Friday, March 11, 2016

Rene Girard on the Garden of Eden

I have been interested in scapegoating and human sacrifice (same thing) for a long time. Probably at least 15 years.

The late M. Scott Peck wrote that scapegoating is the "genesis of human evil" and he was exactly right.

It's when you blame your problems on innocent people and think once they are dead your problems will evaporate. It's our first defense - who has not heard a small child say, "He made me do it!"

I see this everywhere these days, especially politics. Look at all the attacks on Trump as....Hitler!!! He's evil!!! Destroy this monster before he destroys us!!!

The following is an except from Rene Girard, who spent his life studying the mechanisms of scapegoating. Even before I had heard of him I had come to the same conclusions about Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel (I refer to all four of them as "the original dysfunctional family").

So, if you look at the beginning of the Bible you have the Cain and Abel story. The murder of Abel is, in fact, the first scapegoat business. If you look carefully it is a collective story and not an individual one. Cain says "Now that I killed my brother everybody will kill me". This "everybody" makes very little sense if you interpret this story as a dual scene between two brothers. But then you have a law against murder which emerges directly from this first murder: every time Cain will be killed, the killer will be killed seven times. In other words you have something that regulates vengeance. Seven victims is not infinite vengeance, but if you continue in the story you can see that the successors of Cain become more and more violent and need more and more victims. There is the song of Lamech saying: Cain killed seven times and I killed seven times seven and ultimately it ends in another crisis which is the big flood.

At the beginning of the Bible you have the Adam and Eve story which is a story of mimetic desire because desire never comes from the subject but always from someone else. Eve's desire is inspired by the serpent, Adam's desire is suggested by Eve. The story of Adam and Eve is obviously a mimetic story. When God asks them what has happened, Adam says it was Eve's fault and Eve's says it was the serpent's fault; and they are not completely wrong in the sense that they both borrowed their desire from someone else. But then you have Cain and Abel, the real consequences of this mimetic desire which is the scapegoat mechanism and the foundation of the first culture. Then you have this first culture, which, bad as it is: seven killings for one, gets worse and worse until it collapses entirely in the great flood.

Me again. Girard in essence saying that at the beginning the scapegoating and human sacrifice became so bad it led to the end of the world. People became so corrupt and degraded God wiped out everyone and rebooted the world.

He also doesn't mention evil came into the world because Eve wanted to be God-like, so she listened to the "serpent's" (a symbol of envy and hate) promises. And then Adam, the moron, listened her.

All scapegoating, all human sacrifice, are fertility rites. Kill off the bad people and we will be reborn.

It never works.

It's why not only did Rene Girard and M. Scott Peck write about scapegoating, but so did Walter Wink, with his "Myth of Redemptive Violence" and a movie I have mentioned several times, The Cabin in the Woods - which is one of the few DVDs I own.


Enbrethiliel said...


Bob, I'm not disputing your reading of Eden and the Fall, but I've noticed that you've analysed every bit of it except one: the promise that the woman would crush the serpent's head under her heel.

Yet another reason, incidentally, for you to hurry up and become Catholic!

Bob Wallace said...

I have written about that in the past. Ha ha!

Anonymous said...

"I have written about that in the past. Ha ha!"

Can you provide a link to the blog article?

Bob Wallace said...

Enbrethiliel said...


So you're closer than I thought to figuring out that the bringer of all hardship into the world is also, fittingly enough, the bringer of all grace! Do the Annunciation next. ;-)