The Child is Father to the Evolving Man
Let me express myself in an even clearer way. The fruitful person gives birth out of the very same foundation from which the Creator begets the eternal Word or Creative Energy, and it is from this core that one becomes fruitfully pregnant. --Meister Eckhart
In his Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800, Stone writes that by the 16th century, new and unprecedented trends in human psychological evolution were clearly emerging. In particular, there was an increase in individualism, characterized by a growing capacity for introspection, or exploration of the interior world.
Not surprisingly, we see the first real novels appear at this time, which explore the interior life of everyday individual characters, instead of dealing mainly in archetypes, religious fables, heroic epics, and more stock characters. There is also a growth of personal autonomy, marked by awareness of the individual conscience, empathy for others, affectionate marriage, and the uniqueness (and therefore, value) of the individual.
Since these things are completely taken for granted in our own time, it's difficult to try to imagine what life would be like in their absence. Another important point, as Elias has pointed out, is that we cannot think of these changes as having been brought about in any conscious manner. No one invented them, nor were they brought about by the ideas of a few great and influential men. Rather, they just "happened."
Or did they? Is there a hidden "law" at work in the movement of history?
Magnus left a pertinent comment yesteryear, writing that he wonders "whether modern civilization could even have come to exist had not the Nativity Story been burned into our minds year after year, generation after generation, millions of times through the centuries." This reminds me of how Gil Bailie looks at scripture. That is, we have our own ideas of what it's all about, but what if God has his own agenda of which we are not consciously aware? What if he's trying to nudge all of mankind in a particular direction, so to speak, by tinkering with our unconscious template?
In Bailie's case, he sees the central gospel message to be about putting an end to mankind's perpetual scapegoating and sacrificial violence, which was and is endemic in the pre- and non-Christianized world. The sacrificial act fosters a temporary unity achieved through ritual violence, which must be repeated again and again.
However, the unconscious message of the gospel is that when we murder the innocent victim, we murder God. Such an idea was utterly novel in the world of ancient Rome, just as it is today in the Islamic world, where might makes right and the meek inherit dad's rusty Kalashnikov.
Similarly, if Magnus is correct -- and I believe he is -- then another unconscious message of the gospels would be about the manner in which we are to regard children. Again, it is difficult -- and even painful -- for us to put ourselves in the mindset of antiquity, when children were regarded as essentially worthless, and not infrequently used for sacrifice to appease their gods: "Many ancient pagan societies believed that parents possessed an unqualified right to kill their own children for any reason." Indeed, the Roman Law of the Twelve tables "actually required a father to put to death a deformed child" (Hutchinson). Conversely, "Jews were almost alone among ancient peoples in their opposition to infanticide," and Jesus himself "had a singular appreciation for the wondrous spirit of children, which was rare in the ancient world" (ibid.).
Note that radical pro-abortionists affirm without apology that the human fetus has no intrinsic value -- that ending its life is fundamentally no different than removing a decayed tooth. The mother determines its value. But who determines the value of the mother? Don't ask.
However, in a world in-formed by the gospel message, one can no longer believe this about children. Rather, there will be an awareness of the moral offense, which is why the left must promote abortion so radically and so fanatically, for to entertain doubt about the matter is to be convicted by one's conscience.
The point I am attempting to make is that our conscious mind understands things one way, while the unconscious understands them in another way, which may well be at odds with what the conscious mind believes. We do our best to "consciously" interpret the divine message, but is this even possible? Isn't it a little like a two-dimensional circle trying to circumnavelgaze a three-dimensional sphere? A sphere moving through two dimensions can be described as a series of circles of varying sizes. But it will require a leap of imagination for the flatlander to "see" that these apparently separate circles are all partial reflections of the one sphere.
To extend the analogy, what if God, or "God's word," is, say, a ten-dimensional object moving through our four dimensions? We will attempt to detect the contours of this object in a linear way, when in fact, it takes a vast leap of imagination to en-vision the Divine Reality.
Looked at a certain way, O can have no fewer than 6,928,198,253 dimensions, which is to say, a number equivalent to the human population at this moment. Is this an argument for relativism? Not at all. I am arguing that there is an absolute object with at least 6,928,198,253 dimensions, and in whose shadow -- or light -- or both -- we live. Remember, every bit of light we see -- and of which we are made -- is just a part of the sun. We imagine that the sun is a distinct object 93 million miles away, but this is pure fantasy. Not only are we right here in the middle of it, but it is simultaneously entangled in us.
Similarly, our own I AM is plugged directly into the hyperdimensional subject in the manner described by Meister Eckhart, so that "the eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me." So is it my eye? Or God's eye?
In order for a knower to know an object, there must be a third thing called "light," and the supraformal light is always superior to any formal object it illuminates. For as Schuon wrote, "the formal cannot exhaustively express the informal," nor can metaphysics be reduced to creed without some part of O escaping the formulation.
Man partakes of the divine being, therefore he Is. However, since he is not God, he -- alone among the animals -- may "become." God and man are not one; but nor are they two. I suppose the best way of saying it would be that God and man are three. Two of the parties are obvious, which is to say, the Absolute and the relative, the latter of which must exist in light of the existence of the Absolute. In other words, the relative is a necessary consequence of the Absolute, the latter being infinite and extending into relativity, as the central sun extends to all the millions of eyes with which it sees itself.
The Great Mystery is why this middle term exists, this uncertain mode of being-becoming. For it is in this space that the ongoing creation -- or fertile reproduction -- of the human takes place.
Now, what is a baby? Or, to put it in a slightly different way, what does a baby symbolize -- at least for those of us with a Christianized unconscious -- which is to say, virtually all of us in the Judeo-Christian West (for remember, there was a critical context for the valuing of babies, and that was the Jewish culture of antiquity; Jesus pretty much had to be a Jew).
In a baby, heaven and earth touch, and the circle is yet unbroken. The child, by virtue of his im-maturity, is "an incomplete state which points toward its own completion" (Schuon). The child represents what was and is "before," that is, "what is simple, pure, innocent, primordial, and close to the Essence, and this is what its beauty expresses; this beauty has all the charm of promise, of hope and of blossoming, at the same time that of a Paradise not yet lost; it combines the proximity of the Origin with the tension towards the Goal" (ibid.).
Thus, "The man who is fully mature always keeps, in equilibrium with wisdom, the qualities of simplicity and freshness, of gratitude and trust, that he possessed in the springtime of his life" (Schuon).