Imagine a universe where human beings are intelligent, articulate, capable of achievement in entirely outward, practical ways such as constructing shelters in community (cities), providing food through agriculture and animal husbandry, bonding in loving family and community relationships, and so forth, but without the pain, struggle or heartache of our present day humanity. In short, imagine a human race aware of the universe around them and able to function outwardly much like we do today, only without any of the problems or difficulties we have—crime, hate, prejudice, etc.—if you can imagine such a thing.
These imagined humans could only live such lives if they were in complete harmony with nature, by which I mean the world around them, and never questioned reality—ever. It could only be true if they never thought about their own nature (wants, needs, desires, hopes, imaginations…) in the least little bit. In order to avoid the problems associated with being us, they would have to be entirely focused on the external world and not one bit focused on their own internal dynamics. In other words, for such a people to exist, they would have to completely lack any sense of self-awareness (self-consciousness).
Oddly enough, both science and the Bible suggest that this may once have been the case.
Science has said we are merely animals—the most intelligent and capable animals, perhaps, but animals all the same.
In the earliest days, we built shelters (as birds and squirrels build nests), learned how to promote the growth of edible plants at the expense of the inedible ones, made common cause with other animals such as the dog, learned to harness fire for its warmth and light and wondered enough about the other forces in the universe that swirled around us and over which we had no control. We no doubt named those forces: Sun, Moon, Sky, Storm, Flood, and perhaps sought ways to make common cause with those forces through offering what we had: food, clothing, shelter.
Then something happened. The Bible suggest an apple (fruit). It also suggests that someone was lied to, and she did not have the presence of mind (skills of self-examination) to question what she was told…
“You shall be like God, knowing good and evil.” That is not entirely a lie. The truth is: “You shall be able to decide for yourself what you think is good or evil, regardless of the reality around you (regardless of the natural world).” In other words, you shall be self-aware.
I read at least one story constructed on this idea, by Harry Turtledove, and I have also looked long at the scientific theory and can find little wrong with it.
In the science fiction story, people from earth trade with a “people” on another planet whose civilization might be best equated with ancient Sumer. It is a fascinating story, but in the course of the trading expedition, some crew members teach a local how to play poker. They explain to this “person” the whole idea of bluffing, and suddenly the “person” recognizes that he can lie! Regardless of the truth of outward reality, he can pretend it is something else. In short, he becomes self-aware and for the first time, he is able to direct his own thoughts and actions quite apart from reality.
When the story ends, by the time the trade expedition leaves, that “person” has become the king and has sets his sights on extending his power over the city downriver…
When Adam and Eve became self-aware, they realized they were naked. “Who told you that you were naked?” God asked. The honest answer would have been, “we told ourselves.”
“My wife gave it to me to eat.” (And I had no presence of mind to disbelieve her).
“The serpent told me something that was not true (real).”
Thus began crime, lies, stealing, cheating, trouble…insanity. Once self-awareness came into the picture, we were no longer confined to simply react like an animal to the natural, external world around us. If we did not like it, we could make it up! (Journalistic license)!!
The Bible also suggests that “the imagination of man is eternally wicked.” Now, that makes sense.