encounter with a real God. One sees this illustrated by the Orthodox Christian insistence that anyone who does not have such a direct encounter cannot be a theologian. However, evidence suggests that there is no such thing as a direct encounter with another individual. Instead, each person makes educated guesses as to what other people are thinking by using external clues to trigger mental networks. This is known in psychology as theory of mind. This does not mean that God (or other people) does not exist. Instead, it means that one must make hypotheses about the nature of God (and other people) based upon external clues. One can gain external clues about the nature of a universal being by looking at the behavior of the universe. Logically speaking, if a real God exists, then this real God created the real universe, and the behavior of the real universe will reflect the nature of the real God. Suggesting that one can know definitive truth about a real God by ignoring the real universe is not rational, and quoting many ancient tomes in an academically rigorous manner with many footnotes does not make it rational.

For instance, this type of flawed thinking can be seen in the The Knight’s Move (co-written by a theologian and a physicist). This book examines in detail the structure of the physical universe and explores the cognitive implications of the laws of physics, and I show in an essay that it is possible to use the theory of mental symmetry to analyze this content. However, the authors of this book do not try to explain the structure of the universe that they describe in their book. Instead, they ignore all of their content and focus instead upon singularities where the laws of physics do not apply (such as black holes) and relate these exceptions-to-the-universal-rule with the universal being of God. Why? Because one of the authors had a mystical experience early in life.

While the four statements made by the snake (and the corresponding assertions of mysticism) do not make logical sense, it is possible to explain cognitively why mysticism reaches these four mistaken conclusions. First, there is an opening of the eyes in the sense that a new cognitive strategy is starting to functioning. Normal experience is driven by Mercy mental networks of identity and culture. The mystical experience is an expression of Teacher thought with its Teacher emotions of generality, which is different than Mercy thought with its personal emotions of pain and pleasure. The problem is that Teacher thought is functioning in a way that ignores mental content rather than building upon content.

Second, Teacher emotions of generality feel the same as Mercy feelings of personal pleasure. Combining these two emotions will generate the feeling that personal identity is becoming one with universality. The problem is that finite is not the same as infinite. This becomes immediately obvious as soon as one uses Perceiver thought to distinguish one finite object from another (and Server thought to distinguish one sequence from another). Therefore, the feeling that finite is united with infinite can only be achieved by turning one’s back mentally upon the facts and sequences of real life and this feeling of cosmic unity cannot—literally and figuratively—survive the light of day.

Third, mental networks only complain when they receive inconsistent input. When mental networks are receiving consistent input, one may not even be aware that thought and behavior are being guided by mental networks. Thus, contemplating the idea of losing one’s identity in Nirvana does not feel threatening as long as one lives within a physical body that occupies a physical universe. In other words, because the mystical experience cannot survive the facts of reality, the idea of personal annihilation does not feel mentally threatening. However, if the mystical experience ever were to continue and if reality ever did approach the shapelessness of Nirvana, then I suggest that this would lead to a feeling of very deep angst that would cause the mind to recoil from the concept of Nirvana.

Fourth, sufficiently potent emotions will overwhelm Perceiver thought, leading to a form of ‘knowing’. One sees this in the blind faith of fundamentalism. Thus, the strong emotions present in the transcendental experience of an encounter with universality will cause a person to believe that this specific experience defines universal truth. Saying this more simply, the strong emotions will mesmerize Perceiver thought. That is why the mystic does not just feel that he had an encounter but rather believes that this encounter describes the nature of a real God. In the words of William James, “Although so similar to states of feeling, mystical states seem to those who experience them to be also states of knowledge. They are states of insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect. They are illuminations, revelations, full of significance and importance, all inarticulate though they remain; and as a rule they carry with them a curious sense of authority for after-time.”

Moving on, the snake also says that “you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. Notice that we are dealing here with two related, though not identical, topics. The first is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God tells Adam and Eve not to eat from this tree. The snake then adds the second element of ‘being like God’ and equates ‘being like God’ with ‘knowing good and evil’. I suggest that mysticism leads indirectly to a knowledge of good and evil because it removes the basis for morality. Morality functions at an emotional level when mental networks that represent important people (or general theories) impose their structure upon the mind. This is illustrated by the movie scene in which someone thinks about doing something ‘wrong’, sees a picture of mother sitting on the shelf, and then turns the picture around so that ‘mother’ will not see the forbidden activity being carried out. The real reason that the picture of mother is being turned around is to prevent the mental network that represents mother from being triggered, because if it is not triggered, then it will not use emotional pressure to attempt to impose its standards upon personal identity. In a similar manner, the mental network that represents God will impose its structure upon personal identity, providing the ultimate basis for conscience.

However, a mental network that lacks content will also not impose content. The overgeneralization of mysticism means that the most general, and therefore most powerful, mental network within the mind lacks content. Instead of providing a mental basis for conscience, this mystical concept of God will impose the idea upon the mind that there ultimately is no difference between one experience and another and that concepts of good and evil are ultimately illusion. The end result is a strange sort of amorality that replaces the idea of avoiding bad experiences and seeking good experiences with the idea of avoiding all forms of emotional attachment. In a sense, this turns reality into a sort of video game in which all concepts of good and evil do not really matter because life is just a game.

(Going further, if Adam and Eve naturally emphasized Teacher generality, then there would be a natural desire to identify with a concept of God in Teacher thought. And if they lived in an environment of continual pleasure, then they would not know from personal experience the repulsiveness and unpleasantness of evil.)

Eating the Forbidden Fruit

The biblical story then describes the response of the woman to the forbidden fruit: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate” (Gen. 3:6). We have spent some time looking at mysticism and the snake. We are now returning to the human viewpoint of the innocent woman, who thinks primarily in terms of mental networks. One can illustrate what is happening with the help of an example. I used to enjoy going into video arcades in order to see the latest computer graphics, and to see what percentage of video games involved shooting people. (It was usually about 70%-80%.) I remember once seeing some teenager shoot everything that moved on the screen. After watching for a little while I said to him, “Wouldn’t it be terrible if reality was like this?” He mumbled in agreement. I then asked him, “Why are you filling your mind with experiences that you do not want?” He turned to look at me and glared. End of conversation.

Applying this to our current discussion, both good and evil experiences can function mentally as ‘food’. Exhorter thought finds both pain and pleasure exciting, and both good and bad emotional experiences can form mental networks that define identity and culture. The teenager was treating experiences of virtual murder as mental food. For a more troubling example of an evil experience functioning as mental food, female genital mutilation has no health benefits, brings deep emotional and physical pain to a woman, and limits her ability to enjoy sex. Despite this, this practice is deeply embedded in many cultures, and more than 125 million women are now alive who have had this procedure.

Saying this more generally, the mind is a general purpose computer that can acquire either good or bad habits and can build a culture upon either good or evil experiences. (Just as a computer program can either simulate helping people or killing people.) However, the structure of the mind is not amoral, neither is the structure of the physical body. Evil experiences will fragment the mind and destroy the body. (Just as treating a computer poorly will destroy the computer.) However, if one regards evil experiences as ‘good for food’, then one will find that they become a ‘delight to the eyes’, because one will become emotionally attracted to them and they will become an accepted part of culture. One can see this illustrated by comparing the typical movie of today with the typical movie of 50 years ago. Even though today’s average movie is far darker and evil, viewers find pleasure in filling their minds with this dark nastiness. It has become a ‘delight to the eyes’.

Teacher thought will then try to make sense of this culture of evil, leading to general theories that explain why people and culture are naturally evil. Thus, eating from the tree of evil and good will be seen as ‘desirable to make one wise’. Anyone who refuses to partake of both good and evil will thenvbe viewed as hopelessly naïve and ignorant.

Kicked out of the Garden

Before we continue, let us jump ahead to verse 22, which says that “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken” (Gen. 3:22). We find here a repeat of the snake’s statement that a knowledge of good and evil is related to being like God, but we are now seeing God’s perspective. When one views fallen humanity from a general Teacher perspective, one notices that the typical human has a finite window of teachability: The childish mind is driven by inadequate MMNs. The developing mind then attempts to make sense of these childish MMNs. This is followed by the mature mind which is emotionally driven by the TMN of the general theory that resulted from attempting to make sense of childish MMNs. Saying this another way, the child is mentally immature and cannot learn to think in an adult fashion, while the mature adult is mentally rigid and, like the proverbial old dog, cannot be taught new tricks. The time of maximum teachability occurs in between these two extremes. Obviously, there are exceptions to this general rule, but it is depressing how widely this principle applies. Using academic language, the school student is too young to learn, while the typical professor has lost the ability to learn anything radically new or different. Generally speaking, it is the graduate student who is most teachable. Thomas Kuhn in his book on paradigms quotes Max Planck as saying that “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it” (Kuhn, p.151).

I mentioned earlier that the person who grows up surrounded by nature naturally acquires common sense. By the same token, the individual who grows up in a culture that follows a mixture of good and evil will not acquire common sense, but rather will be driven eventually by a general Teacher understanding that does not make sense. This is especially true for the individual who grows up in a pampered environment, because he has no reason to let go of his delusions. As Kuhn suggests, the only way to ensure that such a society remains flexible is by having the old-timers die off and be replaced by a new generation.

Using the language of the garden of Eden, a person who knows good and evil will become like God in the sense that he is eventually driven by a general Teacher understanding. But there is no guarantee that this Teacher understanding will be consistent with either how the mind works or how the natural world functions. Therefore, it is important that such an individual does not ‘live forever’, in order to permit the next generation to take over with a new set of ideas, and it is also important that such an individual receives corrective feedback by not living within the coddled environment of a garden of Eden.

This connection between a mindset of insanity and a limited lifespan is also seen in Genesis 6 in the story of the Nephilim (which is discussed on page 358 of Natural Cognitive Theology): “The LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” Gen. 6:3-6. Notice how God is shortening human lifespan because people are mentally infatuated with evil. Notice also that God is finding it difficult to guide individuals in this environment (‘my spirit shall not strive’) and that evil heroes are becoming like gods in terms of power and status.

The Results of Eating

Returning now to the original story, we are told “she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” The traditional Christian view has been to regard women as inferior because, after all, Eve was deceived by the snake while Adam was not. Actually, Adam was deceived as well—by Eve. The typical female mind is naturally better at working with mental networks than it is at using rigorous logic. But while the typical male mind may be naturally better at using rigorous logic, the average male mind loses its ability to follow logical thought when faced with strong emotions. Saying this more generally, both female and male thought find it difficult to think rationally in the midst of mental networks, but female thought lives within mental networks while male thought tries to avoid mental networks. However, life requires the existence of mental networks.

The story continues that after they ate, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Gen. 3:7). We saw earlier that a mystical concept of God lacks the content that is required to provide a basis for conscience. Conscience is like a mental map that tells you where you are and what it means emotionally to be there. Where you are may not be good but at least you know where you stand. The mystical encounter, in contrast, directly connects Teacher feelings of universality with Mercy feelings of personal identity. The result is a feeling of incredible personal smallness in contrast to the vastness of universality. One feels stripped bare at the core of one’s being before the immenseness of the cosmos, which will prompt one to try to cover up one’s personal nakedness in some way. Similarly, Adam and Eve now know that they are naked and they try to compensate by covering their private parts. (This realization would have been especially vivid if Adam and Eve’s pre-fallen minds were in some way capable of accepting the TMN of a general theory directly from the verbal environment. This is discussed at the end of this essay.)

This is followed by a similar response to the presence of God: “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). When one learns, one acquires Perceiver facts and Server sequences, and one then uses Teacher thought to put these pieces together. A mental concept of God emerges when Teacher thought comes up with a general theory that applies to personal identity. Saying this symbolically, one will hear the sound of God in the garden in the cool of the day. ‘Garden’ refers to knowledge that includes mental networks, ‘cool of the day’ implies that one is reflecting upon what has been learned, and ‘sound of God’ suggests that Teacher thought is using words to integrate what has been learned. Adam and Eve’s response to the voice of God illustrates how the human mind typically attempts to hide from a universal God—in the details: ‘The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden’. If one can busy oneself in some specialization, then one does not have to think about the big picture. This describes how the typical modern educated individual hides himself from God.

The story continues, “Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.’ And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’” (Gen. 3:9-11). Notice that the ‘eye-opening’ mystical encounter has caused Adam to become afraid of Teacher thought. When God calls out in Teacher thought, this brings to mind the experience of ‘feeling naked before the vastness of the cosmos’, causing Adam to try to avoid Teacher thought.

God recognizes that there is a competing voice in Teacher thought that led to Adam’s personal feeling of cosmic inadequacy: ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ (This implies that the feeling of nakedness came from the Teacher generalization of the snake rather than from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.) God then asks if Adam has acted in a way that was inconsistent with the structure of the TMN of God. Notice how the concept of God asks specific questions based upon content, while the mystical encounter with God simply leads to a general sense of nakedness.

The specific questioning continues: “The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Gen. 3:12-13). One sees here the classic response of passing the blame. Adam blames the woman and then blames God for giving him the woman, conveniently forgetting that she is his wife. Notice that Adam and Eve are both assuming that actions are ultimately motivated by mental networks that represent people, and that one cannot use free will to suppress these mental networks. Adam is implying that he had no choice in eating the fruit because the woman gave it to him, while Eve is implying that she had no choice because she was deceived by the serpent.

This response illustrates some of the limitations of innocence. For instance, in the early days of the Internet, one could trust programs that claimed to be from reputable sources, one did not have to worry about being deceived, and one did not have to learn to not click on a link or attachment. Similarly, Adam and Eve had no experience with being deceived and they had not learned to be suspicious of offers and reject harmful offers. They also had not learned how to evaluate truth without relying upon people as the source of truth.

The Snake is Cursed

This is followed by God cursing the snake: “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life;” (Gen. 3:14). We have looked at how Teacher thought uses overgeneralization to come up with the theory of oneness that lies behind mysticism. While overgeneralization is based upon a lack of mental content, it is possible to use this theory to guide personal life within the physical world of content. However, when used in this manner, the theory of overgeneralization does a poor job. One can see this by looking at Zen Buddhism.

First, life must be approached in a spontaneous manner in which experiences are not mentally connected together. As this BBC website says, “Zen often seems paradoxical - it requires an intense discipline which, when practised properly, results in total spontaneity and ultimate freedom. This natural spontaneity should not be confused with impulsiveness.” Perceiver thought builds connections between Mercy experiences. As we have seen, Perceiver facts prevent Teacher thought from overgeneralizing. Spontaneity focuses upon the current Mercy experiences and the immediate Perceiver facts without being consciously aware of Perceiver facts from the broader context. Symbolically, this corresponds with eating dust, because dust is fragmented physical matter.

Zen was introduced to the West through the book Zen in the Art of Archery. The classic concept in this book is ‘be the arrow’. In the words of the author, “The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull’s-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill.” Cognitively speaking, when one identifies with what one is doing, then one is ‘going on one’s belly’ because there is no mental distance between the action that is being performed and personal identity. This idea of letting nothing get between one’s actions and personal identity can also be seen in the BBC article on Zen: “The essence of Zen is attempting to understand the meaning of life directly, without being misled by logical thought or language... Zen is something a person does. It’s not a concept that can be described in words... The essence of Zen Buddhism is that all human beings are Buddha, and that all they have to do is to discover that truth for themselves.” Notice how the mystical concept of identifying with God (Buddha) lies at the heart of Zen, and that becoming fully involved in what one is doing without thinking makes it possible to perform specific actions within the real world while still holding on in Teacher thought to the overgeneralization that all is one.

A distinction needs to be made between intuitive behavior and mystical overgeneralization. Intuitive behavior occurs when thought and behavior flow along a ‘highway system’ of knowledge and skill. One sees this type of intuitive behavior in the expert, who behaves in a way that makes skill seem effortless. Such expertise is mentally integrated by the TMN of a general understanding. The TMN of mystical overgeneralization can also bring flow and smoothness to expert behavior, but only if one performs this expertise in a spontaneous, identifying manner.

Applying this to the three stages of learning, the beginner behaves intuitively but lacks content. Similarly, the mystical theory of oneness generates Teacher emotion but lacks content. The expert also behaves intuitively, but in a manner that expresses the content that was acquired during the second stage of being a technician. Zen combines the behavior of the expert with the understanding of beginner, acting like an expert while pretending to know nothing. When knowledge is mentally held together by the MMNs of experts rather than the TMN of a general understanding, then Zen is an effective way of expressing this knowledge in a flowing manner. This bears repeating. Fundamentalism believes that truth is revealed by people with great emotional status who are represented within the mind by MMNs. Understanding, in contrast, believes that truth is held together by the TMN of a general understanding. Behavior that is guided by the TMN of a general understanding is smooth, integrated, and flowing. (This is the mental mechanism behind righteousness.) Zen replaces being guided by understanding with the idea of being guided by understanding. If one has knowledge and skill without general understanding, then Zen is an effective way of expressing this expertise in an integrated manner.

Moving on to the next verse, God tells the snake that “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen. 3:15). The enmity between the snake and the woman results from a collision between two incompatible ways of emotionally integrating Mercy thought with Teacher thought. Mysticism jams together Mercy specifics with Teacher universality: “I am God”. This can only be done by using Teacher overgeneralization that lacks Perceiver and Server content. Female thought, in contrast, combines Teacher understanding with Mercy identity in a manner that includes Perceiver and Server content. (In other words, mature female thought is a marriage of female and male thought—expressed from a feminine intuitive perspective.) These two methods will collide with one another. Male thought can be juxtaposed with mysticism because one deals with knowledge and the other with intuitive thought. However, female thought directly collides with mysticism because both live within intuition. In terms of the three stages of learning, mysticism functions at the first stage while female thought functions at the third stage. (The stereotypical ‘dumb blonde’ combines a mind that functions at the first stage level of the beginner with a physical form that expresses the third stage of the expert. Such a person looks beautiful but is not beautiful. However, when female thought functions at the third level of the expert, then there is internal beauty.)

When one uses rational thought to compare the fruit of these two systems, one notices that Zen-like intuitive expertise is based upon assumed content. This content needs to be acquired by reaching the third level of female-like intuitive expertise. Metaphorically speaking, the seed of the woman bruises the snake on the head, because the head provides mental content, and Zen must acquire its assumed mental content from the third level of learning, which describes mature female thought. In contrast, third level female expertise can learn from Zen-like intuition the idea of walking through life in a flowing manner. Metaphorically speaking, the seed of the snake bruises the woman on the heel.

The Woman is Cursed

God then turns to the woman and says, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This statement makes sense if one understands the relationship between Mercy emotion and Teacher emotion, and the impact that mysticism has upon Teacher thought. The average person today associates emotions with childish Mercy thought. Thus, being emotional is typically interpreted as being irrational, childish, and ignorant. However, both Teacher thought and Mercy thought function emotionally, and Teacher emotion is the result of an integrated rational understanding that is not irrational, not childish, and not ignorant. When childish MMNs become reborn within the general structure of a Teacher understanding, then Mercy emotions are no longer childish but rather help Teacher understanding to be expressed in a manner that respects the feelings of people and the emotions of the situation. Saying this more simply, being guided emotionally by childish MMNs is the lowest level of personal functioning, while being guided emotionally by Mercy feelings that have been transformed by Teacher understanding is the highest level of personal functioning. Equating one with the other is like confusing the crayon drawing of a child with a Rembrandt painting.

For this reason, I suggest that feminist sociology is deeply demeaning to female thought, because it interprets everything through the childish Mercy lens of dominance and oppression. Quoting from the Wikipedia article, “At the core of feminist sociology is the idea of the systematic oppression of women and the historical dominance of men within most societies: ‘patriarchy’.” Female thought transcends male thought when Mercy feelings of personal identity are guided by Teacher feelings of understanding. Feminist sociology does precisely the opposite by basing Teacher understanding in childish MMNs rather than using Teacher understanding to transform childish MMNs. This mutates childish thought into belligerent, irrational, childish thought expressed through intellectual language. For instance, in one recent news story, “A student union officer who banned white people and men from an event promoting equality has claimed she ‘cannot be racist’ because she is an ethnic minority woman. Goldsmiths University’s student union welfare and diversity officer Bahar Mustafa sparked a backlash when she told white people and men they should not attend an event on ‘diversifying the curriculum’.”

Female thought can only function at this higher level if one has a rational Teacher understanding that applies to personal identity, or using religious language, a concept of God that is based in rational understanding. And that is precisely what one does not have today. The general secular consensus is that personal identity, culture, and art are ultimately not subject to rational thought, and the general religious consensus is that the character of God is ultimately unknowable. Scientific thought will not suffice because the rational theories of science try to avoid subjective emotions. The end result is that mysticism condemns female thought to a low level of functioning, because it prevents Teacher thought from developing the rational understanding that allows female thought to function at a high level. This explains why God curses the woman for being deceived by the snake. It is not that God is zapping the woman, but rather that God is describing the curse that the woman has placed upon herself.

Looking cognitively at the details of this curse, childbirth is the process of forming MMNs of life and culture. This process is much less painful when it can be guided by the TMN of a general understanding. The un-theory of mysticism prevents this from happening, forcing female thought to face MMNs head on without any ‘help from above’. Going further, when one is guided by childish MMNs, then one will continually experience painful consequences as a result of violating the laws of nature and the laws of the mind. Thus, childish female thought will have to look to male rational thought for help. Hence, ‘your desire will be for your husband’. And male thought will view childish female thought as emotional irrationalism that needs to be ruled by logical thought. Hence, ‘he will rule over you’. In contrast, mature female thought that combines Teacher understanding with Mercy sensitivity leads to mutual interaction between the genders. Male thought is guided by the integrated wisdom of female thought, while female thought is assisted by the logical details provided by male thought.

Summarizing, the childish mind is naturally ruled by irrational MMNs. Immature female thought lives within these childish MMNs while immature male thought tries to avoid childish MMNs in order to pursue rational thought. Rational thought makes it possible to gain the TMN of a general understanding, leading to the situation where male rational thought with its TMNs of objective understanding looks down upon immature female thought with its childish MMNs. However, if rational understanding is extended to include the subjective realm of childish MMNs, then immature female thought is transformed into mature female thought, which is higher than male thought, because it lives within the mental networks of rational understanding and transformed personal identity. Emotion is then transformed from being the childish enemy of rational thought to being the intuitive expression of rational expertise.

The Man is Cursed

God then turns to the man and says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:17-19).

Notice first of all that Adam’s existence is being portrayed as a life of growing plants, which implies being stuck in concrete thought. One of the byproducts of mysticism is that it prevents abstract thought from developing. Historically speaking, science emerged within Christendom, prompted by a mindset which believed that the universe was created by a rational, knowable God. And a rational scientific Teacher understanding of how the world works makes it possible to build labor-saving machines that function in a manner that is consistent with how the world works.

Without machines, everything must be accomplished by human and animal toil. Cognitively speaking, concrete action toils to reach Mercy goals. In contrast, when action is guided in a righteous manner by Teacher understanding, then the journey itself also becomes pleasurable. Without rational Teacher understanding, there is no alternative to concrete thought, which means that one must live in toil all the days of one’s life. When a general understanding is lacking, then one is also forced to learn through the ‘school of hard knocks’, represented by the thorns and thistles that grow alongside the crops. And because mystical overgeneralization prevents one from being guided by rational Teacher understanding, one is forced to remain at the concrete level of ‘eating the plants of the field’. The understanding that one does acquire will be learned with difficulty, because using Teacher thought to understand content will contradict the general theory of mysticism which says that there ultimately is no rational understanding.

At a more personal level, a rational Teacher understanding makes it possible to transcend childish MMNs, leading to a personal identity that is held together by abstract understanding rather than merely based in fragmented childish MMNs. When all that one has is the contentlessness overgeneralization of mysticism, then cognitively speaking, one can stretch beyond dust but one always ends up returning to this dust.

We looked previously at being kicked out of the garden. What was not mentioned earlier is the idea of being kicked out of the garden in order to learn natural cause-and-effect through the school of hard knocks. This is implied in verse 23, which says that “the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.”

The Flaming Sword

The chapter concludes by saying that “at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24).

I think that I know from personal experience what this means. Much of my research could be summarized as an attempt to re-enter the garden of Eden. I grew up in the hippie era when the motto was ‘make love not war’, and I have seen that mutate into today’s world which makes war and no longer believes in love. I also come from a Mennonite background, and for 500 years my ancestors have tried to follow a path that does not involve war. In addition, I know as an engineer that the understanding of science makes it possible to free people from much of the toil and suffering of life. And as a musician I know what it is like to feel and express a deep vision of goodness and beauty.

One would think that studying about a life of goodness would be pure joy and that people would flock to hear a message that emphasized a path of patience and goodness rather than one of suffering and evil. My research has been emotionally rewarding, both theoretically and personally, and this positive emotion has being enough to keep me going and prevent me from becoming cynical. But at every step, there has also been an emotional force—a cognitive flaming sword—that has made it difficult for me to continue. As a result, my research has consistently been emotionally draining. And I strongly suspect that my message provokes a similar response in other individuals.

This ‘flaming sword’ usually seems to involve some variation on the theme of mysticism. At the beginning there was a feeling of personal inadequacy related to the attitude of fundamentalism: “Who am I to think that I can come up with any valid conclusions regarding the nature of God? That is like an ant trying to understand a human. As far as the ant is concerned, humans are totally incomprehensible.” This was followed by feelings of personal inadequacy: “What is the point of studying how one should think and behave when we all fall so short of this standard? Is it not better to be ignorant and blissful than knowledgeable and miserable?” There was also the idea of mystery: “If we understand everything, then where is the sense of mystery? Enjoyment requires some sort of unknown; something that remains incomprehensible.” Related to this was the desire for magic: “God can do anything. Nothing limits God. If I run into problems, then God can always rescue me.” Finally, there was the feeling of adult responsibility: “If all of existence is guided by rational understanding, then there are no shortcuts. How can I ever survive such a long journey?” There are probably other aspects to this ‘flaming sword’, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind. In each case, notice that there is a drive to avoid building a rational Teacher understanding accompanied by a drive to continue viewing God as unknowable in some mystical fashion. The solution in each case was also similar: Get rid of the snake. Replace the concept of an unknowable God with one that is based in rational Teacher understanding.

At first glance, one might think that science does not suffer from this problem, because we all ‘know’ that science uses only rational thought. Science may be fairly rational when dealing with objective reality, but when it comes to analyzing the mind and personal identity, then science falls woefully short. Stated symbolically, it does not even attempt to enter the Garden of Eden. Instead, it waxes eloquent explaining why we are naturally such brutal savages and why we impose suffering upon one another. Technology then provides us with toys and weapons that permit us to pursue childishness and suffering more efficiently. (This personal shortcoming of scientific thought is described in another essay.) I am not suggesting that scientific thought is irrational. I highly respect the thinking and research of most scientists. However, when it comes to the core issue of trying to re-enter the garden of Eden, then I have come to the firm conclusion that one will not find a solution in either science or technology.

It is interesting that the cherubim (which means flaming beings) with the flaming swords are at the east end of the garden of Eden. We think today of the East as being more emotional and the West as being more rational. This distinction extends back at least to the time of Alexander the Great and it does seem to fit the biblical narrative. For instance, when the Bible talks about Babylon, my hypothesis is that it is referring to a system that juxtaposes Western rational thought with Eastern mysticism, because the city of Babylon straddled the Euphrates River, which traditionally has been viewed as the dividing line between East and West. Relating this to the Garden of Eden, it seems that re-entering the garden only becomes an issue when one ‘approaches from the East’. That is because emotional thought wrestles with the question of personal suffering, while rational thought tends to ignore it. In other words, if one wishes to re-enter Eden one must approach from the East, and if one attempts to do so, then one will meet the flaming sword.

Three Temptations of Jesus

This idea of incomplete rational thought can also be seen in the three temptations of Jesus (discussed on p. 328 of Natural Cognitive Theology). The description of Jesus in the Gospels is consistent with the cognitive style of Contributor, and technical thought emerges when Contributor thought guides the mind. However, the Contributor person has a tendency to be locally rational, using rigorous technical thought within some specialization while being driven by less rational thinking elsewhere. Summarizing from the description in Natural Cognitive Theology, Jesus is first tempted to turn stone into bread and he responds by saying that one must listen to every word of God. This corresponds to the tendency of the Contributor person to view God as a source of magic. If practical Contributor thought gets into trouble, then abstract thought can come up with some magical solution to solve the personal need. For instance, the average person today thinks that any problem can be solved by science if enough money is thrown at the problem, which treats science not as a way of thinking but rather as a source of magical help that solves personal problems. However, the goal of abstract information is not just to get concrete thought out of a bind but to build a general understanding. In other words, factual stones should not just be used to provide bread but rather placed within the general structure of a understanding of God. Summarizing, God and science are being viewed in a mystical manner as a magical source of solutions. Instead, the goal should be to build a general rational understanding in Teacher thought.

The second temptation is to jump off the Temple. Here God is being viewed as a sort of genie who is the servant of concrete thought, because Satan tells Jesus that the angels of abstract thought will prevent personal identity from being hurt by the rocks. Jumping off the Temple is a picture of following religious truth in a way that violates natural law. “If I step out in faith into the unknown, then God will protect me, because God rules over the unknown.” Jesus responds that this type of thinking tempts God, because it recognizes that there is some structure associated with the subjective but it regards this structure as distinct from the universal laws of nature.

The third temptation is to use rational thought as a tool for gaining personal status and power. Jesus responds that one should submit totally to the Teacher understanding of a concept of God and not just use rational thought as a way of enhancing personal status in Mercy thought. This is the temptation which science and technology fails today.

The Snake in the Old Testament

The snake is used symbolically in several other biblical passages. The first is a story that occurs when Israel is traveling through the wilderness, just before they invade the land of Israel: “They set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this miserable food.’ The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.’ And Moses interceded for the people. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.’ And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived” (Numbers 21:4-9).

At first glance, this passage gives the impression that worshiping the snake is a good thing. However, I suggest that the meaning becomes more clear if one looks at the cognitive context. The people cannot use concrete thought to reach visible goals because they are traveling through a harsh wilderness that lacks both food and water, guided by Moses as the messenger of God. Thus, there is a general context of following abstract thought, and one can tell that the people recognize this general context because when they get bitten by snakes they admit to Moses that they stopped being guided by Teacher thought.

The people get frustrated and regress to focusing upon childish MMNs. First, they blame Moses for their problems. Second, they long for the childish MMNs of their former life in Egypt. Third, they notice that these childish MMNs are dying. Fourth, they attack their current Mercy experiences as loathsome and miserable. Fifth, they express these Mercy feelings through Teacher words.

This combination makes one mentally vulnerable to the snake of Teacher overgeneralization. In simple terms, the people’s fears take over. One can see the Teacher overgeneralization in their words: They are not experiencing problems, instead they are ‘about to die’. The current food is not just unpleasant, it is ‘loathsome and miserable’. And they are not just living on boring rations of manna. Instead, there is ‘no food and no water’. Notice that we are seeing here the character of the snake as a venomous creature and not just as a simple string. When one is attempting to be guided by rational Teacher understanding, then Teacher overgeneralization becomes the enemy of rational thought because it will magnify problems, focus upon the familiarity of the past, and uses words to attack understanding.

The short-term solution is to use mysticism to provide something positive to look up to. In the story, a snake is made of bronze, it is put on a standard, and everyone looks up at the snake in order to live. Turning now to personal observation, I have noticed that the current Christian message is particularly effective at helping the down-and-out. Such a person falls short of the accepted standards of society, recognizes the unpleasant facts of his current situation, and then finds personal salvation in worshiping God. In this case, even though mysticism itself contains no content, the content is being provided indirectly by the standards of society as well as by the predicament of being ‘down and out’. Saying this another way, the implicit morality of falling short of accepted societal standards makes up for the amorality implicit in mysticism. The person who is down-and-out knows exactly where he is, he does not want to be where he is, and he knows where he should be. For such an individual, episodes of mystical worship provide hope and not just escapism. Similarly, in the biblical story, the people know how they should be responding, they know exactly what their current situation is, and they do not want to be in their current situation.

The bronze serpent is mentioned again in a later passage that indicates the transitional nature of such a solution. We are told that King Hezekiah “removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:4-6).

Instead of providing life, the bronze serpent turned into an idol that was worshiped. One notices something similar with Hinduism, Buddhism, and religious worship in general. What began as mysticism for a few mystics turns over the centuries into episodes of religious worship for the common person, reinforced by standard mechanisms of holiness, such as incense. (Smell does not go through the thalamus like the four other senses but rather connects directly to the orbitofrontal cortex, the primary region of the brain for mental networks. Natural Cognitive Theology includes a section on the orbitofrontal cortex.) Such Mercy-based idolatry is eliminated when the mind follows Teacher thought fully, as illustrated by King Hezekiah’s complete dependence upon God.

This does not mean that King Hezekiah was mentally whole, because he lived in a pre-scientific, undemocratic, warmongering society. However, following God for the Jews meant fully obeying the Server sequences that had been given to them by Moses and written down in the Torah, as well as listening to the words of the prophets and priests of God. At this limited level, Hezekiah followed Teacher thought fully. And following God at this limited level involves the same cognitive mechanisms as following God at the level of mental wholeness, which explains why one can learn from the stories of the Old Testament. Most Christian theologians would say something similar. Saying this another way, the Jews followed a covenant of regulations within technical thought that emphasized Server sequences and physical action, while Christianity follows a covenant within technical thought that emphasizes Perceiver belief and personal attitude. These different realms of technical thought are related through the analogies and similarities of normal thought. Similarly, I suggest that the universal laws of nature, which can be described using the technical thought of mathematics, are related through the analogies of normal thought to the universal technical laws that rule the angelic realm as well as those that rule the spiritual realm. This does not mean that one can dismiss technical rules from other domains as mere symbology, because these rules govern the existence of individuals who live within those domains. However, it is important to search for the internal cognitive principles that lies behind these specific technical rules. This internalization of external rules can be seen in the approach taken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. I suggest that a similar approach can be taken to explain ‘difficult’ passages in the New Testament. For instance, Paul’s instructions regarding men and women make cognitive sense if one applies them to male and female thought rather than male and female people.

Heaven and Air

Before we continue, let us review the basic symbols. I am interpreting water as raw Mercy experiences and air as related to Teacher thought. I suggest that these are natural metaphors. As I mentioned earlier, we speak of being overwhelmed by Mercy experiences as ‘being in over one’s head’ and we talk about those who live in pure Teacher theory as ‘building castles in the air’. Cognitively speaking, Mercy thought interprets and remembers experiences, while Perceiver thought looks for solid connections between Mercy experiences. When the solid connections exist, then matter becomes solid. Hence the interpretation of solid ground as Perceiver thought. When such solid connections do not exist, the matter becomes liquid. Hence the interpretation of water as raw Mercy experiences. Biblically speaking, the sea is connected with ‘the nations’, because both are composed of an ocean of various unrelated cultural and personal MMNs. (This relationship is described in Isaiah 17:12: “the uproar of many peoples who roar like the roaring of the seas, and the rumbling of nations who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters!” It is also explicitly stated in Rev. 17:15: “the waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.”)

Looking now at Teacher thought, the words of Teacher thought cannot be seen, but rather travel through the ephemeral realm of air. One senses air primarily through wind, sequences of invisible movement that affect objects in a general way. Similarly, odors travel through the air, and we have already seen that smells trigger mental networks.

Going further, the Bible describes heaven as the realm of God and angels. An image of a monotheistic God is based in a general Teacher theory, and angels can be explained as human-like minds living within a Teacher realm of waves and energy. Heaven would be the portion of the angelic realm that is compatible with human existence. This is not easy to visualize. However, it involves the same kind of strangeness that one finds in quantum mechanics in the relationship between waves and particles. This is described by Jesus in John 14: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (v.1-3). Interpreting this cognitively, an image of God is based in a general theory in Teacher thought. Thus, ‘my Father’s house’ would refer to the realm of Teacher thought. Jesus, the Contributor incarnation, is saying that he will create ‘dwelling places’ in Teacher thought that are compatible with personal identity in Mercy thought, as well as lead humans in Mercy thought to these dwelling places in Teacher thought. One can see what this means through the partial illustration of modern technology. One cannot live in the general Teacher theories of science and math. But Contributor-controlled technical thought can transform this abstract theory into the gadgets of technology, which are user-friendly concrete expressions of scientific thought, and technical thought can also teach humans how to use the gadgets of technology. (The relationship between math, science, and incarnation is analyzed in much more detail in Natural Cognitive Theology.)

Notice that we are going beyond symbology. Heaven has historically been regarded as somewhere ‘up in the air’. This is not physically true because one cannot reach heaven by traveling on an airplane or a spaceship. But there is a cognitive relationship between air and heaven, because air represents Teacher thought while heaven is a non-physical realm that is compatible with Teacher thought. Humans can live in the physical universe, which is a realm of Mercy experiences. Humans can also fill the air with the words of Teacher thought, but humans cannot live in the air. Angels, in contrast, appear to live within an angelic realm of Teacher waves and energy. Thus, the physical universe is the natural abode of humans, while the angelic realm is the natural abode of angels. Humans can also live in the angelic realm if Contributor incarnation makes it compatible with human existence. Heaven is currently not a physical place but rather a place where disembodied human spirits can live. However, the end of the book of Revelation describes a ‘new heaven and earth’ which appears to be a combination of the physical universe and the angelic realm.

The previous paragraph describes the first role of incarnation in John 14 which is to ‘go and prepare a place’. The issue here is making the realm of Teacher thought compatible with human existence. The second role of incarnation is ‘to come again and receive you to Myself’. Here the issue is making human thought compatible with living in heaven. If heaven is an aspect of the Teacher-based angelic realm that is compatible with Mercy-based humanity, then living in heaven requires a similar mindset, in which the MMNs of personal identity are expressions of the TMN of a concept of God. Using religious language, living in heaven is only possible if Contributor incarnation reconciles personal identity in Mercy thought with God in Teacher thought. This is mentioned two verses later in John 14: “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’” (v.5-6). Contributor thought combines Perceiver facts with Server sequences. ‘The way’ describes Server sequences, while ‘the truth’ describes Perceiver facts. In addition, Contributor incarnation works with the mental networks of ‘life’.

An article that I just read on restoring old military jets provides an illustration of these two principles. In order to fly a military jet from the 1960s, two requirements must be met. First, the airplane must be restored and maintained. Second, a pilot must be certified to fly the airplane—and that is not a trivial process. It costs a seasoned pilot $30,000 in fuel alone to go through the training that is required to fly one of these jets. Notice how Contributor-controlled technical thought is required both to turn the laws of aerodynamics into an airplane in which a human can fly, and to train humans to be able to fly this airplane.

The Snake in the New Testament

Returning to the bronze serpent, Jesus refers to the story of the bronze serpent near the beginning of his public ministry in his conversation with Nicodemus: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:1-16).

The final verse in this passage is John 3:16, which is possibly the most famous verse in the Bible. Immediately preceding this verse is the reference to the bronze serpent. Jesus is saying that atonement will function in a manner that is similar to the serpent being lifted up in the wilderness, and Jesus refers specifically to the part of the story that involves the short-term solution.

The Old Testament account described a group of people who should be functioning at the level of being guided by Teacher thought but instead are regressing to being motivated by childish MMNs. Similarly, the passage in John focuses upon the inadequacies of Nicodemus’ view of personal salvation, and it is at the end of describing his inadequate understanding that the reference to the bronze serpent is made.

Looking at the passage in more detail, Nicodemus recognizes verbally that Jesus is being guided by God in Teacher thought, while Nicodemus’ behavior is so ruled by MMNs of personal status that he visits Jesus at night in order to avoid disapproval from people. Jesus then points out that recognizing the kingdom of God requires personal rebirth. Using cognitive language, childish MMNs will lead to an inadequate understanding that will view reality through a set of inadequate glasses. Because people have the wrong Teacher paradigm, they will not recognize the evidence, even though it is right in front of their faces. Thomas Kuhn refers to this as incommensurability.

Nicodemus’ response demonstrates his inability to use abstract thought and symbology, because he interprets Jesus’ reference to rebirth as physical rebirth. Jesus then explains that there is both physical rebirth and cognitive rebirth. One involves the ‘water’ of raw Mercy experience while the other involves the spirit, an internal image that emerges within Mercy thought as an indirect result of Teacher understanding. (The difference between Holy Spirit and spirit of the world is discussed here.) Jesus explains that flesh and spirit act as two different sources that give rise to to different kinds of Mercy mental networks. Jesus adds that the Platonic forms of the spirit create motivations that cannot be pinned down to specific locations within concrete thought because they are guided by the words and sounds of Teacher thought.

This discussion of Platonic forms makes no sense to Nicodemus. (It should have, because Plato lived before Nicodemus, and Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, which functioned as the Supreme Court of Jewish society.) Jesus then asks why a respected Jewish academic cannot comprehend what it means to be personally guided by abstract thought. In contrast, Jesus says that he knows personally what this means, and that he is describing his personal experience. This reminds me of how I felt when reading Thomas Kuhn’s book on paradigm shifts. While the typical reader reads this book from an academic perspective, what struck me was that Kuhn was describing what I have personally experienced. I know what it is like to experience a paradigm shift, as well as the struggle of attempting to encourage a paradigm shift in others. For me, incommensurability is not just a theoretical concept but also a deep personal struggle. Jesus then concludes that if Nicodemus has problems understanding a concrete analogy of abstract thought, he will be totally lost if one attempts to use the pure abstract Teacher thought of heaven. Jesus then points out what we saw earlier in our discussion of the garden of Eden. It is not possible for fallen man to become guided by Teacher thought through self-effort. Instead, abstract Teacher thought has to descend to concrete thought through incarnation. (Incarnation is analyzed in-depth in Natural Cognitive Theology. A simple description can be found here.)

We then come to Jesus’ statement regarding the bronze serpent. I suggest that Jesus is predicting that the story of the serpent in the wilderness is an illustration of how people will treat his own atonement. Because of their inadequate thinking, they will view it as a mystical experience rather than as a concept of incarnation that integrates abstract thought with concrete thought. Historically speaking, this was the case. Over the centuries, there have been various doctrines of atonement, and one can see how these have progressed cognitively from a concrete focus upon MMNs to a general understanding in abstract thought. Orthodox Christianity, the original branch of Christianity, still interprets incarnation as mystical union with God. I suggested that mystical worship can have a positive benefit when attempting to help the down-and-out. It is interesting that one of the primary concepts of Orthodox Christianity is that of the church as a hospital which cures the wounded man. Going further, if one examines the doctrine of transubstantiation from a cognitive perspective, then one concludes that it is a version of a ‘snake being lifted up’, because it is believed that one is directly consuming Christ by eating the bread and drinking the wine. In other words, the specific objects of bread and wine in Mercy thought are being equated with a concept of God in Teacher thought, and this mental jump of Teacher overgeneralization defines the serpent. Quoting from Wikipedia, “Teaching that Christ is risen from the dead and is alive, the Catholic Church holds that when the bread is changed into his body, not only his body is present, but Christ as a whole is present (i.e. body and blood, soul and divinity.) The same holds for the wine changed into his blood. This teaching goes beyond the doctrine of transubstantiation, which directly concerns only the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.”

Another reference to a snake is found in the sermon on the Mount. Jesus asks “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matt.7:9-11). This reference occurs at the end of the sermon on the Mount, and the context is someone who regards God as Father, which implies that the MMNs of personal identity now reside within the structure of a general Teacher understanding. If water represents raw Mercy experiences, then a fish is a mental network that resides within the concrete realm of Mercy experiences. The fear is that a fish will turn into a snake—that a mental network within Mercy thought will turn into a defining mental network that overwhelms rational thought. We just saw this type of emotional response in the overgeneralized words of the Jews in the wilderness. Jesus is promising that God in Teacher thought will not overwhelm ‘his sons’ with emotional situations that will overwhelm the mind.

One finds this same message stated explicitly in another New Testament reference to the snakes in the wilderness: “These things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.’ Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:6-13). This passage begins by saying that one should approach Old Testament stories as illustrations of cognitive principles, and some examples are given, including the story of the serpents. The passage then re-states that these stories should be treated as illustrations, and Paul adds that these illustrations can be described by universal principles that are ‘common to man’ and that general Teacher thought will provide a path through every temptation so that the mind is not overwhelmed.

An analysis of Revelation 4 – 22 was inserted at this point in the original essay. This analysis begins with the war between the serpent and the woman described in Revelation 13, and the primary theme of Revelation appears to be developing and following a rational concept of God. Because of length (the Revelation article is 105 pages long), this was placed in a separate webpage. Please be aware that the rest of this essay on Genesis 1 – 3 may refer to symbols and concepts that are defined in the essay on Revelation.

Genesis 1

We began this essay by looking at the garden of Eden. We will finish by looking at the story of creation in Genesis 1, using the symbology that we have developed in our analysis of Revelation. I know that the standard view among ‘enlightened’ Christian scholars is to regard Genesis 1 as a myth. That is because evolution is a general Teacher theory that is backed up by a TMN, which has turned into the official concept of God proclaimed by science. Therefore, if one wants to be regarded as academically acceptable today, one must accept the theory of evolution. Saying this bluntly, all ‘educated’ people believe that we are inherently savages pretending to be civilized, and anyone who does not believe this will be regarded as a savage who is only pretending to be civilized. Looking at this more generally, Thomas Kuhn has pointed out that a scientist cannot exist without the TMN of a general theory. Therefore, a story about origins such as Genesis 1 will be instinctively rejected because it is not presented in the form of a general theory, while the theory of evolution will be instinctively accepted because it is presented as a general theory. However, if one constructs a general theory of the mind, then the situation becomes quite different. From a cognitive perspective, the Bible makes more sense than any other book that I have encountered, while I find that modern theories usually contradict themselves when analyzed cognitively. Therefore, I would like to show that Genesis 1 makes sense when examined using a rational theory of cognition.

My general hypothesis is that Genesis 1 makes sense as a sequence that describes in symbolic language how the human mind develops. This does not mean that it is only a cognitive sequence. Rather, if it is a cognitive sequence, then the story moves from the realm of MMNs of blind faith and idolatry to the realm of TMNs of rational theory, and it then becomes mentally possible to analyze this story rationally to see if it is more than a cognitive sequence. In other words, I am not attempting to answer whether Genesis 1 describes fact or myth. Instead, I am attempting to change the question so that Genesis 1 is viewed within the context of rational thought rather than being blindly accepted or rejected.

The chapter begins by describing the first day: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day” (Gen. 1:1-5). From a cognitive perspective, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ simply means that both Teacher thought and rational thought are the expression of a universal theory of God in Teacher thought. This is the same starting point as the second sequence of Revelation 12 – 22. If ‘the earth is formless and void’, then the mind lacks the content that is required to use rational thought. ‘Darkness over the surface of the deep’ implies that core mental networks lack the light of Teacher understanding. ‘The spirit of God moved over the surface of the waters’ suggests that the world of Mercy experiences is being viewed with spiritual overtones. This combination describes the pantheism of the typical tribal mindset, which lacks rational understanding, is ruled by MMNs of myth, and believes that the physical environment is alive with spirits.

Given this mental environment, it is easy for Teacher thought to use overgeneralization to come up with the ‘light’ of a ‘universal’ theory. However, this ‘theory’ will have to be protected by separating it from the ‘darkness’ of cultural and personal MMNs.

On the second day, “God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day” (v.6-8). We have seen that MMNs can have two sources. The mind can acquire MMNs from emotional experiences that come from the physical environment. This would describe the ‘water below’. The mind can also acquire the MMNs of Platonic forms which form indirectly as Teacher thought looks for the essence of Mercy experiences. This would describe ‘the waters which were above the expanse’. What is being described here is not detailed Platonic forms of ideal objects, but rather a general sense that there is both a physical world of specific experiences and a spiritual world composed of more ideal and permanent experiences. Notice that ‘the waters above’ are separated from ‘the waters below’, which suggests that a distinction is being made between holy and secular and that these two are being kept separate through the use of physical walls and mental taboos. This combination corresponds to the mindset behind idolatry, with its strong sense of a holiness that is distinct from common existence. If ‘God called the expanse heaven’, this suggests that these generalized Platonic forms of holiness will provide the starting point for eventually constructing a general Teacher theory in which humans can live.

A lot more happens on the third day: “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them’; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day” (v.9-13).

The phrase ‘let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’ is somewhat strange, but it makes sense cognitively. The rational thought of ‘dry land’ appears when ‘the waters’ of Mercy experiences are ‘gathered together’ by Perceiver and Server connections. When solid Perceiver facts and Server sequences emerge, then Teacher thought will naturally try to form these ‘bricks’ of knowledge into the ‘building’ of a general understanding. Teacher thought looks for order-within-complexity. Therefore, the waters will be gathered ‘into one place’ of a Teacher theory when they are gathered ‘below the heavens’ of Teacher thought. This leads to the distinction between the rational thinking of ‘dry land’ and the irrational MMNs of the ‘seas’ of culture.

This makes possible the emergence of individual thought, as illustrated by vegetation, plants, and trees. A plant is alive and can produce fruit, but it cannot move. This would correspond to mental networks of practical skill and pragmatic knowledge. All mental networks want to experience compatible input, therefore mental networks of expertise will be naturally passed on through training and apprenticeship. With this sort of mindset, the emphasis is not upon ‘moving across the landscape’ by changing and developing skills but rather upon preserving and passing on knowledge and skills from one generation to another.

The sun, moon, and stars emerge on the fourth day: “Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth’; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day” (v.14-19).

‘Heavens’ describes the realm of Teacher thought while lights in heaven would be ‘luminaries’ who are regarded as primary sources and symbols of understanding and wisdom (like Einstein, Shakespeare, or Abraham Lincoln). We even use the word ‘stars’ to refer to such exalted individuals. To a large extent, a society is defined by its revered experts, and when society shifts, then the accepted experts shift as well. In addition, all that often remains of a bygone era is its ‘stars’. Cognitively speaking, such luminaries are ‘signs’ that represent an age or society. This is illustrated by the typical movie in which a person ‘travels through time’ to visit the past. Inevitably, the time traveler does not visit some random location but instead happens—by chance—to meet either some famous individual or arrive at some defining incident. When an entire society is being represented by a few individuals and episodes, then one is dealing with a form of Teacher order-within-complexity, which explains why the stars reside in the ‘heaven’ of Teacher thought. These ‘stars’ act as timekeepers for society both in the short term and in the long term. For instance, the Beatles help to define the 1960s, while Einstein represents a longer timescale of the atomic age in general. These ‘stars’ ‘throw light’ on a society, bringing comprehension to the earth of rational thought.

A ‘sun’ represents an explicit general Teacher theory that ‘throws light’ upon the entire earth, while a ‘moon’ is an implicit worldview that reflects the light of a general understanding. The Genesis story is separated into seven different days, each with an evening and a morning. We can see so far that each of these days is defined by both an explicit Teacher theory of the nature of reality as well as a worldview. While one can retrospectively look back at the first three days and determine the ‘day and night’ of those ages, the majority of those who lived at that time did not have enough self-awareness to be consciously aware of a ‘sun’ or ‘moon’. Thus, one can distinguish cognitively between light and a sun. Light in the form of Teacher overgeneralization emerges during the first day. However, light that is restricted to a certain portion of the sky emerges during the fourth day. A general Teacher theory is formed by taking some specific statement and treating it as general. Other situations and statements are then examined ‘in the light’ of this statement-turned-theory. For instance, Einstein’s theory of relativity takes the observation that light always travels at the same speed and turns this into a universal theory. Similarly, the theory of mental symmetry uses the diagram of mental symmetry as a general theory to explain thought and behavior. In each case, the light does not come from the entire sky of Teacher thought (one does not become ‘one with the universe’ as with Teacher overgeneralization) but instead some aspect of Teacher thought acquires the brightness of a general theory, which then throws light upon the entire earth of rational thought.

The sun arises after earth and vegetation because a general theory is constructed by assembling specific facts and sequences within rational thought. In order to construct a building, one must first have a pile of solid bricks. The ‘bricks’ were formed on the third day; the light of a general theory emerges on the fourth day.

Fish and birds emerge on the fifth day: “Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.’ God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ There was evening and there was morning, a fifth day” (v. 20-23). If the sea represents cultures, then ‘swarms of living creatures’ in the waters means that individuality has emerged within society as a whole. This transition occurred in Israel during the time of the Babylonian exile, because Ezekiel 18 mentions the proverb ‘the fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge’ and then takes an entire chapter to say that God will no longer treat people as family groups but rather as individuals who are each morally responsible for their own actions. Similarly, Jeremiah, another prophet from the time of the exile, mentions the same proverb and then talks about God instituting a new covenant of individual moral culpability (Jeremiah 31: 27-37). It is interesting that Jeremiah specifically talks about the order of the sun, moon, and stars (v.35), implying that the emergence of individuality is a major sign of one of the ‘days’. The word in the original Hebrew is not specifically fish but rather ‘swarming thing’, which tells us that the individuals of society will naturally ‘swarm together’ with other individuals who have similar MMNs.

The word for ‘great sea monster’ could also be translated as serpent or dragon, but it is different than the word for snake used in the garden of Eden (tannin vs. nachash). We saw two major forms of Teacher generalization in our look at Revelation. Mysticism uses Teacher overgeneralization to come up with the concept of a universal God. This describes the serpent. But Teacher overgeneralization is also being used when specific people are overestimating their personal importance in order to rule over others, leading to a ruling elite. These individuals could be accurately described as snakelike or dragonlike great sea monsters—rulers who demand to be treated and worshiped as gods.

A bird flies through the ‘air’ of Teacher theory. This is not a ‘star in the sky’ who defines an era, but rather individuals who make a profession out of abstract thought. One of the major byproducts of the Babylonian exile was the emergence of the synagogue, in which many people learned to read and study the Torah. Both sea creatures and birds are reproducing ‘after their kind’, which means that mental networks are being passed on from instructors to students and from mentors to disciples. However, unlike the third day with its apprenticeship, society is far more fluid and there is progress and movement. But this movement is occurring primarily within the ‘water’ of Mercy thought and the ‘air’ of Teacher thought. There is no mention of movement occurring on the earth. That emerges on the sixth day. Saying this another way, there are schools of thought but thinking is still prescientific. Note that the ‘birds multiply on the earth’, which means that rational thought is being used to develop new theories. Thus, prescientific thought may not have built upon general theories, but it did use rational thinking. Thomas Kuhn describes prescientific thinking about the nature of light: “No period between remote antiquity and the end of the 17th century exhibited a single generally accepted view about the nature of light. Instead there were a number of competing schools and subschools, most of them espousing one variant or another of Epicurean, Aristotelian, or Platonic theory... anyone examining a survey of physical optics before Newton may well conclude that, though the fields practitioners were scientists, the net result of their activity was something less than science. Being able to take no common body of belief for granted, each writer of physical optics felt forced to build his field anew from its foundations” (p.12, Structure of Scientific Revolutions). In other words, pre-scientific theory was like birds flying through the air. There was continual movement but no solid lasting progress, because the movement was not occurring on the solid ground of rational thought.

The sixth day begins by describing living creatures on the earth: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind’; and it was so. God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good” (v. 24-25). Three different attributes have now become combined: First, unlike trees that stay in one place, there are now living creatures that move. Second, unlike birds and fish, the movement is occurring upon the solid earth. Third, like the trees, the birds, and the fish, the living creatures are reproducing after their kind. Cognitively speaking, mental networks (that reproduce according to their kind) are being combined with the rational thought of ‘earth’. And there is also growth and not just movement because the movement is occurring upon the earth of rational thought. This combination describes modern thought. There is rational thought, there is incremental growth, and there is an emotional drive to reproduce both ways of thinking and ways of acting.

Three kinds of living creatures are mentioned: livestock, creeping things, and life in general. Livestock suggests domestication while creeping things implies existing close to the ground. Domestication suggests that movement and behavior is being restricted and controlled by others, while ‘creeping’ suggests that movement occurs slowly. In other words, there is personal growth but it does not happen easily. The third category implies that life in general is now guided by a mindset that combines rational thought, growth, and cultural preservation. This is the type of behavior that emerges when the three components of thought (normal thought, technical thought, and mental networks) are cooperating. This cooperation may be occurring in a limited manner, but at least it is happening.

The sixth day continues, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (v. 26-28).

A distinction needs to be made between a person who is physically human and someone who is cognitively functioning at the level at which a human is capable of functioning. If Genesis 1 describes a process of cognitive development, then thought that is fully human only emerges during the second half of the sixth day. This leads to a view of what it means to be human that is diametrically opposed to what the theory of evolution views as humanity. According to evolution, humans are inherently savages with minds that are optimized to live in a savage environment, which means that humans are driven by their basic nature to exist at the cognitive level of the first or second day of Genesis 1. In contrast, I suggest that a person and society only becomes fully human when the second half of the sixth day is reached. Using a school as an analogy, evolution tells the students that they are all moral idiots who are incapable of learning, while Genesis 1 tells the students that they have the potential of becoming both wise and educated. Educators bemoan the ‘dumbing down of America’. However, what really needs to bemoaned is the dumbing down of humanity that occurs when the theory of evolution is accepted as a universal Teacher theory, because when a general Teacher theory of inherent savagery turns into a TMN, then it will impose its structure upon the rest of the mind.

The emergence of fully human thought is accompanied by a transformation in people’s concept of God. Notice that God is described in this verse as plural and not singular: ‘let us make man in our image’. In the rest of this chapter God is referred to using the masculine singular. However, the plural singular ending is used three times in the phrase that talks about God creating man. Similarly, the concept of God that emerges when all seven cognitive modules function together in harmony is the concept of a Trinitarian God that corresponds in detail to the Trinitarian God described by Christianity. This leads to the following chain of reasoning. One cannot prove 100% that God exists. However, one can examine how a mental concept of God forms, and one can follow the path of reaching mental wholeness. Because the concept of God that forms as a result of mental wholeness is like the concept of God described in the Bible, one can hypothesize that man is made in the image of God, and that a real God exists who is like the mental concept of a God of mental wholeness. And if the story of creation in Genesis 1 makes sense as a process of cognitive development, then this provides supporting evidence that man does not look like God or have a physical body that is like God, but instead there is an internal similarity between the structure of the human mind and the character of God.

The passage adds that ‘male and female He created them’. We saw that the integration of male and female thought occurs in Revelation 19, and that this internal marriage becomes possible when a general Teacher theory is used to explain both objective and subjective and when rational thought is used to determine value with both the objective and the subjective. Saying this another way, male and female thought become ‘married’ within the mind when the mind becomes fully human, and the marriage of male and female thought is a fundamental aspect of being created in the image of God.

Verse 22 is the first time in Genesis 1 that God blesses something. This tells us that human thought is finally functioning in a manner that is consistent with how it was designed to function and ‘how things work’. If the character of God is revealed in universal laws, then God will naturally bless those who follow these laws rather than fighting them.

Next comes the phrase ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it’. This is often viewed as a justification to have large families, spread urban progress, and ruin the physical environment. (Those who view this sentence as a literal command tend to ignore the next sentence, which says that everyone was on a vegetarian diet.) However, this sort of unbridled growth will be practiced by people living in a society that is not ‘fully human’. Saying this more bluntly, growth without regard for long-term effects is a sign of mental immaturity, whereas this command is being given to a mind and a society that has reached the level of being fully human. (Environmentalism that mindlessly ‘hugs trees’ is also a sign of mental immaturity.) Instead, once fully human thought emerges, it should not just limit itself to some fragment of existence, but rather spread to cover all of the earth of rational thought and it should submit the entire earth of rational thought to the mindset of being fully human. This is not easy, because the natural tendency is for rational thought to ignore thought and behavior that it regards as less rational. Similarly, ‘rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ means that the forms of thinking that were dominant in the previous ‘days’ need to be placed within the framework of mental wholeness. This requires a Trinitarian concept of God, because this ruling includes ‘the fish of the sea’ in Mercy thought, the ‘birds of the sky’ in Teacher thought, and whatever ‘moves on the earth’ that relates to Contributor incarnation. Revelation 12 – 22 describes the process by which man rules over the rest of creation.

The sixth day finishes with “Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (v. 29-31).

Notice that nothing is mentioned here about fish and the sea. This brings to mind Revelation 21:1, which says that there is no longer any sea in the new heaven and the new earth. The cognitive implication is that the ‘sea’ of disconnected Mercy experiences and MMNs will ‘dry up’ when all forms of thought are submitted to a fully human mind set of mental wholeness. When this is the case, then diet becomes vegetarian in the sense that core mental networks are no longer fatally flawed. Inadequate mental networks may need to be shaped and guided, but they do not need to be torn apart and put back together. Notice that the food that is given to humans is different than the food provided for animals. For humans, the food must contain seeds and be ‘on the surface of the earth’. Cognitively speaking, this means that the ‘food’ must be guided by mental networks and it must be based in the rational thinking of earth. This is quite different than the approach taken by objective science, which attempts to remove the ‘seed’ of mental networks before using rational thought to ‘eat’ anything. When mental networks are removed from the ‘diet’ of rational thought, then they will be added later on by marketing and leadership, and those who add the mental networks often lack rational thinking, making rational thought the servant of childish and destructive identity. Animals, in contrast, are simply told to eat green plants. Presumably this means eating products and ideas that are fresh and have not been dead for centuries. In contrast, theology currently prefers to eat grass that has been dead and dried for centuries. For instance, it is hard to think of a diet that is less ‘green’ and more dead than the Qumran scrolls. They are dry fragments of papyrus written and stored millennia ago by the Essenes, a long dead community of Jewish monks who lived as an isolated community near the Dead Sea. History is fascinating, especially when one recognizes that the past was inhabited by living humans who lived in a real world. But when feeding on the dead words of dead authors from dead ages becomes the primary source of religious doctrine and knowledge about God, then I suggest that one is not feeding upon ‘green plants’. A diet that is not ‘fresh and green’ cannot help the mental networks of culture and identity because it has no relationship with current culture and identity.

In the first day, ‘God saw that the light was good’. Similarly, the third, fourth, and fifth days end with the phrase ‘and God saw that it was good’. The sixth day concludes with a much stronger statement “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (v.31). Teacher thought wants the light of a general understanding, which explains why the light is called good on the first day. The second day talks only about water, which relates to Mercy experiences rather than Teacher theory. This explains why there is no comment from God. The next three days are viewed as good by God because there is order and structure. However, in the sixth day, God ‘saw all that he had made’, suggesting that Teacher thought now applies to all of existence. We saw this universality of Teacher theory in the holy city. The phrase ‘behold’ suggests that looking more closely reveals further Teacher structure, bringing to mind the idea of multi-faceted Teacher order. Finally, ‘it was very good’ tells us that a much deeper level of Teacher structure has now been achieved.

Sabbath Rest

The seventh day is described as a day of rest: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Rev. 2:1-3). As with the previous verses, one finds that the sea is not mentioned. In addition, the idea of multifaceted Teacher order is conveyed by the phrase ‘and all their hosts’.

The idea of Sabbath rest is important, and needs to be discussed further. It is mentioned in the Bible in three major ways. First, there is the Sabbath rest of God mentioned in this verse in which God rests from creating the world. Second, there is the commandment to rest on the Sabbath (one of the Ten Commandments), which is alluded to in this verse. Finally, there is the ‘sabbath rest’ mentioned in Hebrews 4, which refers back to God resting on the seventh day: “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (Heb. 4:9-11).

The sixth day finished with an integrated society ruled by thought that is fully human. Until this point, thinking was only partially developed, and God had to take active steps to bring society to the next level of maturity. After the sixth day, God can rest because society will now naturally remain in a mature state and not regress. We saw a similar transition into a state of lasting maturity at the end of Revelation: “There will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). Thus, a person who is resting does not have to keep things going because something or someone else will. In Genesis 2, God can rest because society will continue functioning without his active participation.

Hebrews 11 applies this to the mind. One has to be ‘diligent to enter rest’ because one must first construct a mind that is capable of functioning in a mature manner before one can rest by allowing the mind to function in a mature manner, just as God has to lead society through the ‘days’ of cognitive development before God can rest in a society that is capable of functioning in a mature manner. Hebrews 4 describes what is involved in achieving rest: “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest” (v.1-3). One must gain a verbal understanding in Teacher thought, and one must then add faith to this understanding by believing that applying this understanding will lead to beneficial results for personal identity in Mercy thought. The rest comes from being guided by understanding rather than having to work to achieve goals. Modern technology provides a partial illustration of this principle. One pursues science not just to gain an understanding but rather to be able to come up with labor-saving gadgets that will require less work because they are guided by the structure and power of natural processes rather than by the effort of human effort. Designing and building these gadgets takes a lot of work, but eventually they save work.

The commandment about resting on the Sabbath says “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11). For many Jews, keeping the Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments that is still practiced faithfully. Taking a religious pilgrimage to India, living a life of adultery, and habitual lying may all be permissible, but woe to the Jew who ‘works’ on Sabbath by turning a light switch on or by pressing a button on an elevator. However, if one wishes to truly enter a Sabbath rest, then one must first create a Teacher understanding that is capable of performing work, which one finds described in the Commandments that precede the prohibition against working on the Sabbath.

Quoting these previous verses, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:2-7). One follows the TMN of a concept of God in order to become free of slavery to childish MMNs. Therefore, the first step is to regard ‘a God who brings people out of slavery to childish MMNs’ as a core mental network within Teacher thought that is ‘before other gods’, such as ‘a God of self-denial’, ‘a God of tribalism’, or ‘a God of fundamentalism’. Second, this concept of God in Teacher thought should not be supported by any MMNs of idolatry that come from the physical environment, because submitting to MMNs of idolatry will result in a harmful culture that affects succeeding generations. In contrast, holding on to the TMN of a concept of God will benefit many surrounding people (Notice that the curse is generational while the blessing is multiplicative. That is because the curse is passed on through MMNs of parental culture while the blessing is spread by the TMN of a general understanding.) Third, a verbal understanding in Teacher thought will only affect personal identity in Mercy thought if words are not made ‘vain’ by emptying them of content. (The original word has the sense of emptiness.) This extends far beyond a prohibition against swearing. Instead, if words about God are emptied of content, then the mental mechanism for covering feelings of guilt will stop working, because the TMN of a verbal concept of God will lack the ability to mentally affect MMNs of childish identity. If one follows all of these commandments, it then becomes possible to enter into the rest that is described in Hebrews 4, because one has constructed a mental concept of God in Teacher thought that is capable of giving rest to personal identity in Mercy thought.

Original Conditions

One of the most fundamental Christian doctrines is that of original sin, which says that Adam and Eve were originally in a ‘sinless state’ and fell from the state after eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We saw at the beginning of this essay that the education of Adam began with concrete thought and then built abstract thought upon this mental foundation. This method does not work today because embodiment causes the childish mind to be governed by irrational MMNs. As a result, today’s child must be reprogrammed by being given TMNs of understanding from some outside source and then using these TMNs to rebuild childish MMNs. If one examines the beginning of Genesis 2 from a cognitive perspective, then it appears that it is describing the original mindset of Adam as well as the possible scenarios that could have emerged.

Genesis 2 continues: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:4-9).

Notice that the sea is not mentioned, implying that one is dealing here with a situation that does not include isolated and fragmented MMNs. Instead, the text says that this description applies to two periods: 1) ‘the heavens and the earth when they were created’, which would refer to the original state, and 2) ‘in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven’, which would describe the one of the ‘seven days’ in which there is earth and heaven but not sea. In other words, the description that follows is a description of the original conditions of human thought and society as well as a description of restored human thought and society.

How does one get a child to start thinking? If one provides no pressure, then the child will not be motivated to learn how to think, but if one provides too much pressure, then the child will not become self-motivated. A similar problem arises when programming the human mind and human society. Once fully human thought emerges, then there is sufficient motivation to keep the system going. But before this happens, motivation needs to be imposed upon the human mind by some external source. Translating this into symbolic language, if there is ‘no man to cultivate the ground’ and if there is no ‘rain’ of MMNs upon the ‘earth’ of rational thought, then ‘no plant of the field will sprout’.

Saying this more generally, I suggest that the problem of evil is a byproduct of the dilemma of programming the mind. In simple terms, people will only learn if they have to. How will people gain the motivation to do anything if the external environment does not impose MMNs upon the mind, and how will people learn lessons if they are not physically vulnerable? Idolatry may be a lousy motivation, but it is better than no motivation at all. Learning because I have to may be a rotten reason, but it is better than not learning at all. However, this emotional and physical vulnerability also makes it possible to be stuck within painful circumstances or for evil people to impose painful consequences upon others in order to control them. Thus, the choice is between stupidity and evil.

Initially, ‘a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground’. If water indicates Mercy thought, then this tells us that Mercy experiences did not overwhelm rational thought but rather occurred within the context of rational thought. In the current human mind, strong Mercy emotions can overwhelm Perceiver thought and impose belief upon Perceiver thought. This phrase says in symbolic language that this was not originally the case. Instead of rain falling on the earth or the earth being overwhelmed by a flood, mist rose from the earth. We saw earlier that ‘dust’ refers to isolated Perceiver facts, because it is disconnected matter. If ‘the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground’, then Teacher thought is taking isolated Perceiver facts and assembling them to form intelligent human thought. This describes how abstract thought functions—if abstract thought is not overwhelmed by the MMNs of childish thought. And we have just concluded that childish MMNs did not originally overwhelm rational thought. Going further, we are told that ‘God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’. I mentioned previously that smell provides a direct connection to mental networks within the orbitofrontal cortex. ‘Breathing’ involves the air of Teacher thought. This means that human thought is acquiring Teacher mental networks from a mental concept of God. Thus, instead of gaining MMNs directly from the physical environment, this phrase suggests that the mind originally gained TMNs directly through interaction with God, which indicates a different form of embodiment. Saying this another way, the structure of the mind was the same but the method by which the mind acquired its content from the external environment was different. This describes how man originally acquired core mental networks and ‘became a living being’.

This provides a precise cognitive definition for the religious concept of Adam’s original state of sinlessness and it also suggests that the current focus upon embodiment is actually building upon the source of the human sin nature. It is important to recognize that the human mind is embodied within a physical body, and one cannot study the mind without also considering the impact that the physical body has upon the mind. However, recognizing that the mind lives within the body is quite different than focusing upon the physical body and upon social interaction while downplaying what happens within the mind, which modern embodiment theory tends to do. This relates to the tendency for postmodern ‘thinking about thinking’ to turn into ‘thinking about doing’, which was mentioned in the essay on Revelation.

The passage then describes the initial environment: ‘The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed’. ‘Eden’ means ‘place of pleasure’. If the garden is ‘toward the east’, then it is heading in the direction of Eastern mysticism, which suggests an emotional environment full of mental networks. As we saw at the beginning of this essay, a garden teaches sowing-and-reaping, which applies the cause-and-effect of concrete technical thought to the emotional realm of mental networks. Thus, the mind initially acquired TMNs through interaction with God and initially learned cause-and-effect within an environment of pleasure. This helps us to understand the tactic taken by the serpent in Genesis 3. When one thinks today of ‘forbidden fruit’, the focus is upon the desirability of the fruit, because the physical environment imposes MMNs of desirability upon the human mind. However, the conversation between the serpent and the woman focused upon what God had said, and the desirability of the fruit only became apparent later in the conversation. This brings to mind the following joke: “How can one tell that Adam was a Mennonite? Because he saw a naked women and was tempted by an apple.” The implication is that Mennonites are so good at practicing religious self-denial that they are no longer tempted by physical pleasure. But the focus of the temptation in the garden was neither upon a woman nor upon an apple but rather upon the content imposed upon personal identity by the TMN of a concept of God. The general problem is that a partially programmed mind will be tempted to take shortcuts in order to identify with desirable mental networks. For instance, if the sight of a pretty woman creates a mental network, then the temptation will be to identify with this mental network by trying to possess the woman—either physically or mentally. The serpent tempts the woman to identify with God: “God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (3:5), which tells us that the woman’s mind contained the desirable mental network of a concept of God, which would have formed naturally as a result of the original form of embodiment.

Continuing with the text, the TMN of a concept of God then leads to pleasant experiences for personal identity in Mercy thought: ‘Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food’. As I have mentioned, mental symmetry suggests that the path of personal salvation goes through three stages: First, personal honesty is used to construct a mental concept of God in Teacher thought. Second, a person becomes righteous by allowing the TMN of a concept of God to guide personal action. Third, MMNs of personal identity are reborn within the mental framework that was constructed during the first two stages. It appears that the initial form of embodiment skipped this first step and headed directly to the second step by implanting the TMN of a mental concept of God. This could have led in one of two directions, as illustrated by ‘the tree of life’ and ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’, which are both ‘in the midst of the garden’. Eating from ‘the tree of life’ would continue to live in a way that preserved and developed existing mental networks. In contrast, eating from ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ suggests pursuing the TMN of a mental concept of God regardless of the personal consequences in Mercy thought. After all, if Adam and Eve had the TMN of a mental concept of God, and if they had only experienced an idyllic environment, then they would have been like the typical young person who thinks that he is invulnerable and that nothing bad could ever happen to him, because he has never experienced painful consequences.

Continuing with Genesis 2, “Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates” (v.10-14). The precise meanings of these various place terms is uncertain. However, if a river indicates the stream of a society, then the cognitive meaning is obvious. If one starts with a place of pleasure and uses a garden to develop the mind, then the stream of cognitive development can go in one of four possible directions. The first option is clearly the best, because it is a land with ‘good gold’, suggesting a combination of value and pleasant experiences. The second ‘flows around the whole land of Cush’. Whatever ‘Cush’ is, the end result is some sort of integrated mindset. This sounds good, but not as good as the first option. The third river flows ‘east of Assyria’, which is associated with the city of Nineveh.

Looking briefly at Nineveh, it is first mentioned in Genesis 10 in connection with Nimrod: “He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went forth into Assyria, and built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah” (Gen. 10:9-11). Babel is the location for the famous story of the tower of Babel, described in Genesis 11. This is quite different than the attitude of mysticism that we have been examining. Instead, ‘a mighty hunter before the Lord’ tells us that one is not dealing with an overgeneralized God of mysticism but rather with a concept of God that guides human activity. Similarly, the goal of building the tower of Babel was to “build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Gen. 11:4). This appears to describe the attitude of human righteousness, in which the Server actions of a group of people are explicitly guided by some general Teacher understanding. One sees this illustrated by the modern professional, whose actions are guided by the procedures and knowledge of some specialization. True righteousness is Server action that is guided by a Teacher understanding of ‘how the universe works’ or ‘how the mind works’, while human righteousness is Server action that is guided by a Teacher understanding of ‘how we do things’. Modern professionalism tends to be objective, because the primary societal split is that of Babylon which divides between objective and subjective, while what is being described in Genesis 10 and 11 is a form of human righteousness that explicitly refers to God and interacts with God. God responds to this human righteousness by dividing human languages, making it impossible for humans to organize their activity with a single unified verbal understanding, as they attempted to do when building the tower of Babel.

Finally, ‘the fourth river is the Euphrates’, and we have seen that the choice of Adam and Eve caused human history to be channeled along this stream.

Thus, Eden could have led to one of four possibilities and the option that was actually chosen was the worst one, which is a split between objective and subjective, ruled over by the snake of mysticism. The two sequences in Revelation describe the process of recovering from this disastrous choice in order to return to an environment of pleasure that is ruled by the TMN of a concept of God.


This essay presents a new way of interpreting Genesis 1 – 3 (and links to a new interpretation of Revelation 4 – 22).

This interpretation provides an alternative to mysticism. I know that mysticism is a core aspect of Orthodox Christianity as well as being present in other branches of Christianity, and we saw in Revelation 7 as well as the story of the serpent in the wilderness that mysticism can temporarily have a positive impact upon some people when it is juxtaposed with rational objective thought. However, the explicit goal of Orthodox Christianity is not to acquire a godly character but rather to be a god. And that is what the serpent offered Eve in the garden of Eden. When one’s understanding is limited, as was the case with the early church fathers, then the Teacher overgeneralization of mysticism provides an emotional covering for one’s ignorance. However, if a rational explanation for Christianity can be found, then overgeneralization can be replaced with general understanding, one can dry up the river Euphrates that divides rational objective thought from irrational subjective experience, and one can replace the Babylon of economic prostitution with a society based upon eternal and lasting value.