Dr. Pilon discusses Soulmates: Resurrecting Eve
Posted: Thursday, November 17, 2011
Dr. Juliana Pilon presented her new book, Soulmates: Resurrecting Eve at a diverse assembly of the Institute's extended community on Thursday, November 11.
Dr. Pilon began by revealing what she called the "embryo" of her book, which she traced to her childhood in communist Romania. "I was a very bad communist," she said, "I kept asking questions." She was repelled by the propaganda she was forced to parrot. No one believed it anyway; yet no one dared to speak the truth. She searched for a better answer.
Then one day, at about the age of eleven, she discovered Greek mythology - one of the very few non-communist literary genres that had not been banned. These fascinating stories revealed an ancient desire to understand man's relationship with God. Judging by Prometheus and Pandora, it was not an encouraging picture.
Yet not all Greek myths pit human against deity. According to the myth of Psyche (Soul), her insubordination to her lover Eros that initially almost dooms her to solitude, eventually earns her a place in Olympus alongside him. Her curiosity, like Eve's in the Biblical narrative, was considered dangerous - a prelude to a long, difficult journey. Yet in the end they are fated to live alongside their soulmates as companions.
Similarly, in the Mesopotamian tradition, man's creation by the fickle gods shows how little they were thought to have cared for our species. Yet the story of Gilgamesh ends with the hero not simply resigned to mortality but having gained a new appreciation for his home and for the comfort of friendship.
Genesis represents an entirely new conception of the Divine, based on the spiritual relationship between the One God and humanity. Though created from earth, mankind reflects the essence of God, which is found in love and respect. The Bible declared that God created man (adam) in His own image - male and female He created them. The relationship of God to mankind is mirrored in the intimate relationship among the First Soulmates. It may be argued that the covenant between Adam and Eve is analogous to humankind's covenant with God.
Not only Judaism and Christianity but also Islam accepted the narrative of human creation. The misogyny associated with modern Islam contradicts the suras in the Quran that indicate that man and his consort where created to comfort and help each other. In the final sermon before his death, the prophet Mohammed is alleged to have said that no one was higher or lower in the eyes of God, except in virtue.
The classical liberal idea that all human beings are created equal, which forms the core of the American political system, is sometimes known as the "categorical imperative," articulated by Immanuel Kant in the 19th century as "no one should be treated as a means but always as an end." Most people recognize this as the Golden Rule, as they indeed should. Kant insisted that his philosophical analysis is meant to arrive at the same conclusion as "the Holy Writ." Most intriguing, he interpreted man's tasting of the forbidden fruit as the first encounter with freedom. The price of choice is responsibility.
Dr. Pilon then focused on "the misogynist turn" in the Abrahamic tradition, which started in the Jewish tradition as well as Christianity, though it became especially ferocious in Islamic societies. It is tragic how pre-Islamic Arabic customs against women were revived not long after Mohammed's death, and absurd interpretations of the Creation narrative were used to justify vicious attacks throughout the Islamic world.
Dr. Pilon concluded by noting some implications of this study for strategic communication. In the first place, it is important to counter the impression that Islam dooms women to second-hand citizenship, which would suggest that democracy is incompatible with basic Quranic precepts. Islam can turn to its own rich tradition to find support for the idea that all human beings are created equal, notwithstanding the prominence of the contrary trend that led to jihadist Islamism.
In conclusion, the message of Creation underscores the simultaneous importance of individual human dignity and of loving reciprocity. What God created in His image was the relationship of soulmates. "In Thee I am."