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The Fall

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IntroductionEdit

One of the religious concepts introduced in the Book of Brist is known as The Fall. This is an event which occurs on every world in the Universe, at different points in each world's history, and in different forms. However, it is always as a direct result of the words of Lucifer, who is described in the Book of Connor and Brigid as being an "outside force, a corrupter of God's worlds." This corruption continues in various ways after he effects the Fall, but it is assumed that none of his subsequent influence on the world would be possible without the Fall first occurring. Every world is in some way punished by God for allowing the Fall to happen, for it could not happen by Lucifer's words alone, but by the choice of at least one member of each world's dominant species to take action based on his words). But the severity and nature of the punishment varies with the form of the Fall itself. Since the Land's Fall was subtler than that of other worlds, its punishment was milder. Of course, every world's Fall brings with it something of value, most commonly knowledge of some sort. It is perhaps a difficult concept to fully grasp, the idea of the Fall being a bad thing, when clearly much good comes of it. In fact, it is not so much the act itself which is bad, but rather the act is symbolic in some way of people distancing themselves from God. On many worlds, the Fall involves one or more people disobeying one of God's rules, either by commission or omission. The thing which God commands a given world's people to do or not do holds no intrinsic value, but is intentionally arbitrary, so that without outside influence, the people who have been given this rule would have no reason to either obey it or disobey it. Therefore, there can be no extenuating circumstances, and the act (or lack of action) may be judged purely as a decision to disobey the rule.

Earth's FallEdit

Earth, among all the alien worlds that have been spoken of on the Land by spirits, has always held a special fascination for Landians, and is therefore the world of which we know the most. This includes the story of its own Fall, in which the first two people of that world, Adam and Eve, disobeyed a direct commandment of God's, by eating a forbidden fruit. According to the story, the fruit itself granted them knowledge of good and evil, as well as awareness (and shame) of their nakedness. (By comparison, Landians had always possessed such knowledge innately, as is the case on many worlds, though some specific knowledge under this general heading was also taught to Connor and Brigid by God Himself, long before our Fall, which came almost half a century after their deaths.)

It should be noted that the punishment for any world's Fall is visited not only upon those who committed the act that instigated the Fall, but upon their entire race for all time to come. For example, on Earth, part of humanity's punishment was God causing childbirth to be painful for women, at least more than it had to be. On the Land, this is not the case; childbearing is not without considerable discomfort for the mother, but it is understood to be nowhere near the pain levels experienced by Terran women. (It must also be noted that menstruation does not happen in Landian women in quite the same way that it does in Terran women, a fact which is presumed to be related to the difference in childbirth itself, between Landian and Terran humans. According to the Book of Brist, by comparison to Terran women, Landian women's menstrual periods involve "no fuss, no muss," though what sort of "fuss" and "muss" Terran women experience has never been explained.) Another aspect of Earth's punishment was that Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, where they had lived until that point. Before that, they had had no need of farming, but after their Fall... well, a full accounting of their story has not been provided on the Land, but it seems they had to begin farming, as all fruit-bearing trees were now apparently forbidden to them (though we may have gotten that bit wrong, because we know their descendants certainly eat fruit). Landians, in any event, were not forced to move after our own Fall, and moreover, we had always engaged in farming as well as gathering, in the century prior to our Fall. Another possible element of Terrans' punishment is that they were originally meant to be immortal, though this is not certain. It is certain that they are mortal now, just as humans of the Land were mortal even prior to our Fall, of course.

The Land's FallEdit

On the Land, the Fall was the introduction of religion, which itself was a concept unknown to the Land until it was suggested to Brist by Lucifer in LY 100. There was no rule against religion, and therefore no rule was broken. In fact, before spreading the concept of religion, Brist asked God if it would be acceptable to do so, and God allowed it (though He did tell Brist that his race would be punished if he chose to heed Lucifer's words and spread religion to the people, He did not technically forbid it). Of course, the nature of the Fall does not always involve an act of disobedience; as stated earlier, it merely symbolizes people distancing themselves from God. It is therefore puzzling how religion itself could constitute a Fall, when its very point is to bring people closer to God. In fact, because of the existence of spirit-talkers, the Land would seem to be closer to God than is almost any other world in the Universe. We are understood to be one of very few worlds where there is neither Atheism (disbelief in any god) nor any religions involving the worship of false gods. However, the same passage of Brist's Book of the O'Gas both raises and answers the question of why our Fall is a Fall. Because it seems so counterintuitive, Brist asked God to explain the situation.

The answer He gave is that all sentient beings are created with free will, curiosity, inventiveness, imagination, and individuality. There are as many ways of looking at life as there are people in the Universe, and while many fundamentals may be agreed upon by many different people, no two people are going to look at absolutely everything in absolutely the same way. On the whole, this diversity is a very good thing, which keeps life interesting, which drives all progress, all learning as well as art and entertainment. It makes both friendship and love possible, for as much as one may want to share commonalities with each other, they couldn't long bear to be around someone who is exactly the same as themselves.

But this diversity also can lead to disliking or hating others. It can lead to war, regression, destruction, suffering, ignorance; even when all parties have the best intentions. In fact, especially when they have the best intentions. If someone is in error, another might consider himself to be doing them a favor by correcting their mistake. But what if they themselves are in error? Or if neither is in error, or both are? And if neither party is capable of believing themselves wrong? If you tell someone that two plus two equals five, firmly believing it to be true, they will naturally become irritated with you, the more so if you are insistent upon it. But what if they believe just as firmly that two plus two equals three? Of course, this example uses a situation which can very easily be proven and resolved, because it deals with obvious, absolute facts. Two plus two equals four, there's no way around that. Certain things in the Universe have been created in such a way that they are tangible and immutable. Other things are more abstract, vague, open to interpretation. Language itself is imprecise; even if words have definite meanings, not everyone will interpret them in the same way, because words can only be defined by other words, which can themselves be interpreted differently by different people.

On every world, God said, He had attempted to impart knowledge of His will, and on every world, regardless of the words He used to explain His will, there were always different interpretations by different people. Sometimes the differences were subtle, and sometimes vast. For it is impossible to create beings with open and inventive minds, without them seeing even the most carefully chosen words in their own ways. By remaining in direct contact with Landians through spirit-talkers, God could manage to limit the scope of these different interpretations of His words, but He could not eliminate it entirely. And by the very fact that the precision of people's understanding was known to be so enhanced on the Land, they became that much more certain that their own interpretations must, necessarily, be correct. So, it's a double-edged sword. Whatever conflicts might arise because of these differences would perhaps not be quite as severe as was the case on other worlds, but it would still cause Him pain to see it, and know He could not prevent it without revoking free will, which above all things He could not bear to do. And so, by making ourselves closer to Him, we would at times make ourselves simultaneously farther, even if our beliefs should happen to be entirely correct... because if we are at odds with each other, we cannot truly be with Him. There is no greater pain than when two people whom you love equally, and who love you equally, hate each other. There are, of course, many causes on every world of people coming into disagreement or even open conflict with one another; religion is but one of these causes, on the Land as it is elsewhere. However, this separation of God's people from each other and from Him is all the more painful to Him when it comes as a direct result of their trying to be close to Him. This is the reason God hoped to keep religion out of the Land, and why Lucifer sought to introduce it.

PunishmentEdit

While the specifics of the punishment differ from world to world, as has been noted, it is common to describe at least the greater aspect of every world's punishment as being separated from God. (Which has previously been described as the common nature of the act itself; in other words, the act and the punishment are essentially one and the same.) Obviously, Landians are not as separate from God in a physical sense as are the people of other worlds such as Earth, as both God and other spirits continue to visit and communicate with us, here. Nor is it a metaphysical separation, as our souls are inherently guarded by the Holy Spirit (see spirits). For Landians, the separation is essentially philosophical in nature, consisting of no more meaning than has already been explained in this article.

The various more tangible aspects of a world's punishment for the Fall can generally be seen as fitting the various aspects of the act itself. For example, on Earth, Adam and Eve ate a fruit, and therefore lost their Garden (including fruit they had not previously been forbidden to eat). But that was merely a surface meaning of the fruit; what it symbolized was their desire for knowledge, which brings to mind another Earth saying, "Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it." In fact, as has been noted, they developed shame at their nakedness, which they had not felt when they were not consciously aware of it. But more than that, the acquiring of the knowledge of good and evil allowed for the possibility of evil actions in the world. So it is clear that the very thing they sought was its own punishment. (Though some have questioned whether they could truly be blamed for indulging their curiosity, a trait which God Himself instilled within them, and called a good quality.) In any event, these are just two examples, to illustrate a point; it is beyond the scope of this article to explore every aspect of Earth's punishment and how it related to the act.

Ways in which the Land differed from Earth in both the nature of its punishment as well as the state in which people existed prior to the Fall have already been noted, but only to say things which happened on Earth didn't happen on the Land. It's interesting to note that aspects of life on Earth after their Fall had already existed on the Land prior to our own Fall, and not every facet of a punishment is entirely bad. This is generally taken as a sign that even in His anger, God is still a loving Father; just as mortal parents do not stop loving and protecting their own children when they do wrong. But getting to the point... to understand how life is different on any world after its Fall, it is necessary first to understand what life was like on that world before the Fall. This can be difficult, considering it requires a mindshift that seems radical in hindsight, so much so that one cannot imagine anyone of their race to ever have thought differently. For example, how can one fail to realize they're naked? It must be hard for a post-Fall Terran to grasp this, and even more so for a Landian, even before our Fall. Some might even refuse to believe it at all; in fact, the only way to accept such an assertion is by Divine intervention. Because God created each race with its own psychology, He surely could rewrite that psychology at will (though clearly He is loathe to do so, and would not do so for any reason other than to punish a race for allowing the Fall to happen; even punishments such as the Flood that is known to have occurred on Earth, wiping out the majority of the human race there, is in a certain sense less drastic than rewriting fundamental human perception of the world).

As has been noted, the Land's punishment was less severe. It did involve rewriting, or rather tweaking our psychology, but this did not involve giving us a completely new awareness that we didn't already have. Rather, it was about enhancing a particular potential for emotion, which we already had. To be specific, He enhanced our capacity for loneliness. As noted in the Book of Connor and Brigid as well as the Book of Brist, and reiterated in any number of subsequent Books by other spirit-talkers, the main point of life is to enjoy yourself and help others enjoy themselves. This naturally leads to friendship, familial bonds, and even romantic feelings. In the first century of the Land's existence, it was of course possible for people to experience loneliness, but it was also possible to desire occasional solitude, while still feeling a part of the entire community. People could like or even love one another, and yet sometimes have disagreements, which might be vexing, but which did nothing to even slightly diminish their positive feelings for each other. However, after the Fall, God tweaked our psychology in such a way that it would be just a bit more difficult for anyone on the Land to truly feel they understood or were understood by anyone else. They might still love their family and friends, but at the same time feel separate from them in some undefinable way. This eventually led to the profession of psychotherapy, and the understanding that this feeling of separation is more intense in some people than others, which may lead to a greater desire to be alone, as well as greater pain at loneliness, and a stronger sense that it is almost impossible to overcome their isolation. Whereas, the majority of Landians work harder to forge close relationships with friends and family, in an effort to overcome this innate tendency toward loneliness. But both paths can ultimately lead to more rewarding and valued relationships, in the end; and those relationships forged by the people who try to avoid them may in fact be even stronger than those who try harder to forge relationships in the first place. Either way, it is assumed that the deep-set (yet difficult) need of Landians to find someone with whom they feel truly comfortable is what leads us, unlike the people of other worlds, to limit the intensity of romantic relationships prior to marriage. (In LY 914, it was also learned that it led to the complete absence of polyamory on the Land, though that is likely to change in the future.)

How this "punishment" relates to the "crime" for which it was given us is the fact that our efforts to get closer to God ultimately pushed us away from Him, in a certain sense. This separation from God constitutes an even higher type of loneliness than the perceived separation from our fellow man; the only cure for this loneliness is religion itself, which makes the entire situation an inescapable circle. And yet, just as we can find comfort in each other if we make a great enough effort, we can also find comfort in spirituality. (Though there are those who have suggested that this very punishment made God's prediction that religion would lead to conflict with one another all the more unavoidable, there are just as many who maintain that the greater effort to get along which it forced upon us actually minimized that danger.)

It should be noted that, according to the Book of Roderick, the Fall and its punishment were not applied to elves (nor, it can be inferred, to merfolk), but only to humans.

GainsEdit

It has already been established that in addition to loss, the Fall allows for certain benefits, usually in the form of knowledge. Certainly on the Land, one can see the gain that has come from the fact that spirits provide information of other worlds, including entertainment as well as understanding of various matters which, left to our own devices, might have taken many generations for us to figure out. They do not provide us with science directly, though some of the knowledge they share leads to scientific discoveries. And most notably, spirits have aided in the development of magic. Consequently, it is understood that our world has developed, and continues to do so, at a much faster pace than almost any other world in the Universe. It is assumed that other worlds might not have so developed at all, without their own Falls occurring, whereas our world most likely would have; therefore, it is merely the enhanced speed of said development that we have gained, in which case it becomes clear that not only is our punishment milder than that of other worlds, but so too our benefits. There are also those who feel that, in spite of the pain of isolation from one another that we all feel, both our friendships and marriages are necessarily much stronger than those on other worlds, and therefore should be more highly valued.

It should be noted, as has been pointed out by some people, that on many worlds, people have spent thousands of years wondering whether they were alone in the Universe. On the Land, we knew since the very beginning (even before the Fall) that we were not alone... and that knowledge can very well lead to loneliness. That is, knowing for certain that there are worlds out there with sentient life, and particularly when we can learn bits and pieces about those races from spirits, can lead us to be even more eager to meet them than we might be if we were unsure they even existed. And while we may appreciate that our distant descendants will eventually meet aliens from other worlds, knowing that we never will only serves to accentuate our isolation. As has been noted, we may with effort overcome our feelings of isolation from our fellow man, we may overcome our feelings of isolation from God, but we cannot possibly overcome our feelings of isolation from aliens. So clearly, even if our punishment has side benefits, those very benefits have side drawbacks, bringing our punishment full-circle.

RedemptionEdit

Redemption, or "salvation," in a religious sense, is a concept largely alien to the Land. It is known that on most other worlds- all of which have experienced their own Fall- there is a need for followers of certain religions to obtain forgiveness for their sins; not merely those they have committed as individuals, but each individual must also obtain forgiveness for the sins of his or her species, collectively. This derives from the concept of "original sin," which on many worlds (such as Earth) refers specifically to that world's Fall. However, there are worlds (such as the Land) on which the Fall comes later in their history. This may mean that people living prior to the Fall never sinned, or it may not. Certainly on the Land, where people always had knowledge of good and evil, people sinned prior to our own Fall. Until our Fall, people had only to seek forgiveness for their own personal sins, a simple enough matter which merely involved prayer. Prayer is a concept which is thought of less often on the Land than on worlds which do not have more direct contact with God or spirits. It involves anyone- not merely spirit-talkers- speaking, whether aloud or to themselves, with the intention of communicating their thoughts to God, without expecting an obvious reply. Through prayer, people may ask forgiveness for their sins at any time, and as long as they are truly sorry, it is assumed that God will forgive them. This remains true now as it did before our Fall. However, since the Fall, there arose the question of our accountability for the act which led to the Fall, even though we didn't personally take part in the act. On each world in the Universe, God established a different method for His followers to obtain Redemption from sin, though little is known of that, here. (One of Earth's religions involves Redemption through the third part of God, though the details have not been fully explained to Landians.)

On the Land, God told Brist that we should simply try to do what we feel is right, to live a life that we hope would be pleasing to Him. He knows that it is impossible for any sentient being to avoid ever sinning, and so we must simply ask forgiveness for our sins, as Landians have always done. When we die, we will be judged by God, on our own merits, to determine where our souls will spend the afterlife (Heaven or Hell). Through God's grace, our world has been granted the rare (though not unique) status of not requiring collective Redemption. The reason God gave Brist for this is the same reason our Punishment is less severe than that of other worlds: that our Fall was itself milder, because Brist asked for God's permission before committing the act that led to the Fall. The fact that we do not require collective Redemption is one reason religion itself is considerably less complicated on the Land than it is said to be on many other worlds.

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