Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Eden Paradox: Humanity's simultaneous desire for and rejection of earthly paradise
by Marshall, Nancy, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2015, 280; 3721281
Abstract (Summary)

Earthly paradise and its loss have fascinated humanity from the dawn of time. Indeed, the myth of earthly paradise is found throughout the world, and the longing for life in paradise is basic to every human being. The term paradise was first used in ancient Persia where it meant a walled garden. Thus paradise is designed to secure those inside in beauty and peace. However, such a life is also monotonous because perfection is unchangeable.

Life beyond paradise is complex and difficult, and the relevant myth is that of the hero, the being who rescues civilization from the chaos monster. We fanaticize about being such heroes and tend to worship heroes as a result.

The Eden Paradox represents the clash between our longing for paradise and our longing to be heroes. It also represents the clash between the first two stages of individuation, the preconscious and the ego-expansion stages. Thus, it has the potential two prevent one in its grip from reaching full maturity. It occurs in both individuals and groups. In individuals it manifests as inconsistent behavior with swings from joy in security to joy in saving others. In groups it manifests as a clash between a leader who acts like a deity and the followers who become passive worshipers who have lost their individuality.

If there is a cure for the Eden Paradox, it should be found in the final stage of individuation when wholeness results and in its associated myths of spiritual transformation. However, neither has a relationship to the Eden Paradox because those in its grip are not sufficiently mature to surrender part of our egos to the Self, the potential for wholeness in our unconscious minds. Thus they are trapped in eternal adolescence.

The Eden Paradox represents a central truth about humanity: We always want what we don’t have. If we feel secure, we want challenge; if we are constantly challenged, we want a quiet life. To be human is to be dissatisfied and, thus, open to the emotional swings caused by the Eden Paradox.

Key words: mythology, earthly paradise, hero myths, Eden, Jungian psychology, individuation

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Downing, Christine
Commitee: Maheu, Gilles, Pye, Lori
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Mythological Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Folklore, Literature, Comparative religion
Keywords: Depth psychology, Earthly paradise, Eden, Hero myths, Individuation, Jungian psychology, Mythology, Paradise, Transformation myths
Publication Number: 3721281
ISBN: 978-1-339-02748-7
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