Fears and Symbols: An Introduction to the Study of Western Civilization

By Elemér Hankiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
THE GARDEN OF EDEN

[The human being must] realize that, like a gipsy,
he lives on the boundaries of an alien world.

Jacques Monod, Chance and Necessity

THIS chapter describes people’s attempts to control their anxiety in this world by generating the hope, the belief, the illusion that they are at the center—perhaps even that they are the very center and purpose—of the universe. These attempts have played a major role in shaping the myths, religions, belief systems, arts, and ways of thinking of all human communities we know, and they are important motive forces in forming contemporary civilization. The symbolism of the center, of paradise, and of the garden is discussed in detail.


THE MYTH OF THE CENTER

On the Periphery

Western civilization has always struggled to maintain the conviction, belief, or illusion that it is at the center of the universe, even that it is the very center, the purpose, the meaning of the universe. In all likelihood, this aspiration was present in most civilizations, but Western civilization seems to have been the most successful in developing this myth of centrality. Throughout the centuries this has been one of the most powerful shields against the terror of having to live in an alien world at the mercy of

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Fears and Symbols: An Introduction to the Study of Western Civilization
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Fear and the Social Sciences 5
  • Chapter Two - The World of Symbols 47
  • Chapter Three - An Alien World? 69
  • Chapter Four - The Garden of Eden 91
  • Chapter Five - The Image of the World 113
  • Chapter Six - The Moral Universe 137
  • Chapter Seven - The World of Guilt 157
  • Chapter Eight - The Rational World 181
  • Chapter Nine - The World of Beauty 205
  • Chapter Ten - The World of Play 219
  • Chapter Eleven - The World of Jokes 245
  • Chapter Twelve - The World of Trivialities 261
  • Chapter Thirteen - Symbols and Civilization 275
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 299
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