Anul I, Numărul 4/2003
THE ORIGINAL SOLITUDE AND SOCIALITY OF MAN
Eugen L. NAGY
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, He
created man in His image, to share in His life and work; He created man as a
unity of body and soul, male and female He created them; He created man for his
In what follows we will try to go to the depths of this first
movement of love, in a search for man's identity, as an effort circumscribed by
the fundamental question: what is man? Our intention is to present and analyze
two of the fundamental dimensions of man: his original solitude and his
original sociality, as presented in the works of Pope John Paul II concerning
the theology of the body (especially in the Original Unity of Man and Woman),
basing our conclusions on the essentials of the Catholic faith such as they are
presented in the doctrinal texts, and especially in the Catechism of the
Catholic Church. Examining these two dimensions, solitude and sociality, such
as they were before the fall, while man was in the original state of holiness
and grace, we will try to understand what happened with them after the original
sin. Our hypothesis is that, although deeply affected and maybe transformed,
these dimensions are not lost, that they are (still) the keys to a thorough
understanding of man.
The two accounts of Creation. When, in the Gospel
according to Matthew (Mt. 19:3ff., but also in Mk. 10:2ff.), the Pharisees ask
of Jesus if one is allowed to divorce his wife, for one reason or another, He
gives them a clear and determined answer, in which He paraphrases and
synthesizes the two accounts of the creation of man that are to be found in the
book of Genesis, chapters 1 and 2. The way in which Jesus eludes the
provocation of going into a useless legal-casuistic debate about the different
types of relations between man and woman, is by making reference directly to
the two biblical accounts that narrate about man in "the beginning",
at the time of his creation, and thus indicating the normative dimension
of His answer. By building His whole response on the state of man at Creation,
before the fall, He makes it clear to the Pharisees (and to everybody after
them) that the situation described in the book of Genesis is an account still
and forever valid about man. It is the story of how man was designed and
conceived by God, and it is the way that man still is, in his fundamentals.
Thus, both Jesus' answers and the narratives of the book of Genesis express
timeless truths about man.
The first account of the Creation (Gn.1:1-2:4), written later
in history than the second account of Creation (Gn.2:5-25), tells us in a very
brief manner how "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he
created him; male and female he created them." (Gn.1:27). The second
account - the older one - is a more "epical" one; it uses thus a
different type of language and a narrative model specific to myths ("myth"
meaning not a story lacking in veracity, but a specific type of story-telling,
that reveals fundamental, transcendent truths about man). (Original Unity, 30;
note 4, 91-92)
This second account describes the same developments that were
enounced briefly in a single phrase in the first one, in Gn.1:27, but it goes
into the more intimate mechanisms of those movements. By doing so, by taking
its time to talk about the creation of man, it allows us to understand and
meditate on some fundamental aspects of man's nature, as created and willed by
Thus, in this second account, after creating man, God looks at
the state of Creation and characterizes it to be... incomplete: man was alone
(Gn.2:18). If, in the first account, after every movement "God saw that it
was good", the reason why this apparent incompleteness appears is to
signal us that this is a description of the - so to speak -intermediary phases
of the act of creation, that is used to deepen our knowledge about man. Thus,
after God sees that the man is alone, He takes him to the other created living
beings of the visible world; man encounters them, knows them and gives them
names; yet, he cannot find a suitable partner. Therefore, God sends upon
him a deep sleep, and then He creates the man and the woman. The man
wakes up from the deep sleep to discover himself male, facing the other human
being, his match, his helper - the female, and to realize their sameness and
their distinctiveness. This very important distinction of "man"
before "man and woman" is made very clearly in the biblical narrative
through the usage of different terms: adam is man, as humanity or
human being,before the creation of the woman,while ish
designates man as male and ishshah is the word used for woman
as female, after Adam wakes up from the deep sleep - after the creation of
the two. Now, when he wakes up, man is no longer alone: they are man and woman.
And it is only now that the creation of man is perfected; it is only now that
that man, as man and woman, reflects perfectly the image of God, in an original
state of holiness and justice.
Let us now try to analyze some of the implications of these
two accounts presented very briefly above, focusing at first on the dimension
of man's original solitude.
Solitude before God. After being created, man
discovers himself before God, as being alone with himself and (thus) in
a unique, exclusive and unrepeatable relationship with God. This is an
irrevocable gift received through his condition of being created as a person,
it is a privilege that sets man apart from all the other beings of the material
world. This dimension of the original solitude is a mark of man, the only being
who was created for his own sake, in the image of God. (Catechism 355, 356) It
is the consciousness of being a person that faces God his Creator yet is
distinct from Him; it is the consciousness of existence, and of the self.
Solitude vs. the created world. As we saw, after he
was created, man - adam - is taken to encounter the creatures of the
material world, to know them and to give them names. In this encounter,
effected through his body, man becomes conscious of his own bodily nature -
of his corporeality - and of his own personal body. The original
solitude lived through the body forms thus the most interior, intrinsic part of
his human nature. In these encounters with the living world, man goes through a
process of discovering and understanding the common materiality of man with the
animalia, i.e. the "proximate genus", but also the "specific
differences": that he is, qua human, totally and utterly distinct
from every other created being. The original solitude of being human registers
the radical difference between adam and all the other visible creatures,
his entirely distinct human nature, concomitantly with the sharing of the
materiality of the world.
Solitude as subjectivity. Through these encounters,
man comprehends the dimension of individuality, he asserts himself as a person.
In confronting the rest of the living material world, the act of knowing
exercised through the body gives rise to the subjectivity of man (man as
personal subject). In this moment, it is as though he reveals himself to
himself, by asserting himself as a person in the visible world. His
subjectivity is expressed in his capacity of self-reflexivity (of reflexive
consciousness), but it also implies a subjective dimension of his relationship
with the world (subjectivity as personal specificity to every act). Man is a
person, endowed with the capacity of self-reflexivity, self-possession, self-determination
and self-governance, and thus with responsibility. All of these are fundamental
and intrinsic dimensions of man's nature. Yet, it takes the creation of the
woman to complete the dimension of personal subjectivity.
Man was alone. Besides the incompleteness experienced
while encountering the rest of the visible creation, there is an incompleteness
that resides in man's discovery of himself as being the only human
being. Man isn't able to find among the other creatures any other being that
could become his pair - his match - his "helper". God sees that man
is not yet accomplished, and he decides to act, further: "It is not good
that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."
(Gn.2:!8) Man needs God's help, as always and as forever, and therefore God
casts a deep, primordial sleep onto Adam.
In this account, it looks as though at first man goes through
a quest for defining his identity (the discovery of solitude), and then through
a quest for a suitable mate (the discovery of communion). As a side-note, it
seems to us that this original (ontogenetic) model is mirrored in the personal
history (phylogenetic) of each of us, historical human beings; it seems that
the individual (particular) path of each of us mirrors, in a way, the original
(general human) one: we all have to go through the discovery and the building
of self-knowledge, self-possession and self-determination (adolescence, youth),
before being able to really enter into a communion or sharing with the other
The biblical narrative goes to the depths of this story, of
the discovery of solitude and of the original unity. Obviously, the goal isn't
to present in a "mechanical" way how man was created (it never is),
but to develop a meditation on what man is, about his fundamental meanings.
Under the guise of a mythical story, the biblical text gives us more than an
anthropology: it is the anthropology.
The original unity of man and woman. Man falls into a
deep sleep; when he wakes up, he finds that he is no longer alone: he finds the
other - the woman, and it is the one he was longing for before he knew (about)
her. The discovery of the other makes him burst out in joyous words, words that
seem like a prototype of the Canticle of Canticles: "This at last is bone
of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was
taken out of Man."(Gn.2:23) The words express the end of longing and the
discovery of the other, of somebody who is the same, yet distinct; of
the same kind, yet different; the encounter of somebody who is uniquely
complementary, who puts an end to the aloneness of man. This other shares with
him the human condition, the solitude of man in the midst of all the other
living beings of the material world. Yet, at the same time, she is distinct:
she has her own solitude. Nevertheless, they discover themselves, as man and
woman, in a communion through which they can surpass the individual aloneness: adam
is no longer alone, because they found in each other the "helper".
And it is their solitude - that is, their subjectivity and personhood - that
makes them able to enter into this communion, into the unity in duality
(complementary differentiation). They are the same through the sharing of human
nature (lived in the human body), and they are distinct by being personal
subjects, having their own personal bodies. But each is a body in a different
way: their masculinity and femininity are their very ways of being human. The
man is a human being through his body, in a unique way - he is human by being
male, and the woman is a human being through being a female. These are the only
ways of being human: through the sexual bodies, through being man or woman.
It is the moment of surpassing and accomplishing the solitude
of man, qua man. This original unity is the self-gift lived in
and through the body; it is the _expression of the nuptial meaning of
the body (and thus of the man and of the woman), a sign of the image of God.
Even now, after the fall, the union of man and woman in the presence of God
remains this sign because it reflects the very meaning of man: self-gift; the
call to unity. In this original communio personarum (community of
persons), the image of God is finally accomplished perfectly. (Original Unity,
The sociality (social nature) of man. In the communio
personarum we discover the unity of man and woman, but also the original
social nature of man. Only in both the dimensions, of solitude (personhood) and
sociality (original unity), can we understand man; because both of them are
fundamental, eternal dimensions of man, with solitude being the primordial one
and the very way to sociality. Thus, original solitude and original unity are
both original meanings of man: "For by his innermost nature man is a
social being, and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor
develop his potential."(Gaudium et spes 12) The original sociality is thus
a key to the real understanding of man, because "Right 'from the beginning',
he [man] is not only an image in which the solitude of a person who rules the
world is reflected, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable
divine communion of persons " (Original Unity, 46). It is only in and with
this original, fundamental meaning of man - sociality, that we can understand
man, as individual and as humanity.
Because the human race is united through both dimensions:
solitude and sociality. Man's own identity (solitude) is accomplished only in
the encounter with the other (you and I, we are both the same - human, yet we
are individual beings - persons).
Unity (friendship) with God. The first, the most
important, the "most primordial" communion to which man is called by
his nature, is the one with God. It is the most important one, because it is
the cause and meaning of all other relationships, the very source and reason of
his being, first cause and final end of man. Thus, man can find his
deepest, most primordial and fundamental meaning in this: God created man. All
of his searches can truly lead but to this meaning, which is his meaning -
God. Because God is the very reason of his existence. In Paradise, in
the original state of holiness and justice, man existed in friendship with God,
sharing in His divine life. Although this original state was lost with the
original sin, the call to communion and the deepest relationship between man
and God is inscribed in the very core of his being, and it is the goal towards
which life tends.
Unity (harmony) with the created world. Man was
created and called to till and keep the earth, to take care of the living
beings of the material world, to rule the earth by participating in God's work
of love. This responsibility and gift was lived, in the original state of
holiness and justice, in harmony with the created world. Man encountered the
living beings, and gave them names: the material world was at peace with man,
and man took care of it, because this was his vocation.
After the Fall
Yet, there was the fall. Man sinned, by rejecting the
communion with God's will; by this, he deprived himself of the original state
of holiness and justice into which he was created, as man and woman. (Catechism
403) The effects of this act will be felt by the whole mankind, from that point
on. The image of God becomes distorted: man's nature has been corrupted. In
what follows, we will try to analyze what happened with the original dimensions
of man after the fall, after being "struck" by sin. Once the harmony
of the original holy and just state is forever "broken" (Catechism
400), let us see what is the "pathology" of how sin affected these
fundamental meanings of man: solitude and sociality.
Unity with God - broken image. The original sin (and
all sin that followed from that one) represents in fact the loss of the harmony
between God and man, through man choosing to act contrary to God's will. And
this is in fact the story of all sin: man acting contrary to the will of God,
man trying to find alternate ways of living, outside what is the only good -
the will of God, who is the only possible source of all good.
The image of God becomes now distorted: man no longer sees
God, as he could while in Paradise. Losing the inner clarity of seeing God, man
is no longer able to live according to what is good, in a holy and just way.
Man ate from the tree of knowing the good and the evil, to become like God, but
he is not able to distinguish clearly between good and evil, without God.
Moreover, he tends to do evil; because he lost the image of Good, the holiness
of seeing Him. Not seeing God, man searches for and invents idols, trying to
sooth his need for God, yet following his own corrupt desires. Forgetting his
own history, man feels so lost and desperate, that he no longer believes in
God, a God that man himself has abandoned, by his own choosing. Feeling alone
and loosing trust (and thrust), man tries to live in self-sufficiency,
retraction, and egoism. The independence that represented the gift and capacity
for self-possession and self-determination becomes now the very path of getting
far from God. Man has forgotten his own history, man has forgotten his own
anthropology - man has forgotten himself. And, although created in the image of
God, man is no longer the perfect reflection of this image, neither as
individual nor as man and woman.
Original solitude - post-lapsarian alienation. The
original solitude, the most intrinsic part of man's being, the very key to the
communion with himself, with the Creator and with the other, is no longer lived
as perfect self-possession, self-determination and self-governance, but takes
the shape of an inner brokenness. The original inner unity of man, the original
solitude of being himself, is no longer functioning harmoniously. Man ceases to
understand himself: sometimes he even feels estranged from himself, discovering
alienation - that inner lonely and estranged feeling.
Instead of the unity of soul and body, unity that was the key
to the original experiences of solitude and of the other (through the body),
man notices (like the Apostle in Rom.7:18-19) that his capacity for self-possession
is altered, that he no longer does what he wants, but what his body wants. The
body is no longer in full union with the soul, it has altered its original
goodness. Also, man has lost the full knowledge and understanding of the
meaning of the body. This very key to man's self-assertion and existence in the
visible world is no longer "in tune" with him. Man is thus alienated
from himself, body and soul.
Original sociality - loneliness and disunity. This is
the birth of loneliness. The communion with the other was shattered, and
the very capacity for communion is deeply affected. In the beginning man and
woman knew each other and entered into a communion of self-gift, in the
presence of God, as the perfect reflection of His image. Although we know from
Christ's words that the original unity of man and woman is still a fundamental
mark of man and a part of his meaning, yet the pursuit of this unity is now a
long, hard, never-ended road of great efforts and sacrifices. The image of God,
once perfectly reflected in the original unity of man and woman, is now broken.
What was a community of solitudes, a communio personarum made possible
through the personal solitude of man and of woman, is now lived as a "community
of loneliness" (John Paul II, in Radiation of Fatherhood, see Schmitz,
The original and fundamental social dimension of man is now
lived in the shape of disunity among the human beings, through quarrels,
fights, enmities and wars. Humanity might feel the inner call towards unity, as
a signal from the fundamental social dimension of man, but it finds itself in
the impossibility of achieving that unity, no matter what efforts are made.
Unity with the created world - post-lapsarian enmity. The
original harmony between man and the living world - a world that received its "name"
from him, that was encountered and known by him - has become enmity and
competition for survival. Nature is now a stranger to man: it is a rebel force,
to be conquered or to be conquered by. Man's original vocation of tilling the
earth is lived now in and through hard effort and sweat; moreover, the effects
of man's activity are all too often the exact opposite of tilling: destruction,
killing, a danger for the rest of the living world.
So, did man lose his original solitude entirely? Is it
shattered and lost forever, or was it entirely transformed into loneliness and
alienation? No, not at all: his original solitude, as a fundamental capacity
for self-possession, self-determination, and self-assertion was and still is a
most intrinsic part of his being. Similarly, the communion with the other,
reflected in the unity of man and woman, is still one of the most fundamental
meanings of man. The call towards the unity with the other, expressed in man's
social nature, is still felt as a fundamental desire and thrust by every human
being. And, most of all, man is still the only creature that God willed for
himself and that is called to communion with the Creator, to cooperate with Him
in tilling the earth; that is still drawn by God towards Himself, even if he
knows it or not. These are the innermost dimensions of man: the core, the
meaning and the ends of his existence. These are gifts received in and through
the Creation, and Jesus tells us that they are still "us".
Yet, although these dimensions are still us, after the Fall they are so
in a corrupted way.
Thus, man is tempted sometimes to feel completely alone,
estranged from God and the other, and from himself; however, the loneliness of
man, unlike the original solitude, is not at the core of his being; it
is not a part of his original, fundamental meanings. (John Paul II, in Schmitz
24). Although man becomes an incommunicable being, both to himself and to the
others, the original gifts remain. The gift of solitude - expressed through the
capacities of self-possession, self-reflexivity, self-knowledge, self-determination
- is irrevocable, although it is lived imperfectly, in the incompleteness of
the post-lapsarian capacities and condition of man. Similarly, the original
thrust towards unity, expressed in the fundamental meaning of the man's
sociality, remains a gift and a calling for man. Thus, Christ answers to the
Pharisees by making reference to the original state of holiness and justice,
the state of man as created and planned by God, because those original dimensions
are forever valid and true, no matter where or when the historical man might
exist. The original sociality is present as a fundamental dimension of man,
even in the midst of social and familial disunity, as a call and a desire
present throughout history in every social project and every family of man.
Moreover, God is in the core of our being, inscribed as our
Creator since our beginning, because He is the beginning. In His great
love, he didn't want us to perish, but He sent his Son to redeem the mankind.
By taking upon himself the human nature, with all things that it implies -
loneliness, misunderstandings, hatred, disunity, struggle and sweat, hunger and
tiredness, all the misery of being a man - Christ opens the way to make us
partakers in his divinity. Our way to this redemption of man's nature is
therefore through Him, through the Son of God, through the communion with Him.
The new Adam took upon him our iniquities, and, by obeying perfectly to God's
will, took our sins away (including the original disobedience). The Church is
His Body, sign and instrument of this communion. It gives us, as the Body of
Christ, the instruments of healing: the sacraments of remaking the unity with
God, with oneself, and with the other, of regaining our solitude and our
sociality. The sacraments - of penance, of marriage, and so on - and the
partaking in the life of the Church are the paths towards pursuing the unity of
oneself, of man and woman, and of humanity.
Perfection might not be achievable entirely, in this state,
but is a path now accessible, that was opened through God's immense love, who
sent his Son to redeem us. But the road is a hard one, and it would require
more violence than we could ever bear taking (Mt.11: 12), if God wouldn't be
always and forever with us, supporting us all the way, with his love, working
in us, unceasingly, through His grace.
"For a monumental struggle against the powers of
darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very
origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has
attested. Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he
is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great
efforts and the help of God's grace." (Gaudium et spes, 37)
But we have the guarantee of victory, in Christ: he has
already won the battle: He has conquered death, and He has redeemed us from the
dead, to the eternal life. The new Adam is the guarantee and the only way of
pursuing our paths, of regaining our meanings (solitude and sociality), and of
achieving our beginning and end, that is God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed.,
Washington, DC, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Libreria Editrice
Gaudium et spes, Pastoral Constitution on the
Church in the Modern World, <http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html>
Durkin, Mary G., Feast of Love: John Paul II on
Human Intimacy, Chicago, IL, Loyola University Press, 1983.
John Paul II, Pope, Original Unity of Man and
Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, in The Theology of the Body, Boston,
MA, Pauline Books and Media, 1997.
Schmitz, Kenneth L, At the Center of the Human
Drama: The Philosophical Anthropology of Karol Wojtyla/ Pope John Paul II,
Washington, DC, Catholic University of America Press, 1993.
The quotes from the Bible are from The Bible,
Revised Standard Version, available online at
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