The Eden Complex

Six constituent elements:
  1. Eden/garden imagery (see Gn 2:15-3:24)
  2. SF/FT: science fiction finds at least some of its roots in fairy tales, e.g., 1. primary colors 2. arbitrary rules 3. time out of time 4. central position of protagonist
  3. Natural (and perhaps divine) limits ("There are some things man was not meant to know!")
  4. Scientist as isolated man striving to be a god
  5. Oedipal dramatic structures (both tragic and romantic, both with and without final transfers of power across generations)
  6. Typical SF dichotomies (in any given work, individual pairs can swap left/right positions):
    nature v science
    animate v mechanical
    spirit v machine
    spirit v flesh
    mind v body
    slave v master
    female v male
    heart v head

Explanatory Points:

  1. According to Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), a phenomenon is "an act of intensional [R: as opposed to extensional; note spelling] consciousness." R: a phenomenon exists only within a context and purpose for noticing it. Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980): "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it."
  2. The term complex is used here as Gaston Bachelard does in The Psychoanalysis of Fire (1938). The Prometheus Complex, for example, complects fire both as life-giving (the spark) and life-destroying (burning despair). Similarly, the phenomenon of water complects at least water as time (the river), female fertility (spring rain), and dissolution of the self (ocean).
  3. Whenever part of a phenomenological complex is present, all of it is implicitly present. Hence, the ice settings in Frankenstein are not merely white (like pages still to be written on) and cold (like a corpse) but represent frozen fertility. Similarly, whenever a garden is prominent in art, we have tamed nature, the idea of paradise, and the arena of disobedience implicitly present at once.
  4. Although "Rappaccini's Daughter" (reminiscent of "Rapunzel") and "The Birthmark" both explore the full Eden Complex with a tragic outcome while "The Artist of the Beautiful" explores it with a transcendent, romantic outcome, in all three, the whole Eden Complex is present.
  5. As a defining set of conditions for much SF, the range and implications of the phenomenon of Eden (whether or not so named, but recognizable by the constituent elements above) warrant analysis. Note some key features: knowledge (both mental and carnal) through eyes; problem of obedience and sustenance; expulsion from garden (or desire to return to the garden); and consequences of disobedience being tilling the soil (creating through labor), childbirth (creating through labor), and death.
  6. Whenever part of the Eden Complex is present, all of it is potentially present.

Copyright © 1988-2003 Eric S. Rabkin